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Media keep getting it wrong, says Carl Florea ’76
“Fast” quite different from “hunger strike”
B Y L A U R E L W I L L O U G H B Y , A S S I S T A N T E D I T O R
Back in 1991 during the Gulf War, Lutheran minister Carl Florea ’76 of Leavenworth, Wash., was jailed after a protest and didn’t eat for 30 days. Thus began the local, regional and national media’s memory of him as a “hunger striker.”
So when Florea decided again to cease eating while the United States bombed Iraq in December 1998, he had barely set down his fork before the Associated Press was on the phone again, inquiring about his repeat performance. His actual fast only lasted the few days of the bombing, but Florea continued a restricted food intake through Christmas.
“The stories seemed to want to focus on the idea that I was on a hunger ‘strike’ as a power-play, as if I were making a drastic statement to create political change, and that wasn’t it at all,” said Florea, executive director of Upper Valley MEND (Meeting Each Need with Dignity), a social service agency that provides Wenatchee Valley needy with food, emergency housing, rental assistance, a thrift store and related services.
Rather, Florea said, the fasts were his personal expression of repentance and sorrow that the United States had decided to use such force.
“I somehow needed to identify with the suffering in a reflective and mournful way, to search within myself and ask ‘How is this [military action] consistent or inconsistent with Jesus Christ and what he stood for?’” said Florea. “And it just kept coming back to me that I needed to live according to my values and counter to the violence in our society.”
But while his self-exploration has brought an increasing inner peace, public reaction has often been negative. Some who remember his protests over the Gulf War lost no time in leaving anonymous threatening phone calls when the conflicts — and Florea’s fasting — began anew in December. Misunderstanding was once again at the root of the problem, he said.
“Just because I very strongly oppose the military violence doesn’t mean I don’t support the people on both sides,” Florea said, noting he’s had some success in winning over detractors when given the chance to explain his views.
“I have a real sadness over society’s need to hate a person versus a situation,” he reflected. “We’re all children of God with a human dignity that needs to be respected. The tendency has been for society to objectify the tragedy, when I think we should be personalizing it. That’s all I was trying to do.”
Florea lives in Leavenworth with his wife, Debbie, a nurse. They have three boys: Nathan, 20; Micah, 18; and Aaron, 14.
Margaret Wickstrom was a familiar face on campus for more than a quarter of this century, from 1951-78. During the better part of that time, she served as dean of women, working from an office in Harstad Hall and even maintaining living quarters there (standard practice for men’s and women’s deans in the “olden days” of PLU). In the ’70s, she served as the international student advisor until retiring.|
But Wickstrom never really left the PLU community. Her first off-campus move was to Haavik House , across from Ingram Hall. Later she took up residence at University House, where she still lives, which is across from her home church, Trinity Lutheran.
Until a car accident several months ago, Wickstrom was still seen about campus regularly. Today, she’s recovering steadily and, according to one admirer, “back on her spunky feet.”
Wickstrom touched many lives during her work at PLU. In fact, many people currently on staff worked with her when they were students: Lauralee Hagen ’75, ’78, director, Alumni and Parent Relations, and David Gerry ’76, ’90, coordinator international student services, Admissions; Anne Lucky ’58, executive secretary to the president; and Cristina Del Rosario-Fridenstine ’75, director, SIL/ Affirmative Action.
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