When he published his autobiography, “Bridges,” in 2008, Galen Stone, a former US ambassador to Cyprus and former deputy chief of mission in India, explained that the title described his life’s work literally and metaphorically.
“I have spent the better part of my life building bridges. In World War II, I built bridges across France, Belgium and Germany,” he wrote of his time with the US Army Corps of Engineers. “In the Foreign Service I built less tangible bridges between our country and other nations.
“In more recent years I have helped build and maintain bridges, bringing together people from all walks of life through volunteer organizations,” added Mr. Stone, whose diplomatic assignments from 1947 to 1981 included serving as a political counselor in Saigon, a deputy chief of mission in France, and a representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Richard Viets, a former US ambassador to Tanzania and Jordan who had worked with Mr. Stone in New Delhi, said that Mr. Stone’s “word was his bond.”
Viets added that his friend and colleague was “the single most important formulator of many of my own outlooks on life. Other diplomats sought him out in private because he was a straight shooter who would give an honest assessment.”
Mr. Stone, whose numerous educational and philanthropic endeavors included chairing the Board of Overseers at Northeastern University, died of lymphoma Jan. 23 in Norwood Hospital. He was 96 and lived in Westwood and Marion.
“He never took what he had for granted. He was idealistic and he expected the most out of himself, and out of me,” said his wife, Anne. “We worked as a team and leaned on one another.”
Mr. Stone’s grandfather, Galen L. Stone, cofounded the Boston brokerage Hayden, Stone & Co., and his father, Robert Gregg Stone, was head of North American Trust, also in Boston. Mr. Stone did not follow in their career footsteps.
While attending Milton Academy, he heard a retired ambassador speak about the US Foreign Service as a career.
“He lit a spark in me,” Mr. Stone wrote. “I decided this is what I wanted to do with my life.”
His wife said that although he never expressed it verbally, “I think he felt after his military service in Europe that maybe diplomacy would work where war had not.”
Mr. Stone began his diplomatic travels as vice consul in Munich. He served briefly in Kiel, Germany, and then for four years as deputy assistant for international affairs for the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe.
While in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969, Mr. Stone befriended a senator in the South Vietnamese government. After the war, the senator’s son, Keson Khieu, escaped Vietnam by boat to Singapore and wrote to Mr. Stone.
“Mr. Stone was in Cyprus at the time and I was a refugee who had applied to immigrate to the United States,” Keson Khieu recalled. “He gave his personal assurance of my background and I was able to resettle in California in 1980.”
Khieu, who affectionately refers to Galen and Anne Stone as his aunt and uncle, said Mr. Stone was a compassionate and generous role model.
“Helping Keson and his family was one of Galen’s proudest achievements,” Anne said.
Mr. Stone was a diplomat in India twice, including during the Indo-Pakistan war in 1971, when the policy of President Richard M. Nixon’s administration favored Pakistan.
“Galen viewed this as a short-sighted strategic blunder,” Viets recalled. “He believed in the longer term, a close relationship with India would produce a counter-balance to China vital to American interests in Asia. His forceful opposition to a flawed policy was fought at the highest levels in Washington.”
Viets added that “history has proven him right, for the India policy espoused by our government today is precisely what Galen argued for. He was a brilliant, tough, and principled diplomat.”
During the family’s diplomatic travels, Galen and Anne Stone also made sure to introduce their children to new cultures and living conditions. Their son Brewer, who lives in Mill Valley, Calif., recalled sleeping on a rope bed inside a simple cement hut at the Jim Corbett National Park in Northern India, and sitting on the backs of elephants “before heading out to the high grasses” with his family.
Born in Brookline, Galen Luther Stone II, whose mother was the former Bertha Lea Barnes, was encouraged by his parents to experience a variety of summertime jobs. He worked in a coal mine in West Virginia, in railroad construction in North Dakota, and on a fishing trawler out of Boston.
“It gave him a lifelong empathy for people from all walks of life,” his son said.
Mr. Stone landed in Normandy, France, shortly after D-Day, while battles still raged. At age 24, he was appointed a military governor in Germany, not long after German forces surrendered in 1945. Upon returning home, he re-entered Harvard College and graduated in 1946. He was an officer in the Army Reserve until 1970.
Mr. Stone proposed to Anne Brewer three weeks after they met at the 1946 Harvard-Yale football game. They married in 1947.
A recipient of the US State Department’s Meritorious Honor Award, Mr. Stone returned to the United States after his assignment in Cyprus.
Subsequently, he was the third generation of his family to serve as a United South End Settlements board member. According to former executive director Frieda Garcia, Mr. Stone was “a quiet, strong presence, engaged and active, who looked far beyond his own world.”
Dr. Ahmed Mohiuddin, a fellow board member at New England Baptist Hospital, said Mr. Stone “was young at heart with an outlook that inspired others.” And William Kirby, a professor and former director of Harvard University’s Asia Center, said Mr. Stone was a valuable resource and a gracious and welcoming individual from a family with “a broad and humane sense of public concern.”
In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Stone leaves three daughters, Diana, of Asheville, N.C., Mary Smith of Plainville, and Pamela Evans of Marion; another son, Galen III of Marion; a brother, Henry, of St. Clair Shores, Mich.; 14 grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren.
A celebration of Mr. Stone’s life will be held at 11 a.m. May 26 at Great Hill in Marion.
When Mr. Stone left his post at Northeastern in 1994, the university’s board praised him as “a true gentleman, wise counselor, and consummate diplomat” whose advice “has been much sought and freely given.” Northeastern awarded him an honorary doctorate in political science.
“My father had a great sense of empathy and obligation to serve,” Brewer said. “He was born into privilege and spent his life giving back.”Marvin Pave can be reached at email@example.com.