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By Janet David

POHNPEI, Federated States of Micronesia (February 25, 1999 - The Island Tribune)---The Nation is in a state of mourning following the death of former Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) President Bailey Olter on February 16, 1999. In honor of the late President, Vice President Leo Falcam declared a period of mourning, which remained in effect until February 22, 1999, the day Olter was buried.

Olter suffered a debilitating stroke in July 1996. Following medical care in the United States, Olter returned to Pohnpei in February 1997 and remained in his family's care until his death.

Employees of the National Government, which included the President's cabinet members, the FSM Congressmen, and Chief Justice Andon Amaraich and other members of the Judiciary Branch, offered their condolences to the Olter family in Nanmadol, Dolonier on February 18. A religious service was held at the Kepinle Protestant Church in Kolonia on February 21. That night, students and staff of the College of Micronesia held a short religious service and sang songs for the Olter family.

The next day, February 22, a State funeral was held in the FSM Congress Chamber for the people of the FSM. In support of the State funeral, the scheduled airport runway repair was delayed and Continental Micronesia arranged for three planes to land at the Pohnpei International Airport to allow dignitaries from China, Korea, Japan, the United States, and throughout the Pacific to attend the first State funeral of an FSM President. The first President of the FSM, Tosiwo Nakayama, and the second President, John Haglelgam, were both present at the State funeral.

Bailey Olter was born on March 27, 1932, in Mwoakilloa, Pohnpei. His political career took off when he was elected to the Congress of Micronesia, where he first served as the Vice President of the Senate, and then served as the Chairman of its Ways and Means Committee until the Congress of Micronesia dissolved in 1977. He then was elected to the Congress of the FSM, where he was voted into the Presidency in 1991. Olter was in his second term as the third President of the FSM, when he suffered a stroke in July 1996. When Olter's health failed to improve, Jacob Nena, Vice President at the time, took over the presidency in 1997.

The FSM's acquisition of membership to the United Nations was deemed one of Olter's major accomplishments during his administration. Prior to his presidency, Olter was FSM's second Vice President. His political career also included serving as Assistant Ponape District Administrator for Public Affairs; Micronesian advisor to the U.S. Delegation to the U.N. Trusteeship Council; and President of the Ponape District Legislature. Olter served as the Director of the Pohnpei State Department of Treasury during the Moses administration. Aside from being a prominent political figure, Olter had been a businessman, teacher, principal, designer of sails, builder of outrigger canoes, boats and buildings, and a mechanic for gasoline and diesel engines.

Olter was an easy-going person, who drew friendships of all ages. "It is a sad day for the FSM, especially Pohnpei State," said Pohnpei Governor Del Pangelinan. "We have lost a great leader. He had been an outstanding leader, serving Pohnpei State for many years. His leadership will be missed."

"He had been a great supporter of the College, recognizing the College as the National college of the FSM," said President Susan Moses, College of Micronesia-FSM. "He supported the COM Endowment Fund in a very big way."

Olter is survived by his wife, Amalia, eight children, and 16 grandchildren.


By Gene Ashby

KOLONIA, Pohnpei - Deaths are announced by loud sounds and whispers in Micronesia. Local radio stations blare the news with a bugle-call similar to U.S. military taps. Then, like a gust of wind, words are passed quietly from person to person throughout the island: "Did you hear?" or "Bailey has passed away."

And the question never asked was "Bailey who?" For nearly half of a century, the former President of the Federated States of Micronesia, Bailey Olter, was the best known resident of Pohnpei. Rev. Daniel T. Hughes in Democracy in a Traditional Society wrote, "Both in interviews and in informal conversations people frequently told me they like Bailey because he 'loves the people,' or 'he is on the side of the people,' or 'he respects everyone.' Often, people said they admired Bailey because 'he is not afraid to speak up to the Americans.' Literally dozens of times I heard Pohnpeians use the same expression: 'Bailey does not know the meaning of fear.'"

Felled by a paralyzing stroke in 1996, Bailey stepped down from the presidency and has been bedridden for nearly two years. He died shortly before his 67th birthday on February 16, 1999.

Is Bailey really gone? Gone from our sight -- that is all. In memory, he looms large, as massive as ever. He was bigger than life, and he lived life to the fullest. He was also bigger than any words meant to memorialize his passing. Perhaps Herman Melville expressed it best in Moby Dick: "Wonderfullest things are ever the unmentionable; deep memories yield no epitaphs."

Amen. Kaselehlie.

For additional reports from The Island Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Island Tribune or http://www.islandtribune.com

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