Thursday, November 10, 2005

About Becky

The Becky Fund was established in 2003 in memory of Becky Prichard.

The following story by Trudi Hahn, was printed in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on June 22, 2003.

Elizabeth (Becky) Prichard, who found her place in the world because political turmoil briefly trapped her mother in Bolivia, was interred June 15 in Calca, Peru. The St. Paul native, who had been running a restaurant in Pisac, Peru, drowned June 9 after a car accident near Calca, where she lived. She was 30.

Friends and family members who gather Saturday in St. Paul will recall an adventurous woman who was delighted by the bright rhythms of Latin American culture.

Prichard graduated from St. Paul's Central High School in an accelerated college-class program. She and her mother then traveled around Latin America for four months.

"She never wanted to be tied down to doing anything normally," said her mother, Diana Bomberg of Las Cruces, N.M.

Prichard lived for a time with an aunt in New Zealand, where she became certified as a teacher of English as a second language.

Fluent in Spanish, she worked in Minnesota for a while as an advocate for migrant farm workers, said her brother, Michael Prichard of Birmingham, Ala.

In her mid-20s, she stayed with a cousin in Albuquerque, N.M., where she attended college, studying Hispanic culture.

School associates wanted her to get a graduate degree, "but that wasn't Becky," her mother said. She would rather be off doing something new.

"Every time she traveled, she'd miss her plane, lose her ticket, be late -- that was the source of a lot of her adventures," Michael Prichard said.

About three years ago, Becky Prichard was living in Miami when her mother took a volunteer vacation to help build a house in Bolivia through Global Village Work Camps, an international branch of Habitat for Humanity.

Bomberg suggested that they meet when the work was done so they could travel to the ruins of Machu Picchu. A rendezvous was arranged for Cuzco, Peru.

Prichard got to Cuzco, but political turmoil in Bolivia prevented her mother from traveling for almost a week. By the time Bomberg got to Cuzco, Prichard had a host of friends and planned to move there.

She agreed to work as a bilingual staffer in an adventure-travel company's office if they would train her to be a whitewater rafting guide, her mother said.

"She wasn't afraid of anything," her brother said. "She would go trekking [alone] in the Andes for three, four days with her dog and a backpack."

The whitewater work proved to be too adventurous even for Prichard, one of the first women to be a whitewater guide in Peru, her mother said. After about a year, she switched to assisting on trail trips.

Tired of city life in Cuzco, she soon agreed to run a restaurant in Pisac. That situation didn't work out, but she liked the small market town, which was a jump-off point for touring Incan ruins, including Machu Picchu. Its children were so poor that their toys were pop-bottle caps.

In May 2002 she embarked on remodeling an old building for a second-floor restaurant.

"She'd say, 'Put a window there,' and somebody would take a sledgehammer and go bam!" said her mother, who was visiting at the time.

From the chaos emerged an airy, open space where diners could observe the bustling market and gaze at misty mountainside ruins while choosing from Prichard's health-conscious menu items, which included fresh trout, alpaca meat and quinoa soup.

She became engaged this spring to longtime boyfriend Mendel Wilson Muñiz, a Peruvian whitewater guide. She was treasurer at his daughter's Catholic elementary school, helping to raise funds for basic supplies such as aspirin and bandage strips -- or paying for them herself. The children had to buy their own supply kit of notebooks and pencils. If they were too poor to do so, they weren't allowed to attend classes.

She tried to help a group of children who had been organized as a dance class that didn't work out, inviting them to sing in the restaurants on Saturdays for tips and food.

On June 9, she was driving back to Calca from Cuzco after picking up Wilson when their car blew a tire and slid into an eddy of the Urubamba River. Wilson got out, but Prichard drowned because her seat belt got wrapped around her foot.

Her mother, brother and other family members arrived June 11. A two-day wake ensued while Wilson's sister worked through a forest of paperwork and fees to get permission to send the body to the crematorium in Lima. The family took the casket to the airport on June 13, but the body never was put on a plane. In Peru, any traffic accident is considered a criminal investigation, Bomberg said. Authorities wouldn't release the body for cremation while the investigation continued, which might take a year.

The only option was to leave Becky Prichard's remains in Peru. She was interred June 15 in the bright orange section of Calca's outdoor mausoleum, next to the purple section.

In addition to her fiancé, her brother Michael and her mother, survivors include her father, Michael Prichard of St. Paul; another brother, Alexander of Fairbanks, Alaska; her grandmother, Jane Rogstad Hawkins of Scottsdale, Ariz., and five stepbrothers and stepsisters.


Anonymous said...

The beautiful story of Becky's life and her adventures is inspirational. Her commitment to making a difference in the lives of the people she loved and lived for in Peru is a powerful reminder for us all. Her life was cut short, but her gifts clearly live on in the legacy of Becky's fund. Liz Lewis-Olson

DAHunt said...

I knew Becky for a short while in New Zealand. My wife met her in their ESL class, and they hit it off right away. We were so fortunate to spend time with her. One particular night, Becky hosted a party at her aunt's which I shall never forget. That's the way she was: vibrant, with an energy that was infectious and a sense of occasion in the everyday.
I am deeply saddened to learn of her death as I always hoped we would meet again.

David Hunt

Anonymous said...

Becky and I were friends in High School, but we had lost touch by the early 1990s. I just ran into an old, mutual friend of ours here in Australia (!) and heard about Becky's tragic passing. My heart sank to hear the story. I was really touched to come across this website and see how Becky is being honored. What a beautiful way to keep her spirit alive.
With much love from Brisbane,
Christine Feldman

Peter Lavezzoli said...

Becky would be 40 years old today on Nobember 8, 2012. I was fortunate to meet Becky in Peru in March 2002 in Cuzco and again at her restaurant in Pisac, and we became friends. She was one of the most delightful, intelligent, thoughtful, adventurous, and compassionate people one could ever hope to meet. She always made a positive difference in the world around her, and she loved her Peruvian friends and neighbors dearly. In light of the tragedy of her untimely passing, Becky lives through the ongoing work that her family does for the people and the community that Becky so dearly loved. I am very thankful for the Becky Fund.

peter said...

Remembering Becky again today on her birthday.