December 20, 2011

John Redwine, RIP (updated)

I woke up this morning to the terrible news that John Redwine had died while climbing in Lebanon. Missing since the weekend, his body was found this morning. I first met John in 2004, in a bank in Beirut. We were both new graduate students at the American University of Beirut and were trying to set up bank accounts in order to pay our tuition -- me in English, and he, hilariously, in the classical Arabic he had perfected over years of study in Fez. When John had made the journey from Morocco to Lebanon a few days earlier, he had done so in romantic fashion: overland, in a beat up, wheezing Renault he finally abandoned at the border with Syria.

John met his wife Irina while they were both graduate students at AUB. Their marriage was a source of delight for their many friends. The most fun I have ever had at a party was surely at their wedding celebration, which took place in the hills overlooking Tangier. The party itself, which would have made Rabelais blush, lasted three days. On the last evening, the 30 or so of us who remained standing danced to Thriller at four in the morning. (Which would not have been remarkable were it not for the fact that a) we were all in a pool at the time and b) we were all still fully clothed.)

I will remember those times, and many quieter nights spent sipping beers and trading stories. Many Americans moved to the Middle East after the September 11th attacks, but John embodied the best values of his native country and his home state of Iowa. John was unfailingly polite and generous toward others. He spoke softly and with humility. He had real intellectual curiosity about the peoples of the Middle East. He was quick to laugh at jokes -- especially those told at his expense. He was a fine student of the Arabic language and had mastered it in both its classical and Levantine forms. He would have made a fine ambassador one day.

John and Irina were recently blessed with a son. My thoughts and prayers are with them this morning.

Update: John's family has released the following obituary.

John Newland Redwine, II, age 33, of Beirut, Lebanon, formerly from Sioux City, IA died Sunday, December 18 doing what he loved, alpine climbing in the Lebanon Mountains.

John was born on June 13, 1978 in Kansas City, MO to Dr. John and Barbara Redwine when his father was in his senior year of medical school. The family moved to Sioux City, IA where his father completed a residency in family medicine and established a family practice in Morningside. John attended Clark Grade School, Hoover Middle School, and he graduated from Sioux City North High School in 1996. Between earning two bachelor’s degrees at the University of Montana and a masters degree at the American University of Beirut, he studied for two years at the Arabic Language Institute in Fez, Morocco and was fluent in both spoken and written Arabic.

John served in many capacities as an independent public relations and communications professional. At the time of his death, he was the communications officer and editor on a regional cooperation project on water issues for the United Nations Regional Economic and Social Development Commission in Western Asia and the German Federal Institute for Geo-Science and Natural Resources in Beirut. He also had served as a freelance producer and journalist at Fox News, project director at Albany Associates, managing editor at Executive Magazine, Analyst and Copy Editor at The Middle East Reporter, and desk editor at ABC News. He recently helped organize the very successful Banff Mountain Film Festival Beirut.

John had many publications in political, governmental, and professional journals and was well respected by his peers. In their leisure time, John and his wife, Irina enjoyed mountain climbing, motorcycling, camping, and entertaining their many friends across the Middle East and the world. He was a skilled alpinist and big-wall climber. He climbed extensively in Yosemite and Zion National Parks, climbed the nose on El Capitan, 6 of the 7 Grand Tetons in one day, on-sited classic routes in Stanage, Mont Blanc and Wadi Rum and established new routes in Morocco, Lebanon and many other countries. John took great pride in introducing others to climbing and worked at building the capacity of the climbing community in Lebanon.

Two months ago, John and Irina welcomed their first child into the world, Winston Prentice Redwine. Irina and he survive, as do John’s parents, Dr. John and Barbara Redwine of Rogers, AR, his two brothers William Redwine and his wife Brooke of Sioux City, IA, and Adam Redwine and his close friend Aliya Gordon of Augusta, GA, and many aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews.

Services will be in held Beirut, Lebanon on Friday, December 23 and in Sioux City, IA on Tuesday, December 27. Burial will be at Memorial Park Cemetery in Sioux City.