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 Lacey B on 14th July 2018
I am so very sorry for your loss. Our Creator purposed for us to live forever, so having to cope with the death of a loved one feels very unnatural. Soon, we will be able to experience the truthfulness of Gods promise "And the last enemy, death, is to be brought to nothing" (1 Corinthians 15:26). What better hope than to know that God will very soon bring an end to death and all the pain we face (Revelation 21:4). My sincere condolences to all who knew and loved Elena.
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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