These biographies of FFNCA members will help us get to know each other better and provide information for use by journey coordinators in planning hosting for incoming and outbound journeys.
Bios are available for the following members:
- Dru and Sandy Tallant
- Margie and Bill Johnston
- Susan Wolf
- Lydia Curtis
- Mari Clarke and David Fishman
- Bo Hong and Chuck Goldfarb
- Russell Belcher and Marian Katz
- Leslie A. Sussan
- Barbara and Tom Williams
- JoAnn Thacker
Dru and Sandy Tallant
We live in Washington, DC and are members of the National Capitol Chapter of Friendship Force since 2018. Drury (Dru) is an Architect/Urban Planner, and Sandy, a Landscape Architect/Urban Planner. We’re retired from private and public practice, and live on Capitol Hill when not traveling. We love hosting incoming Friendship Force Groups at our historic townhouse, just a short walk to the US Capitol, Union Station, the National Mall, and access to mass transit. Capitol Hill is one of the early neighborhoods comprised of turn-of-the century townhouses.
We love visiting the parks and museums in the region and hosting dinner parties with our friends. Dru likes to spend time gardening, building furniture, and renovating historic homes. He serves on local committees that address planning and design issues within the Capitol Hill Historic District. Sandy loves to cook, give cooking classes, sew, make art, and take classes at the Smithsonian.
Our goal is to travel 6 months each year! We have traveled the US, Europe, Central/South America, Asia, and Near/Middle East. Our travels include a year-long world trip (1980’s), living in Turkey for two years (1990’s), and most recently travel to Dubai, India, Cambodia and Viet Nam. The third month of our travel was cut short due to Covid-19. We enjoy historic cities, architecture, art, parks natural area, and experiencing food from around the world.
Margie and Bill Johnston
We joined Friendship Force NCA on the recommendation of someone Margie met while traveling in the Galapagos. So far we have hosted once (Isle of Wight) and Margie has done one global outbound FF trip (New Zealand.) Both were very gratifying experiences. We live in McLean, VA. Thanks to the surrounding woods, you would never know the constant sound you hear is not a nearby babbling brook, but rather the rush of the DC Capital Beltway. We are both Optometrists, Margie semi-retired, Bill fully retired and have two grown sons of whom we are very proud. Margie has authored two books on spiritual development (under the name of Margaret Placentra Johnston.) When travel permits, she likes to participate in volunteer eyecare missions overseas. A few other volunteer activities keep her busy stateside. Swimming is a big part of Margie’s life – either just lap swimming in local indoor pools, or whenever possible, in a lake. She and Bill have joined an online yoga class with our son’s yoga teacher in North Carolina, so in addition to a good workout, we also get to spend that hour with our NC son – so to speak.
I live in a retirement community in Mitchellville, MD called Collington. I moved back to this area in 2019 after almost 50 years away, and so much has changed—I am having to re-learn my way around the Capitol area. When I lived here before there was no Metro!
I am a retired teacher and guidance counselor who worked with Deaf students and their families in the NYC public schools. I received my first masters degree in Deaf education from Gallaudet University, and my second in guidance counseling from the City University of New York, Staten Island College.
When I retired, I moved to an intentional Ecovillage in Ithaca, NY where I lived for 11 years before moving to Maryland. I have been a Servas host for more than 40 years, and have been involved with Friendship Force for about 7 years, formerly in the Binghamton, NY area. I am looking forward to hosting and participating in FFNCA events.
I have done a fair amount of traveling in the past, both with Friendship Force and on my own, visiting Britain, Japan, Brazil, Ireland, Guatemala, Peru, and France. In the 1960s I studied for a year in Scotland. I now have a significant hearing loss, and my travel options have changed since I have a service dog who helps me with hearing. She travels with me and therefore my access to overseas travel is extremely limited. I love meeting new people and exploring different cultures and hope to do this through hosting incoming ambassadors.
I spend my time reading, doing artwork, sewing, doing wood projects in our wood shop, gardening, and volunteering on several committees and with a few outside organizations. I am a Quaker and have served in many Friends’ efforts over the years. I have a particular interest in Indigenous history, cultures, and current issues, mostly focused within North America. I am fluent in American Sign Language and capable in Spanish. I enjoy visiting historic sites and gardens, smaller museums, trying new and different foods and cuisines, and having good conversations. I love cooking and tackling new recipes. I especially enjoy Friendship Force because you have the personal connection that allows you to make new friends from all over the world. This, in turn, makes the world a better place.#
Lydia Curtis is the Founder and Executive Director of Sadiki Educational Safari. She has a background in education and currently teaches part-time for DC Public Schools as a substitute teacher. Her work experience includes 16 years of guiding youth, as a Juvenile Probation Officer at the DC Superior Court. Her volunteer background includes 25+ years organizing events in the community, walkathons for cancer and AIDS research, and leadership in various ministries at St Augustine Roman Catholic Church. Ms. Curtis’ passion is African Dance, where she has been a student and a member of the Kankouran West African Dance Company for six years. A devoted international traveler, Ms. Curtis has been to nine African countries as well as Jamaica, Cuba, Colombia and Mexico. Her organization, partnered with Medase LLC, creates travel-abroad opportunities to under-resourced teens to places in the African Diaspora.
Mari Clarke and David Fishman
Mari has been National Capital Area (FFNCA) club president since 2019. As an international development gender consultant for over 30 years, she has worked with USAID, the Asian Development Bank, various NGOs and, for the past 15 years, the World Bank. There she focuses on social inclusion in transport and water projects. Her consulting has taken her to Eastern Europe, Africa, Egypt, Turkey, Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea, Vietnam, Mongolia, China, and Peru. Mari is an anthropologist whose PhD. Research examined household economy in rural Greece. She speaks Greek and conversational French.
David is a “recovering” lawyer who practiced labor relations for 20 years (both management and plaintiff/union). He was a visiting scholar at George Washington University, Johns Hopkins SAIS, and George Mason University. He is a member of the American Bar Association Section of International Law and its Russia-Eurasia Committee. Since early 2019, he has been actively engaged with Rotary International. In 2020, he joined the Board of Rotary Action Group for Peace. In his efforts to build relationships between Russian and U.S. law faculties, practicing lawyers, academics, judges, business people, and others, he has traveled to Russia, Ukraine, Finland, and Estonia numerous times since 1989. He speaks fluent Russian and conversational French.
We enjoy travel, hiking, music, theater, comedy, art, culture, and history museums. We participate in a wine tasting. Mari enjoys photography and gourmet cooking and collects indigenous crafts and art. We married in 1996, too late to have children, and we are both only children so our friends are our family.
Our Friendship Force journeys: La Serena, Chile; Murray Bridge and Mount Gambier, Australia; Tauranga and Blenheim New Zealand; (Mari only) Myanmar; India, Brazil 2018, Hamburg Germany; (Mari only) Kiel Germany; FFI International Meeting in Boulder, Colorado; Sunshine Coast Australia.
Bo Hong and Chuck Goldfarb
Bo and Chuck live in an 1880s rowhouse in the historically African American U Street neighborhood of DC, about two kilometers north of the White House. They are two blocks from the U Street Metro stop and there are many convenient bike lanes and bus routes nearby, but just as often they can walk to their chosen destinations. There are many restaurants, clubs and live theater and music venues in close proximity. In their 25 years at that location they have seen their neighborhood gentrify somewhat more than they would prefer.
Bo is a nurse, now partially retired. He emigrated to the United States from South Korea when he was in his twenties, and returned to school to study science and nursing in his forties. He grew up in a small village, the son of rice farmers. He lived in Erie, PA and Baltimore before moving to DC. He enjoys gardening and has constructed a beautiful backyard fish pond. He and Chuck often do day hikes and bike rides and play paddle ball and pickle ball.
Chuck is a retired public policy economist, with a career split between the public and private sectors. He has always lived on the U.S. east coast. Since moving to Washington, DC in 1974 he has held volunteer leadership positions in a number of non-profit LGBT community organizations, including the support group for LGBT youth, a long-term NIH-funded AIDS epidemiological research study at Johns Hopkins University, several interracial organizations, and DC’s LGBT archive. He has been president of the FFNCA board, coordinated several in-bound and outbound journeys, participated in an exploratory FF journey to the Philippines and then led the first discovery journey there. He is a member of the Friendship Force International Board of Directors (term 2019-2022).
Russell Belcher and Marian Katz
In Oct. 1992, we transported the enriched garden soil by flatbed truck from our rental home in Bethesda to our newly purchased home in Silver Spring, MD where we now reside.
We were attracted to this home and its location in part because of its generous south facing backyard and attached sunroom. The potential we saw for growing our vegetables, herbs, and flowers has now resulted in 11 raised growing beds. Growing, preserving, and cooking our own food is a central part of our life as are the seasons and the weather associated with them. We have many friends who are gardeners, herbalists, and native plant aficionados. Several years ago we converted our entire front lawn into a native plant garden. Marian is always researching and cooking meals made from the produce we grow. She is also a volunteer gardener at the Charles Koiner Urban Farm Conservancy in downtown Silver Spring, helping with harvesting the crops for the Community Supported Agriculture subscribers.
Our home is conveniently located near Forest Glen Metro and downtown Silver Spring, thus affording us easy access to nearby ethnic restaurants and movies, concerts and plays as well as downtown Washington DC museums and other attractions accessible by a 25-minute Metro ride. Hiking and biking possibilities are many in the surrounding parks with miles of trails and cycling paths.
Our Chinese New Year’s parties have always been popular with both our American and Asian friends. Following our two trips to visit friends in Vietnam, we have come to love cooking and partaking of this exquisite cuisine, as well as other ethnic cuisines.
We are enthusiastic about planning our own independent domestic and international travel as Marian was a travel consultant for many years before working at NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-a U.S. federal agency) in a similar role. Since Russell earned a degree in medical anthropology, following his second trip to Nepal that had a photojournalistic focus, we both have made many trips on our own as well as one with Friendship Force to Turkey and several with various European based walking companies. Our most recent trips (before the pandemic) were to Vietnam for Tet new year and Cambodia, and an 84-mile walk along the 2,000 year old Hadrian’s wall in northern England. We are adventurous and curious travelers and love meeting new and interesting people.
We both enjoy all kinds of music and Russell, using his photography skills, has become one of the videographers for the Mountains of Music Festival sponsored by the Crooked Road organization in southwestern Virginia, featuring Appalachian musicians and dancers. Marian has taught herself flat footing, a popular dance form in Appalachia, which she enjoys doing at this festival along with the other dance, yoga and pilates classes she takes on a regular basis. Russell is presently using his anthropology degree to co-lead a special project, involving two southwest Virginia towns, that seek to help citizens and local leaders work together to build new modern towns through inclusive collaboration, mutual respect, and imagining new possibilities based on local social, cultural, and geographical strengths.
Leslie A. Sussan
I am originally a New Yorker and came to the D.C. area to attend law school for three years in 1975. Somehow, I am still here after all these years. My adult daughter, our kitty Neko, and I currently live in Silver Spring, Maryland. I am planning to retire at the end of the year from my long-time job as a federal administrative appellate judge at the Dept. of Health and Human Services. I am a Quaker with Jewish and Irish roots.
Anticipating that retirement will free me to travel and explore more (at least once COVID is under better control), I recently joined Friendship Force. So, I have not traveled or hosted with FFNCA yet, but I have had lots of independent experiences with both, earlier in my life. I lived for a year in Japan in the late 1980s doing research for a memoir/history that I published last year (https://hiroshima-choosinglife.com/). I spent a summer each living in San Juan, Puerto Rico and Guanajuato, Mexico. I have enjoyed shorter visits to Brazil, Cuba, Haiti, Guatemala, Panama, Canada, England, France, Estonia, Latvia, Portugal, Singapore, and Korea. I have also hosted foreign exchange students, refugees, and other international visitors.
I love learning about different cultures, history, and languages. My hobby is pretty much reading followed by more reading. A book and a glass of good wine (or a good latte in the morning) are my vision of paradise. After being pretty isolated since the pandemic, I am craving chances to meet new people and discover new experiences with FFNCA!
Barbara and Tom Williams
Barbara and Tom have been active members of FFNCA for many years. Since our marriage in 2003 and Tom’s later retirement, we have hosted many times and have traveled with FFNCA to Estonia, Japan, Australia, Cyprus, Chile, Azerbaijan, England, New Zealand, and Germany. We also attended FFI world conferences in Morocco and in Colorado. Barbara has served on the board for many years, part of the time as Secretary. She has also served both as a journey coordinator and a host coordinator.
Barbara’s first trip with FFNCA was to Thailand in 2005. This was her first trip to Asia, although she had traveled extensively in Eastern and Western Europe as well as New Zealand, Australia, and Peru. When Tom retired, he enthusiastically started accompanying her. In addition to traveling with Friendship Force, we have traveled to China, Italy, Kenya, South Africa, Patagonia, Croatia, Western Canada, Spain, and Portugal, both on our own and with friends. Our independent travel has often involved biking, hiking, or visiting wine areas.
Before retirement, both Barbara and Tom worked in Information Technology. Barbara retired in 2001 from Amtrak (the National Passenger Railroad) as a Project Manager. And Tom worked for 37 years with the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) agency of the federal government “playing with computers” as he likes to put it.
Both Barbara and Tom love the outdoors. We even got married in a Wilderness Area in West Virginia! We are former downhill skiers (interrupted by the pandemic unfortunately). We both love hiking in all seasons and own snowshoes just in case it ever snows enough to use them. Tom is a retired recreational cave explorer and has done extensive exploration of caves in West Virginia. He is still active in caver groups.
Tom is an avid reader, especially of military history and science fiction. When we travel, Tom is always more interested in the history, the flora and the fauna and Barbara is more interested in the culture (music, dancing, food, and wine). Barbara volunteers with a non-profit wine education group and sometimes gives lectures to the group. We both love wine and have an extensive wine cellar. As noted, much of our travel has involved visits to wineries and vinicultural areas. And since we also enjoy learning about and tasting different beers, we have visited quite a few breweries, mostly in the U.S. but some abroad as well. Both of us like to cook, but Barbara likes to try out more adventurous recipes, whereas Tom is a master of corn on the cob and grilled cheese sandwiches. And Tom is always a willing helper, taking care of much of the prep work such as chopping onions. Both of us enjoy live theater and concerts. We also both enjoy art, although our tastes differ, Barbara is particularly interested in crafts, especially ceramics, and enjoys collecting art objects on our travels.
I have been a Friendship Force member since 1995 and have enjoyed many wonderful trips all over the world. I am 78 and live with my husband, Michael Vawter, in Silver Spring, MD. Michael has become disabled and is no longer able to travel with me, but we still welcome guests into our home, which is a mile from the District of Columbia line and the Takoma metrorail station.
I’m a clinical psychologist, and I still work part-time for a geriatric practice, consulting in nursing homes and other facilities where older people seek psychiatric services where they live. I love the outdoors and hike and swim on a regular basis. I volunteer as an usher at several local theaters and lead two weekly hiking groups. I also love to read and can usually be found with my nose in a book.
I’ve really missed travel during the covid 19 quarantine and can’t wait to go once again.