Franklin Lee Arbuckle

Posted June 26, 2017

Colombia/Bolivia (staff) (1964-66/1968-71), posted 6/26/17; he was a Colombia PCV 64-66; then Bolivia staff 68-71

Franklin Lee Arbuckle, known as Lee, was born April 30, 1943, in Belle Fourche, South Dakota, to Frank and Mary Lee (Richardson) Arbuckle. Mary Lee was widowed with four small children when she married Frank, and Lee was their only child, but Frank treated Mary Lee’s other four children as his own. Frank’s family owned the Arbuckle Ranch in Carter County, near Alzada, Montana. Frank showed an insatiable curiosity about the rest of the world, a quality he handed down to his son. Lee also inherited his mother’s kindness and concern for her fellow man.

Lee was often the only child in his class at the one-room school in Albion, and he soon showed the hunger and aptitude for knowledge that would characterize his entire life. One year, his teacher gave him the entire year’s schoolwork at the beginning of the schoolyear, and he had it done by November, so he spent the rest of the year reading the school’s Encyclopedia Britannica collection, a fact that would surprise no one who knew him. Lee could, and often did, answer a question by filling in the entire history of the region or politics or geology of the place in question.

Lee excelled in all areas at Belle Fourche High School, making All-State in football, and was president of the student body as well as third in his class. A friend of his high school football coach suggested that Dartmouth might be a good fit for Lee, so he applied to the school, although he knew very little about it. Lee thrived in the Ivy League setting, and spoke fondly of having the opportunity to hear talks from Robert Frost, Martin Luther King and dozens of others. After two years at Dartmouth, Lee’s thirst for new experiences led him to join the Peace Corps during the third year of its existence. He was stationed in Colombia, where he spent two years setting up co-ops among local businesses. He showed an easy aptitude, both for learning Spanish, which he became fluent in, but also for absorbing a new culture, something that would serve him well during his entire career.

After the Peace Corps, he returned to Dartmouth to finish a degree in economics, and on a brief return to the ranch, was presented with the prospect of being drafted to go to Vietnam. Lee appeared before the draft board, told them he was not a conscientious objector but that he opposed this war, and he asked to be given an opportunity to serve his country in a different capacity, a request that was honored by the draft board in one of the most conservative counties in Montana. He got a job as Peace Corps Director in Cochabamba, Bolivia, where he met his wife Magda Carrasco “Maggie,” a native Bolivian who worked in the Peace Corps offices. After many long discussions about how their relationship made little sense, they married anyway and formed a formidable pair for the next 46 years. Lee and Maggie returned to the ranch soon after they were married, but in 1976, Lee was diagnosed with MS, a disease he battled with good humor and determination for the rest of his life. He never lost his ability to walk or to function in any other physical capacity. He considered his main achievement the purchase of the other parcels to put Arbuckle Ranch back together.

Lee completed an MBA from Dartmouth, as well as a MS in Economics Administration from Montana State University. After working for the Farm Credit Bank in Spokane, Washington, for five years, then a year at Arthur D. Little, he took a job working for Agency for International Development (AID) in Honduras, where he and Maggie spent 11 years.

Lee and Maggie returned to Montana in 1997, moving to Billings, where he spent the rest of his life improving the ranch. They developed and produced a seed harvesting machine called The Arbuckle Native Seedster, and took as many opportunities as possible to explore the rest of the world, traveling to Patagonia, Spain, Turkey, Australia, China, and consulting in Central America and the Philippines. Lee was active in the League of Women Voters, American Society of Agricultural Consultants and other organizations. He also kept in close contact with many people from his past, attending reunions for the Peace Corps and his Dartmouth days as recently as just a few months before his death.

Lee is preceded in death by his parents and two brothers, Wilbur (Phyllis), and Wayne (Carolyn, also deceased). He is survived by his spouse, Maggie; two sisters, Lorene Rowland (Chuck, deceased), and Myrna Loken (Dutch, deceased); and 11 nieces and nephews. He has two sons, Anthony (Natalie), who has two boys of his own, Jake and Joseph; and Andrew (Neisa). Both sons live in the Washington, D.C., area.

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