Memorial services for Grass Valley-born Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, who was killed during a Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, will take place Oct. 16 in San Francisco.
Stevens, 52, was the son of Jan Stevens, who graduated from Grass Valley High School in 1951, and went on to work in the California Attorney General’s Office, said Mary F. Commanday, the ambassador’s mother.
Christopher Stevens’ grandfather Elmer Stevens was a teacher at Grass Valley High School, before it consolidated with Nevada City High School and became Nevada Union, Commanday said.
Stevens moved to Davis soon after his birth and began his education at Pioneer Elementary School before moving on to the Bay Area.
“As a young man, Chris joined the Peace Corps, and taught English in Morocco. And he came to love and respect the people of North Africa and the Middle East. He would carry that commitment throughout his life,” said President Obama in the opening remarks of his speech to the United Nations General Assembly Sept. 25, in which he referenced Grass Valley in the first few sentences of his remarks.
“As a diplomat, (Stevens) worked from Egypt to Syria, from Saudi Arabia to Libya. He was known for walking the streets of the cities where he worked — tasting the local food, meeting as many people as he could, speaking Arabic, listening with a broad smile,” Obama said.
Stevens went to Benghazi in the early days of the Libyan revolution, arriving on a cargo ship, Obama noted. In May — one year after his arrival — Stevens was appointed U.S. ambassador to Libya, CNN reported.
“As America’s representative, he helped the Libyan people as they coped with violent conflict, cared for the wounded and crafted a vision for the future in which the rights of all Libyans would be respected,” Obama said. “And after the revolution (Stevens) supported the birth of a new democracy, as Libyans held elections, and built new institutions, and began to move forward after decades of dictatorship.”
Two weeks before the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Stevens traveled there to review plans to establish a new cultural center and modernize a hospital, Obama noted in his speech.
The California native reportedly died of smoke inhalation after a fire was created by a rocket-propelled grenade on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania.
“Chris Stevens loved his work,” Obama said in his speech. “He took pride in the country he served, and he saw dignity in the people that he met.”
Also killed in the consulate attack were a State Department computer expert and two security agents who were former Navy SEALS. An FBI investigation into the attack is narrowing in on one or two people in the Libya-based extremist group Ansar al-Shariah, an Al-Qaida-linked militant organization, U.S. officials told Associated Press Thursday.
Immediately after the attack, officials said the consulate was stormed by protesters outraged over an anti-Muslim film produced by a California man that mocked the Muslim Prophet Mohammed.
“Chris Stevens embodied the best of America,” Obama said in his remarks to the U.N.
Stevens’ memorial service will begin at 4:30 p.m. Oct. 16 in the Rotunda of the San Francisco City Hall, No. 1, Carleton B. Goodlett Place, (Polk Street) at Grove Street.
The program, with speakers from his family, Libya and the U.S. Department of State, and musical interludes, is expected to last approximately an hour.
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4236.