WILPF DISARM! Chair, Carol Riley Urner, featured in Whittier Daily News
"hard at work pushing for peaceful solutions to the world's problems through the 92-year-old Women's International League for Peace and Freedom - a group that has earned a place at the table of organizations like the European Union and the United Nations."
AN UNENDING EFFORT
By Pam Wight Staff Writer
Whittier Daily News
WHITTIER - Hunched over her walker, her two long white braids swinging to her waist, 77-year-old Carol Urner could be just an average elderly resident shuffling into the First Friends Church in Uptown Whittier.
But Urner's resume paints a very different picture.
With a Forest Gumplike ubiquity, Urner has been involved in the development worldwide of numerous aid and education programs in Third World countries, as well as helping in the global effort to abolish nuclear weapons, among other things.
And she's still hard at work pushing for peaceful solutions to the world's problems through the 92-year-old Women's International League for Peace and Freedom - a group that has earned a place at the table of organizations like the European Union and the United Nations.
Urner returned last week from the second of two trips to Washington, D.C., over the past month. There, she visited the offices of every member of Congress to discuss ways for the United States to rejoin nuclear disarmament treaties.
Between trips to Washington, Urner squeezed in an appearance at the United Nations Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.
Urner spent 35 years and raised two children while living abroad with her husband, John Urner, who worked as a planning developer for the U.S. Agency for International Development, the World Bank and various United Nation's agencies.
As Quakers, the Urners were committed to peace and social justice.
"My nature is such that I just don't believe that violence is the answer to problems," said Urner, who said living in foreign countries helped her learn the "national identity" of the societies.
"I realize you can't just go in and change them," she said.
While stationed overseas, Urner used her influence in those agencies to help acquire micro-loans for the "slum women" of Egypt, who lived in the garbage dumps, and the abandoned women in Bangladesh.
While living in the Philippines, Urner was shocked at the poverty under then-President Ferdinand Marcos. She soon got involved with a movement to aid the squatters and tribal peoples, she said.
"I was like a go-between between my husband and the agencies he represented and the people on the ground. I wasn't always working on the same side as the organizations he represented," she said with a laugh. "But I could give him information on what \ needed because of my work. We were able to do a lot of good things."
But John Urner's work was cut short Oct. 13, 2000, he was killed in a car wreck in South Africa. He had been hired by USAID to oversee a primary education project in Lesotho, a tiny country located inside South Africa.
Carol Urner was nearly killed in the accident. She spent three days in a coma and must still use a walker to get around.
"When I woke up I realized [John} was gone. I decided I had to keep working," she said.
After the accident, Urner moved to Whittier to live with her daughter.
Bill Miller, a local pastor who has worked on social issues with Urner in Whittier, said she rarely advertises her past. As a result, many people fail to realize the experience that backs her.
"They'll kind of roll their eyes" when she speaks out, "not realizing she knows what's she's talking about," Miller said. "Then she'll come back from one of her trips to the U.N . in Geneva with pamphlets and such, and inevitably they'll be surprised and motivated."