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Carolyn Arond, teacher at Vietnam War camp

Carolyn Arond
Carolyn Arond Handout

As a volunteer with the American Friends Service Committee, Carolyn Arond spent three years as a teacher at a relocation camp in the central highlands of Vietnam during the war.

While there, she told her mother in a letter, she was determined to remain independent from American troops because she was there to “serve the Vietnamese on their terms, not with the US military, and I hope to be identified as such.”

She went on to say that some officers she met “remarked that they wish they could shed their uniforms and do the same.”

“At each encounter with a curious and well-meaning military officer, I have managed to make clear I want to be disassociated from their role in Vietnam as much as possible,” she wrote. “Thus far this has been received with understanding and respect.”

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Mrs. Arond, a longtime teacher in Boston and Chelsea elementary schools, died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, in her Newton home Sept. 2. She was 69.

During her time as an American Friends Service Committee volunteer, she learned Vietnamese so well that she was able to teach teenage girls to read and write in their own language.

“She was very gifted in language,” said her daughter, Elisa of Worcester. “All her life she searched for ways to be useful.”

During the Tet Offensive in 1968, Mrs. Arond worked as a hospital health aide in Pleiku.

More recently, she worked with her husband, David, a pediatrician, during service trips to Nicaragua. There, he said, Mrs. Arond was “so instrumental in helping me, being my nurse.”

Even though she knew little Spanish, “she was wonderful with the kids and often would figure out what they were saying,” he said. “She was an unusually strong and resilient woman, and she was very attuned to people.”

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Mrs. Arond was a lifelong Quaker and pacifist, her daughter said.

“It wasn’t enough for her to protest the war,” she said. “She wanted to show that she was willing to help and that she wasn’t afraid to put herself in a war zone.”

Carolyn Lorena Hamm was born and grew up in Ann Arbor, Mich.

She attended Scattergood Friends, a Quaker high school in Iowa, and graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in education.

While in college, Mrs. Arond spent a year studying in Japan. Her facility with the Japanese language, her daughter said, was one reason the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization, sent her to Vietnam.

When she returned to the United States in 1968, she worked in early childhood education at preschools and day-care centers.

In 1972, she met David Arond, a resident at the University of Michigan Medical School, at an inter­national folk dancing event. The following year they moved to Boston and married.

The Aronds lived in Buffalo; Branford, Conn.; and Brookline before settling in Newton.

Mrs. Arond began her career as an English teacher by working mainly with students who were immi­grants and did not speak the language.

She later began teaching science, and nature was a particular passion. At a Chelsea school, she created a butterfly garden where children could sit and reflect.

“She loved the earth viscerally,” her husband said. “She was always doing something to help somebody.”

Mrs. Arond “was a very wonderful teacher,” said Brenda Berkeley, a teacher and friend. “She brought so much nature to the classroom and also a lot of joy.”

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Berkeley recalled that when Cambodian or Vietnamese children were enrolled in Chelsea schools, Mrs. Arond was always called to the school office to welcome them.

“She’d greet them in Vietnamese, and they’d feel instantly comfortable,” she said.

A talented singer, Mrs. Arond had a “voice that kept the children’s attention,” Berkeley said. “She would sing, and her excitement flowed to the children.”

Berkeley added that Mrs. Arond “was like the Pied Piper; the children would follow her around.”

After retiring in 2006, Mrs. Arond taught and volunteered at the Newton Community Farm. She was devoted to her home garden, too.

“We had bountiful vegetables throughout the year,” her husband said.

She was active in a number of environmental and Quaker community service organizations, and she sang with two choral groups. With her husband, she was a member in Boston of Temple Israel and the Old Path Buddhist Sangha, and she was active at Friends Meeting at Cambridge.

Mrs. Arond volunteered to drive women long distances to visit their family members in prison, her husband said.

In her spare time, she loved dancing, as well as riding a bicycle, he said, “but only if she was going somewhere.”

“She was very active and always doing amazing stuff,” he said. “She always kept busy.”

In addition to her husband and daughter, Mrs. Arond leaves a son, Daniel Josh of Springfield; her father, Eldon Hamm of Ann Arbor, Mich.; a sister, Lois Hamm of Annapolis, Md.; two brothers, Douglas Hamm of Nevada City, Calif., and Bruce Hamm of Seattle; and a grandchild.

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A service will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday in Friends Meeting at Cambridge.

Last December, after Mrs. Arond became ill with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, her husband stopped working to become her full-time caregiver.

“It’s such a cruel disease, but she never once uttered a word of complaint,” he said. “It was astounding. She was a woman of tremendous strength and grace and courage.”


Kathleen McKenna can be reached at kmck66@comcast.net.