Let the memory of Elena be with us forever
  • 73 years old
  • Born on March 2, 1945 in Bogota, Colombia.
  • Passed away on June 13, 2018 in Washington, DC, United States.

This memorial website was created in memory of our loved one, Elena Brineman 73 years old, born on March 2, 1945 and passed away on June 13, 2018. We will remember her forever.

Two Memorial Services are being planned to celebrate Elena's life:
1. Washington, D.C: August 11, 2018, 2:00 - 5:00 PM Eastern Time.  If you are able to join us, please email ElenaMemorialServiceDC@gmail.com for directions to the location
2. Kerrville, TX: July 28, 1:00 - 3:00 PM Central Time.  If you are able to join us, please email ElenaMemorialServiceTX@gmail.com for directions to the location

Surrounded by family and friends, Elena Brineman passed away in Washington, DC from complications of metastasized breast cancer after a 22-year-long battle. She was a consummate foreign assistance professional, wonderful sister, caring aunt, a lover of beautiful things, a life-long learner with curiosity about everything, and had a practical and down-to-earth attitude about life.

Elena was born in Bogota, Colombia of American parents, Elena and Jack Brineman.The family had moved to Dallas, TX, Guatemala City, Guatemala and Calgary, Alberta, Canada by the time Elena was ready for college. Elena received her BA in Biology from Whitman College, Washington, and her Masters in Nutrition from Oregon State University at Corvallis.

She started her foreign assistance career in 1976 as a member of the research staff for the Nutrition Institute for Central America & Panama (INCAP) in Guatemala.In 1977-78 she also took on being Food & Nutrition Advisor, USAID/San Salvador, El Salvador.From 1979-81, she served in Washington, DC as Regional Food & Nutrition Adviser for the Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), USAID, before returning to Guatemala from 1981-85 to serve as Regional Food & Nutrition Officer for Central America & Panama, USAID/ROCAP.She then served at ROCAP as Acting Deputy Mission Director before moving to DC to serve as Deputy Director for Technical Resources, Development Resources Office, LAC Bureau from 1989-92.

Elena spent a year as a student at the National War College and then moved to Honduras where she spent 7 years, first as USAID Deputy Mission Director and then as Mission Director. For her service in 1998 to the people of Honduras in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch she was awarded the highest honor given by the Honduran Government. In 2000 she became USAID Mission Director in the Dominican Republic.She was appointed to the Faculty of the Army War College in Carlisle, PA in 2006, and became Director of the Office of Military Affairs in Washington, DC, from which she retired in 2011.

Her lifelong dedication to foreign assistance was level-headed, fact driven and balanced by her desire to leave people and places better than she found them.

She is remembered with love and respect by her sister, Anne Anderson, her nieces, Laurie and Kelley Anderson, nephews, Geoff Anderson, and Keeley and Chuck Brineman, and also by the loving family of Scott and Kathy Brineman, Tammy, Bob, Tina, and their children. She is also remembered by great-nephews Evan and Alex, and great-nieces Gia, Charlie and Perrin, as well as by friends around the world.

In lieu of flowers please consider donations to one of the following organizations that were close to Elena’s heart:

Save the Children (www.Savethechildren.org)

Riverside Nature Center, Kerrville, TX (www.Riversidenaturecenter.org)

Project Share, Carlisle, PA (www.Projectsharepa.org)

Posted by Carol Dabbs on 25th September 2018
Elena was always a role model at the office, and someone I could depend on for good advice. But her greatest impact on me was that she introduced me to Fairlington, where she moved when she returned from El Salvador in early 1979. I followed in late 1979, and also moved to Fairlington, where I still live and own investment properties. Without her leading the way, I would not likely have found what is a wonderful community!
Posted by Sandra Callier on 22nd August 2018
REMEMBERING ELENA (shared at her memorial service August 11, 2018) I met Elena in 1977 in El Salvador where I had moved with my husband Jon a few months earlier, to work in a new Food and Nutrition unit of the Ministry of Planning. Elena was hired by USAID/El Salvador to be their Food and (shared Nutrition Advisor to assess whether and how to channel USAID support to the Ministry in what was then a new area for USAID funding: multisectoral nutrition planning. We shared a common commitment from the outset to applying this very innovative approach in El Salvador and also, happily, an instant personal rapport. Elena had come from working as a researcher with the Nutrition Institute of Central America and Panama [INCAP] in the aftermath of the 1976 earthquake in Guatemala. The position in El Salvador would launch her long, successful career with USAID and it was also the start of our enduring friendship. Exploring El Salvador together or retreating with Elena to her small cottage on Lake Amatitlan in Guatemala, we talked as friends do about our plans and dreams for the future. I was initially a bit surprised that Elena, after only a short time with USAID, was so clear about her aspiration to be a Mission Director. Surprised only because I knew prestige and power were not what Elena was after. She clearly wanted to contribute something of consequence and felt that being a Mission Director would give her the best opportunity to do that. From the outset Elena displayed some key traits that would bring her success: • A passion for making a difference in the lives of the people, she served and pursuing that diligently, undaunted by the demands and distractions of bureaucratic processes • A commitment to learning that combined exploring new ideas with rigorous analysis and evaluation. • A strong personal work ethic, always demanding a great deal of herself, while encouraging and supporting excellence in others. • A calm demeanor coupled with fearlessness that enabled her to deal effectively in the midst of political upheaval, violence and natural disasters and inspired those around her with confidence to do the same. So, yes, Elena was ambitious, but she didn’t always follow the usual path; for example she stayed “too long” at a post—such as the more than 7 years she spent with the regional Mission in Guatemala during the 80’s—when the common wisdom was that moving on was the way to move up. I witnessed firsthand the wisdom of Elena’s choice of paths. When she moved on from Guatemala, she convinced me to take a position there to help continue some of the work she’d begun and I got to know the talented local and regional professionals who had blossomed under Elena’s thoughtful mentoring over several years. They were and continue to be a lasting legacy of her efforts. Previous speakers have signaled other major accomplishments and contributions of Elena’s career. I just want to add a word about the extraordinary friend and person I knew. Elena was not much of a glad hander but she thoroughly enjoyed people regardless of their age, gender, culture or status. She listened with interest, without judgment, and asked thoughtful questions. We remained close over the years, although more often than not separated by geography. I was fortunate to get to know Elena’s family and she invested time and interest in mine. I remember getting together during a brief respite from her work in Honduras after Hurricane Mitch and she took the time to explain the situation to our then middle school daughter Kate who was inspired to want to somehow help. Rather than being dismissive or too busy, Elena worked with Kate who, with some friends rounded up school supplies to send back with Elena, who made sure to follow up and let Kate know where and how these were used. Another favorite memory of Elena is from my daughter Emily. One summer as a teenager, Emily participated in a community service program in the Dominican Republic, which in attempt to provide an authentic experience of life in a barrio was lacking even the basics of hygiene and sanitation and many of the participants, including Emily got pretty sick. Overcoming her initial reluctance, she called Elena who was there as Mission Director at the time. As Emily recalls, “I remember that within, seemingly, minutes, her driver arrived to pick me up and whisked me away to Elena's beautiful home. She fed me soup in a comfortable bed, arranged for a doctor to come see me and encouraged me to stay as long as I needed. While she had a lot on her own plate, she never made me feel that I was an inconvenience or a wimp or "drama queen" for bailing out of the barrio. She treated me like a grown up, but also made sure I was very well cared for. I also remember that after I got better she invited me back over for dinner one evening and I met her latest houseguest, a sick Peace Corps volunteer who was now under her expert care. And I realized that her attentiveness to me was the rule not the exception for Elena.” Throughout two bouts with cancer and during her very difficult final months, Elena remained Elena: researching her condition and weighing her treatment options; taking life as it came to her and living it as fully and serenely as possible, maintaining her optimism and humor without complaint, a model of grit and grace. Along with so many, I will remember and value Elena’s significant achievements. And I especially treasure the simple joys of having been Elena’s friend for over 40 years: the walks, the talks, the dinners, books, puzzles, birds and, of course, the homemade apple butter, chutney and holiday sand tarts that were trademarks of her caring and generosity. I will miss her smile…her laughter… and just being able to enjoy some chocolate mint ice cream with her.
Posted by Laurie Anderson on 14th August 2018
These are the words that Evan Seufert, Elena's grand-nephew, spoke at her memorial service, as remembered by Evan: I am Elena’s grand nephew. Even though she’s gone I am glad we are together - I got my two cousins and friends from school. We are like peas in a pod. I wanna see my cousins and friends more often because that makes me so happy. Elena was great and a funny person. She made us laugh and she will be in my heart.
Posted by Anne Anderson on 13th August 2018
Reflections from Bill Flavin who was unable to be at the memorial service Elena was a great friend to both Patty, my wife, and me and a valued co-worker as well. Elena brought a friendly and straight forward approach to her friendship and her work. She filled the first USAID position for the Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute, an Army institute at the U.S. Army War College where I was recently the assistant director. She established the gold standard for all USAID personnel who followed her in that position. I remember the first briefing that she attended. It was a military style briefing filled with acronyms and military jargon. Elena stopped the meeting immediately pointing to the first acronym on the slide presentation and asking everyone, “What does that mean”? The presentation was filled with acronyms, so it was a very long briefing. She taught PKSOI a lesson. Stabilization was a civil/military game and unless both sides understood each other there could be no progress. From that time forward Elena always sought clarity and would not let anyone get away with fuzzy thinking. Her great experience in the field and understanding of interagency processes during the critical time of Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other challenges, bridged gaps and brought the civilian and military sides of the problems closer together. She was always looking for ways to improve a situation through practical solutions while reaching out to all the members of PKSOI, and created a true civil/military team. She became a good friend to Patty and me and we always enjoyed our visits that would range from the immediate domestic issues of her Texas home to international world affairs. We would look forward toward her visits as she returned from her Texas adventures which we shared. Elena will be sorely missed by all of us who loved her and appreciated her commitment and dedication to her profession as well as generosity by giving time to friends. Thank you, Elena.
Posted by Anne Anderson on 12th August 2018
Remarks, Snippets of Memory, and Loving Notes about my little sister, Elena On the Occasion of her Memorial Service, August 11th, 2018 By the time we come to my comments, I am sure that we will have collectively met my goal for today’s event: To thoroughly embarrass Elena with all the attention and praise we have heaped on her today. I am sure she is looking at us over her proverbial glasses, with her eyebrows raised almost to her hairline, basically saying, “Are you done yet?” Well, not quite. My little sister… • The one who was a runner and a climber at 2 ½ and who did not fall off the ocean liner on the way from Colombia to New York on home leave; • The one who on her 8th birthday did not want to break the rule of no more than 4 kids in the tree house at a time. So when another guest wanted to climb up, she tried to solve the problem by climbing out of the tree house on to a branch—which broke and sent her down 20 feet to land flat on her back on the relatively soft ground—in between the wire fence and the concrete patio. She was sore but fine; • The one who was a volunteer visitor/counselor to male prisoners while in graduate school, where she learned that this was not what she wanted to do in her life; • The one who told her graduate school mentors—all Ph.Ds—that the protocols for the study they had asked her to replicate was flawed, which is why it did not work. When she repeated the study at their insistence, and it still failed and they still did not believe that the protocol was wrong, she changed departments to complete her MS in International Nutrition—a field she had to create the curriculum for, because they told her there was no such thing…. • This is also the person who, when first posted to Guatemala, decided that she wanted to drive her VW bug down, through Mexico to Guatemala, picking up the Pan-American Highway. She didn’t actually feel that it was a good idea to drive alone, so I went with her. (Big help, but we made it.) That is where the saying, “I bet you feel better now” came from, because we discovered that our metabolisms were totally different. She could get along for hours on a cup of coffee and a pan dulce for breakfast, whereas I became “peckish” after a couple of hours and needed protein soon! We would stop for a bite and invariably, I would get something down me, sigh, and say “I feel better now.” She gently teased me regularly after that. • Elena valued family connections dearly. She was the impetus for a family reunion with brother John’s family in Washington state, with all kinds of fun activities like camping and canoeing. Dad was sure he would not be able to go canoeing, but she figured it out and I have a lovely picture in my mind’s eye now, of Dad sitting in the canoe, after a lovely turn around a beautiful lake, saying with wonder in his voice, “I never imagined I would ever be able to canoe again.” • My sister never had her own children but when asked, often said she was borrowing mine. She always took her responsibilities as an aunt seriously, staying in touch with all her nieces and nephews, even when it was difficult because of distance and differences in interests. All my children went to Guatemala to visit with her, and Chuck and Keeley, John’s adopted sons came to visit her here when they were of an age to come visit an aunt. Then, last year, she had Charlie and Gia, Chuck’s daughters, come to Ox Hollow Haven in Texas with her. And she had a special place in her heart for Shahayla, brother Scott’s grandchild in every sense of the term. She valued education and enrichment for all of them, determined to offer them opportunities they might not have otherwise. She was a wonderful aunt. • Elena did not talk about her work much to me—we were more interested in catching up on our far-flung family, but there are two memories I want to share. The first was early on—perhaps from Guatemala—when she told me about seeing a classified map—did not tell me any details, since she was scrupulous about maintaining security. What she did say was that she thought she had seen it before, when she knew she hadn’t. The map showed places in whichever country this was that were “hot spots”, areas of social tension and violence. When she thought about it she realized it reminded her of a map showing areas of food insecurity or malnutrition, so she got both out and compared them, to discover an almost perfect match. She told me because at the time I was Coordinator of Psychologists for Social Responsibility—an organization committed to using psychology to build cultures of peace with justice. She thought that this kind of evidence about the overlap of violence and lack of food would be useful to our thinking. • The other memory I have is of hearing her voice break on the phone when I was talking to her in the midst of Hurricane Mitch in Honduras. She was checking in to say she was okay, but she told me about seeing the video of a woman, holding a young child, who had come to the highest ground she could find, and she was standing waist-deep in flood waters, just hoping that the water would not come higher, that it would not sweep her away, before someone came to help. To Elena, that picture epitomized the plight of the Honduran people as their entire country was inundated by that hurricane. She had such respect and affection for the Honduran people—their steadfastness and resourcefulness, their quiet dignity. • I also want to tell the story of what Dr. Warren, her oncologist, said about his memory of their interactions when she first came to him, back in 1996. He said she was full of questions, concerns, researched everything he said and came back to ask for more studies on different aspects of the breast cancer she was fighting. He said he had begun to despair that she would ever accept treatment and finally gave her one more obscure study that he had found, which convinced her to go ahead. He said that she then followed every protocol, every suggestion (after thoroughly researching it), came in with nutritional ideas that she included in her treatment of herself, and proceeded to last long enough for the field to develop new meds that she could take when the cancer metastasized in 2011. She was wonderful to work with, but she kept him on his toes. Together they bought her many years more of good times with her friends and family. And, as Elena said, they understood each other. • And, finally, I want to talk about mint chocolate chip ice cream. What a boon to mankind—and especially to Elena. No matter what, mint chocolate chip ice cream did the trick of setting her stomach, and she often ended the meal by holding up her spoon—saying, “I have a spoon,” so while I was in the kitchen getting ready to serve ice cream, I would not have to ask. It was a lovely little joke that carried us through many difficult times in the last year. And that is one of the sterling qualities I will always treasure in my sister. She looked at life with an “It is what it is” attitude and had a wry comment that helped us all smile at the human condition in all its complexities. So, blessings on you my dear little sister. I love you and honor you for the pioneer woman you have been in your life, quietly and competently taking up the tasks that came before you, and leading the way for many, many who have found you to be a wonderful guide and mentor. May we all live as full lives as you have lived.
Posted by Emily Sanders on 9th August 2018
Elena is part of a small circle of adopted “aunties” that have shaped my life both personally and professionally. Perhaps the quintessential example is the time she rescued me from amoebas and my own idealism. I was 17 and on a summer community service trip to the Dominican Republic. While I had lived overseas as I child, I had never tackled a “developing country” on my own and was excited for the adventure ahead. My first development experience, however, quickly turned into a lesson in what not to do. Our excursion was run by a group of young college-aged, save-the-world types who were more interested in talking about our feelings and experiences than in teaching us the basics about living and working in a developing country (how to exercise proper hygiene and sanitation, for instance). The result was that most of us fell ill with an assortment of ailments from diarrhea to mystery rashes. As I lay, sweating with fever in the sweltering tropical heat, on a dirty cot on the floor of an old school house we were calling home for the next few weeks, I contemplated my options. Call Elena, my mother urged. She was USAID/Mission Director in the DR at the time. I hemmed and hawed, as the group leader regaled me with stories of how she had “toughed it out” in countless settings. Finally, as I watched yet another member of our troupe come down with the runs, I bit the bullet. Within, seemingly, minutes of calling Elena, her chauffeur picked me up and whisked me away to Elena's beautiful home where he and the maid basically carried me into a lovely bedroom and spoon-fed me soup. Elena arranged for a doctor to come see me at the house and told me I could stay as long as I wanted. Though she had a lot on her plate at the time, she never once made me feel like I was an inconvenience or a wimp or "drama queen" for bailing out of the barrio. She treated me like a grown up, but also made sure I was very well cared for. Shortly after she got me back on my feet, I met up with Elena and her new house guest for dinner – a Peace Corps volunteer who had also become ill and was now under her expert care. I was the rule, it seemed, not an exception. I will forever be grateful to Elena for making sure I got the care I needed while never once making me feel like a weak, spoiled child (the way my group leaders sure did!), and more importantly for teaching me that sometimes, being a grown up is about knowing when to call for reinforcements. I will miss your kind, generous heart and beautiful smile. I am forever grateful to have had you in my corner.
Posted by Barbara Burton on 13th July 2018
One month ago, today, I learned of Elena's passing. Somewhere deep in my heart I knew that writing this would confirm for me the fact that she's not coming back to swim in our beloved Guadalupe River.....I truly believed I would see her again. I first heard about this amazing person from my friend and mentor who happened to be her Mother. A good many years later I finally met Elena 'the younger'. She initially seemed a bit shy, quiet and mild mannered but as I got to know her I realized she was a powerful force in this world! After the sad passing of Elena 'the elder', 'the younger' took over Ox Hollow. Her love and dedication in restoring the place back to it's hand-built integrity was an impressive sight to behold and I was honored to be allowed to assist from time to time. Elena became one of my massage clients......a weekly 'regular' when she was here in Texas. I always looked forward to our sessions, hearing about her latest reads and her projects at Ox Hollow. We were fellow Pisceans (one day apart) which I believe had something to do with our understanding of one another. She was always a cheerleader for my environmental endeavors, especially pertaining to my fierce battles to protect our Guadalupe River. She was my teacher, fellow environmentalist and my friend.
Posted by Mary Cocivera on 7th July 2018
I was saddened to hear of Elena's passing. We shared so many experiences, from Walla Walla to Calgary to Houston to Washington DC to Boston. She certainly left a wonderful legacy of good works. Sincere condolences to her extended family. Mary (Maginnis) Cocivera
Posted by Marcia Bernbaum on 3rd July 2018
From early in my career at USAID I looked up to Elena, not much my senior, as a role model. As one of the early women to move into senior management, Elena paved the way: smart as they come, insightful but also very thoughtful in a caring way. A small anecdote. In early 1999, not long after my husband Eric Zallman died, Elena asked me to come to Honduras where she was posted as USAID Mission Director. Specifically, she wanted me to assess the status of a Honduran NGO CADERH that I was responsible for creating while posted in Honduras in the early 1980s. It was an intense consultancy as they always are. What made it particularly intense was that the organization had run into significant difficulties. At her house fo dinner, just the two of us, not long before I left I said "Elena, this is really hard, I had no idea what I was getting into". Elena smiled and then said, "I knew what you were getting into and that's shy I brought you here to fix it". After all, you started CADERH". We both laughed. Elena, you are sorely missed.
Posted by Alice Lindahl on 30th June 2018
Elena and I first met in 1963, as we checked into our dorm at Whitman College in Walla Walla. We both became biology majors, which was a pretty tight group. The academic scene was not a drudge as there was a lot of personal interaction with our profs. Elena had a good relationship with the botanist, who did research in Central America, where Elena had deep roots. She also joined in the Roo Rat Society which involved treks out onto the sheep roads of Wallula Gap and catching adorable Kangaroo Rats with our hands (organized by our chemistry professor). Explanation: we all were not much into drinking (especially Elena) so this was the perfect way to expend that pent up energy. And it was hilarious. Elena's boyfriend was in theatre, and our group had the inside story on the wonderful acting company there...and those performances were very special. Our group all lived in a wing of the women's dorm on campus. I recall that Elena had the role of "reality check" on members' sometimes reckless plans. Elena moved to Corvallis and became my roomate again as she embarked on her Master's degree in nutrition. She volunteered me to be in her thesis study, the effects of birth control pills on vitamin metabolism. It was not long before Elena was swept off her feet by a guy. She left apartment life for good and moved into a house up in the woods...a place with other couples, a large sauna and many parties. She thoughtfully moved me up there with the group which turned out to be the most liberating and eye-opening time of my life. I am forever grateful. When Elena graduated from Oregon State, times were tough for employment. She amazed me by taking her VW beetle and embarking to Guatamala, to seek her fortune with no job in sight. That took courage! Thanks to her young years in Latin America, she spoke fluent Spanish. Shortly after her arrival, there was an earthquake and Elena offered her services to organize recovery efforts. From there she took every stepping stone to bring nutritional help to poor people in most of the Central American countries. The State Department hired her, and she went on to her amazing productive career in service to Latin American Countries. When my husband and I visited her in Washington DC she was always buried under a stack of reports and grant applications. She was up late into the night editing, rewriting, organizing. We were astounded...this is the lady we went backpacking with, climbing Mount St. Helens, skiing every weekend in the winter, planning dinners for the guys in the oceanography lab, picking blackberries, sleeping in caves along the Oregon Coast. We had no idea that she had the courage to take on the responsibilities of world like this. I am sorry that she has departed this world so soon, she deserved a long and relaxing retirement. Alice Lindahl, Kea'au Hawaii
Posted by Susan Sander on 30th June 2018
I'm sadden to hear we've lost another Elena; both mother and daughter were such angels to me and Riverside NC. I've been so blessed with both their words of wisdom, smiles, wry humor, and sharing swims in the river. Sadly, RNC founders are dwindling but I'm forever humbled and full of gratitude for their support in helping create a garden of beauty along the Guadalupe River that future generations will also be able to enjoy. Hugs to the family.
Posted by James Michel on 28th June 2018
I worked with Elena in Guatemala and Washington and had the opportunity to see her in action on visits to Honduras and the Dominican Republic. She always represented the best ideals of commitment to the health, nutrition and well being of the people of the countries in which she served and to the effectiveness of US development assistance everywhere. She will be missed as a dedicated professional and also as a resourceful, innovative, and always thoughtful colleague and collaborator.
Posted by Lisa Kubiske on 27th June 2018
Elena had already become USAID Mission Director in the Dominican Republic when i became the Deputy Chief of Mission (#2 in the embassy) there. As it was my first time in such a position, Elena taught me a huge amount about ethical managerial oversight. This, of course, was in addition to showing me her fabulous development work there. Her passage is a big loss. My condolences to the family.
Posted by Dick Anderson on 27th June 2018
Thank you Elena for sharing the gifts of your marvelous life with with our family and friends. You have been an inspiration to and role model for our children, present for them whenever needed. Your ability to continue to provide love and support in the midst of your own health challenges over the years has been beyond extraordinary. You will always be a part of who we are. Again, I will always be grateful. Peace.
Posted by Maren Lockwood on 26th June 2018
who could ever forget her laugh and smile, her dedication to make the world a better place.... Wish we had more time together. Rest in peace, no more pain or tears Love to the family, the Houston "cousins
Posted by David Losk on 26th June 2018
Elena was my Mission Director for 11 of my 30 years as a FS officer. She was to me as to many of her colleagues: mentor, teacher, advisor, and friend. It was my good fortune to have worked under her for so long. Many know of her battle with cancer, but you may not know of the special weapons in her arsenal. Shortly after she returned to the US for her treatment, the USAID/Honduras Heath Office, of which I was director, began receiving requests from her, especially for X numbers of oral rehydration therapy envelopes. Only after she returned to Honduras did she explain it to me. She had questioned her oncologist about the content of the chemotherapy "cocktails;" why did he use this combination of medicines instead of others? He didn't convince her with his response, so she asked to borrow his medical textbooks. In her own unique way, she educated herself on chemotherapy, and with her nutrition background, developed her own "antidote" to its fearsome side effects. As a result, she told me, she did not feel any of the nausea or other post-chemo trauma that patients generally struggle with. Talk about taking matters into her own hands! Could any of us imagine Elena as our patient? She was a truly remarkable, talented, intelligent, demanding and fair leader. I count myself among those fortunate to have known her, worked with her, and learned from her.
Posted by Steve Leonard on 25th June 2018
I met Elena several years ago while working on a new doctrine for stability operations with the US Army. Elena was a voice of reason, with the experience and wisdom we so dearly needed on the project. She became a wonderful friend and confidant, and I will miss her greatly. Her loss is one we will all feel.
Posted by Adrian F on 25th June 2018
Dear Family of Ms. Brineman, I am very sorry to hear of the passing of your dear loved one. Though this is a difficult time, some encouragement can be found at Revelations 21:4. It mentions that God will "wipe every tear from their eyes" and truly comfort the bereaved. May the beautiful memories of your loved one, along with this verse, offer some comfort to you during this time.
Posted by Jaime Moreno on 24th June 2018
As a dominican I witness her dedicación and comitment yo her misión as Aid director. I worthship her obsesión with including the small and less privilege ones in te process , her ideas on local development and community empowerment. After she hired me I remember her visits to the projects sites asking community members how they were involve and how they have participated. What a wonderful woman she will be missed by all the ones she touched
Posted by Maren Lockwood on 21st June 2018
we will always remember her infectious smile and her loving heart. The good times we had in the hills of Texas when her travels allowed. Not nearly often enough were we able to get together. The memories live on and so glad that she does not have to suffer anymore
Posted by Ellen Orban on 21st June 2018
I've know Elena ever since I came to the USA at 9 months old. She was always friendly and a happy person. She will always have a special place in my heart. Gone but never forgotten.
Posted by Francesca Nelson on 21st June 2018
Elena was an inspiration to me as a fellow professional, and also as a wonderful human being. She had an optimistic view of life and was so dedicated to our work at USAID. As a junior health & nutrition officer she was the perfect role model. I always looked up to her and will remember her fondly as I gaze into the clouds. I know, as always, she is smiling upon us.
Posted by Tammy Schultz on 20th June 2018
I met Elena at the Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute in PA where we both worked. My hotel reservations fell through, so true to her giving, kind character, she let me stay with her. She taught me to cook tilapia, which is a big deal since I do not cook. We listened to the Iraqi surge announcement together that night and talked about it. I learned so much from her at that early point in my career, and still am marked by her grace and wisdom to this day. God speed, my friend.
Posted by Roberta Cavitt on 20th June 2018
In memory of Elena, who loved nature and people, thank you for making the world a better place. It was an honor to serve with you. Lyrics from "On Eagle's Wings" "You who dwell in the shelter of the Lord, Who abide in His shadow for life, Say to the Lord, 'My Refuge, My Rock in Whom I trust.' And He will raise you up on eagle's wings, Bear you on the breath of dawn, Make you to shine like the sun, And hold you in the palm of His Hand. The snare of the fowler will never capture you, And famine will bring you no fear; Under His Wings your refuge, His faithfulness your shield. And He will raise you up on eagle's wings, Bear you on the breath of dawn, Make you to shine like the sun, And hold you in the palm of His Hand. You need not fear the terror of the night, Nor the arrow that flies by day, Though thousands fall about you, Near you it shall not come. And He will raise you up on eagle's wings, Bear you on the breath of dawn, Make you to shine like the sun, And hold you in the palm of His Hand. For to His angels He's given a command, To guard you in all of your ways, Upon their hands they will bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone. And He will raise you up on eagle's wings, Bear you on the breath of dawn, Make you to shine like the sun, And hold you in the palm of His Hand. And hold you in the palm of His Hand."
Posted by Janine Davidson on 20th June 2018
I worked with Elena on so many inter-agency projects for over a decade. She was tireless, bright, and always so very dedicated to helping everyone learn and make a difference - which she did herself in everything she touched. Elena set the example and changed lives. She will indeed be missed. Janine
Posted by Odalis Perez on 19th June 2018
Elena was trully an advocate of sustainable development in the Dominican Republic. I worked for and accompanied her in many capacities during the years she served as a committed and fully engaged Mission Director. She was always available to visit project sites and exchange with beneficiaries and partners, to assess program effectiveness. Elena was also a great human being and I always recall how she applied her capacities as a nutritionist, during weeks in her free time, to help Mission Director's driver overcome and recover from a severe health issue. Elena will be in the thoughts and prayers of those of us who knew her and admired her.
Posted by Lissette Gil on 19th June 2018
Aliada en las luchas por defender la naturaleza, amiga, promotora de los clusters...y amiga nuevamente. Te extrañare Elena...
Posted by Jonathan Addleton on 19th June 2018
Elena and I never worked together during our respective USAID careers -- but I knew her by reputation and it was all very positive; I know she made a huge impact on USAID as an institution as well as on a generation of USAID colleagues who she mentored, challenged and shaped into better development professionals. The thoughts and prayers of many around the world are with her family at this time.
Posted by Ramon Alvarez on 19th June 2018
Esa Luz (que nos guía) Esta Nuevamente Aquí Bienvenida This was my small note when Elena first came back to Honduras from her initial fight with cancer. She was a bright light that guided and made all of us better, she was a leader who knew how to motivate, she was so easy to like and admire. So long Elena
Posted by Kelley Anderson on 19th June 2018
I don't think I will ever be able to fully understand the impact that my aunt Elena had on my life. There are a million experiences that she introduced me to that helped broaden my world view: from taking us to musicals, plays and concerts, to my first time to eating moo shu pork, to listening to Van Morrison, to sharing tamales wrapped in banana leaves in the Guatemalan tradition rather than in corn husks as in the Mexican tradition, to taking me on a trip to Guatemala that helped me understand the lives of people who live in a very different culture than I do. I feel very fortunate to have had Elena in my life. I appreciate having had her as a role model of a strong, courageous person who was working to make a difference in the world. Her example challenges and inspires me to continue to find my way to contribute to the world and better my community. Thank you, Elena. I already miss you!
Posted by Ryan McCannell on 19th June 2018
I serve as the current USAID advisor to the Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute (PKSOI) at the US Army War College in Carlisle, PA -- a position pioneered by Elena more than a decade ago. Although I did not know Elena very well personally, I wanted to share how powerfully her presence and leadership are still felt in this durable and unusual relationship between the peacemakers and the warfighers of the world. Elena's blend of professionalism, humility and deep devotion to the cause of international development set the terms and tone for a sustainable alliance with the US Army that carries on and deepens to this day. I am sure she would be pleased to know that this aspect of her life's work carries on beyond her own too-brief journey among us. We should all aspire to live as she did, and to see our efforts reaping dividends well into the future, as she has. My thoughts and prayers go out to all of Elena's family and friends. May she rest in peace.
Posted by Beth Cole on 19th June 2018
I can't remember when I first met Elena but she was always around and involved in trying to get everyone in the "interagency" to work well together. Elena excelled at "herding cats" and was doggedly determined to make us better at what we were trying to do in very challenging places. Her motivation always came from being the consummate development professional, intent on helping people lead their lives free from fear and poverty. She will be forever missed!
Posted by Lynn Vega on 19th June 2018
I worked with Elena twice, first in Honduras and then in Washington, and it is an honor to call her my mentor, colleague, and friend. In Honduras, she was at the forefront of the U.S. Government's response to Hurricane Mitch and truly went above and beyond the call of duty in modeling the American core value of helping people when they are in need. She did it with passion, pragmatism, and impeccable ethics. In Washington, she brought to life the Office of Civil Military Cooperation, and carefully built a strong bridge between two very different organizations. It was a pleasure working with her and watching her work. She will be lovingly remembered and missed by many.
Posted by Rosa Jimenez on 18th June 2018
Ms. Brineman left an indelible mark in the Dominican Republic, where she was USAID’s Mission Director for several years. Her work helped improve the life of many Dominicans and her dedication, high standards and commitment to development were an inspiration to many. May she rest in peace.
Posted by Laurie Anderson on 18th June 2018
My earliest memory of my aunt Elena was her teaching me how to press flowers when I was about 7 years old. That began a wonderful time of her being a key part of my childhood and adolescence. She let me swim for hours with my siblings in the pool of her housing complex, taught me about the country of Guatemala when she took me there at age 13, and helped me buy my first car as a graduate student. We had an adventure together in my 20's when we camped together in the Rocky Mountains (just the two of us) and an anxious party of religious men descended on us, wringing their hands, asking "Where are your husbands?" We laughed a REALLY long time over that one. As I grew older, I began to see that Elena was a true kindred spirit and I connected with her as a fellow scientific thinker and lover of nature and beauty. Her discussions with me about the work I do as a plant ecologist were always grounding, interesting, and unfailingly supportive. I already miss calling her and having her say "Tell me about what you are working on!" Anyway, the point is that for young people, there are always a few special mentors who help you become who you are. Elena was one of these people for me and I will remember her with love and gratitude for the rest of my life.
Posted by Frank Almaguer on 18th June 2018
I first met Elena in 1980 in Panama, where I was serving as Deputy Director of the USAID Mission there (1979 -83) and Elena was a periodic visitor as regional nutrition advisor based at the USAID Regional support mission (ROCAP) in Guatemala. She was always welcomed at the Panama mission. Her hard work, her excellent ideas and her commitment to the nutrition and health-related activities carried out by the Panama mission were always on display. I soon learned to seek her opinions on a multitude of issues confronting our aid program in Panama and her wise counsel was always on target and welcomed. I interacted with Elena casually over the ensuing years as our professional paths diverted but always focused on Latin America. In October 1998, two major events happened to bring us back together: Hurricane Mitch struck Honduras with catastrophic impact. As luck would have it, our most seasoned and highly respected USAID Mission Director in Honduras, Elena Brineman, was in place to lead one of the largest recovery and reconstruction programs ever undertaken by USAID. As fate would also have it, as Hurricane Mitch lingered for several days over a ravaged country, I was asked to serve as American Ambassador to Honduras. It soon became clear that the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch would dominate my tenure there. And I could not have been more fortunate to have Elena at my side managing what became a $1 Billion reconstruction initiative on the part of the US and other donors. By the time I arrived a few months later, in August 1999, Elena’s reputation among Honduran officials and the rest of the donor community, including NGOs and international agencies, was well established. She was the leader of that community and the voice most often considered as plans were put in place for the period beyond reconstruction to focus on longer-term Development issues. She was the architect of the plan that was adopted by the Honduran authorities and the donor community. Her hard work, always on display, became even more intense (despite health issues beginning to surface). It was an on-going joke to talk about Elena’s long hours seven days a week. Once in a while I would have to “order” her to take a break (meaning go home by 8 or 9 PM.) I never once had to question her judgment on programs or issues. As the obituary notes, when it came time for Elena to move on after an arduous period in her life the Honduran Government awarded her the highest honors it bestows on foreign officials. The ceremony was officiated by the President of the country, Carlos Flores, who said publicly what he told me privately: Honduras’ suffering would have been far worse had it not been for Elena’s efforts, wise leadership and self-effacing style. I had a very successful tour as US ambassador to Honduras. Elena’s support, engagement and commitment was perhaps the number one reason why I can say this. Elena in so many ways was a pathfinder, a terrific colleague and a mentor to all. She has left a legacy that will be hard to duplicate. She made a difference and we are all better people and better professionals because of Elena Brineman.
Posted by Margaret Harritt on 18th June 2018
Elena will be missed by so many - she was a friend and mentor from birdwatching in Honduras to teaching me about what really matters in development work, always with high standards. Our hearts and thoughts go to her family in this time of loss.
Posted by Michael Deal on 17th June 2018
Elena was truly an exemplary USAID foreign service professional. Her dedication and commitment to her work was remarkable. She won the respect and friendship of host country institutions and her colleagues wherever she served. Her passing is a tremendous loss.

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