Obit: Sherwin Landfield

Obit: Sherwin Landfield

Sherwin Landfield, born Jan. 26, 1921 in Chicago, Illinois, was the son of Herman S. and Henrietta (Mosk) Landfield. Sherwin married Jacqueline Plas on his 31st birthday in Paris, and remained married to her until his death, Feb. 3. He died at the Halquist Inpatient Center of Capital Hospice as a result of complications from a stroke he suffered in 2003. Sherwin had been a 36-year resident of Arlington County and his cremated remains will rest there at Arlington National Cemetery. Burial took place on Feb. 21, at 9 a.m.

To get into the army in 1942, Sherwin craftily memorized the standard eye chart. But once in, he could not make the Air Corps cut with their more rigorous medical examiners, so he settled on becoming an antiaircraft artilleryman. Most of World War II he served in Iceland with the 977th AAA Automatic Weapons Battalion. Undoubtedly, it was in that cold and barren place that he developed his lifelong lust to know every corner of the world. After his discharge from active service (he remained in the reserves until 1953), the GI Bill allowed him to combine his desire for travel with his passion for learning and education, studying at the Sorbonne in Paris and traveling around Europe.

Declining to continue his law studies on his father’s dime at Northwestern University after recognizing that justice and the law did not necessarily have a lot in common, he instead secured scholarships and paid his own way to a BA at Central YMCA College (later Roosevelt University) and an MA at the University of Chicago in Political Science and Public Administration. He returned to Roosevelt University as an instructor and headed the audio-visual department there until he was recruited by International Harvester for their adult education department.

In 1960, Sherwin joined the Point Four program, which soon thereafter was reshaped by President Kennedy into the U.S. Agency for International Development. His first assignment as a Foreign Service Officer was in Haiti where he and a team of advisors created a teachers’ college literally from the ground up. The second post was Paraguay where he again worked on national education reform, helping to create that country’s first national bookmobile. They enlisted a former Luftwaffe pilot to build it.

Then came postings in the high Andes: First Ecuador where USAID’s educational reform efforts were focused on a new teacher training system and then to Bolivia where Sherwin supervised preparation of a new national primary school curriculum including its mass production and its distribution throughout the national territory.

When the Landfields were finally given a rotation assignment to Washington, D.C. in 1970, Sherwin had achieved several travel goals: Traversing the Panama Canal and the Straits of Magellan and visiting every Caribbean and South American republic in between except the 3 Guianas. (He later visited there as well.) In Washington, Sherwin was initially assigned to serve as the AID/State liaison to OAS and the UNESCO. Later on he was tasked with improving AID’s internal communications system, and for that work, he was recognized with the Agency's Meritorious Honor Award.

The final overseas assignment for the Landfields was to Abidjan in the Ivory Coast. There Sherwin traveled throughout West Africa as AID’s regional Program Evaluation Officer. This job allowed Sherwin to do as he had done in the Americas, visiting nearly every republic on the African continent before his tour was done.

In June on 1977 Sherwin retired from the Foreign Service. When a friend asked why he chose to retire so young, he said he’d long wanted to have the time to read the Washington Post thoroughly, which he then proceeded to do on a daily basis. But he also commented that he had some serious traveling yet to do. In fact for the next 25 years, twice most years, Sherwin and Jackie tailor made a new international venture to discover those corners of the world on the "must visit list." The Washington Post (10/24/1999) ran a contest to see who in the area could produce the most visas on a single passport. Sherwin’s 1985-1995 passport with its 51 visas from Albania to Venezuela far eclipsed the closest runner-up. In his lifetime, he visited well over 100 countries, all the American states, and countless islands, waterways and places of unique human culture.

Saint Augustine said "The world is a book, and he who stays at home reads only one page." Sherwin was a very well read man indeed. He put his knowledge to work as an active member of the National Geographic Society and supported wife, Jackie, who volunteered as a multilingual docent for international visitors at the National Galleries of Art.

Though always a "travelin’ man," Sherwin was also engaged in local civic life, especially in Arlington’s Donaldson Run Civic Association and the Citizens for the Abatement of Aircraft Noise (CAAN). Sherwin was a frequent spokesman for CAAN and helped push their arguments all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1990. Much admired by friends and colleagues, Sherwin’s advice on a myriad of topics was respected and sought after.

Survivors, who miss and love Sherwin more than words can express, include his wife of 55 years, Jacqueline of Arlington; sons Ken of Homer, Alaska and Kerry of Pflugerville, Texas; grandson Zachary of Pflugerville; sisters Joy Feldstein of Glenview Illinois and Phyllis Goldman of Chicago; niece Anita Julie Goldman of Brooklyn, New York; nephew Philippe Lacour of Paris, France; and cousin James S. Landfield of McLean. In lieu of flowers, donations in his name are suggested, to Capital Hospice or the Alzheimer’s Association.