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 From Don Koeppen 4-20-12

In regard to the 1950 Phi Chi President I checked in the Minneska to be sure and I was President.


In those days I tried not to toot my horn.  I was one of the main stays on the Phi Chi bowling team; was "W" Club Pres.; played football and on the state championship golf team.  In addition to Phi Chi Pres., I was also Pledge Master and later Faculty Advisor.  I was also very good at the Ratzsceller at shuffle board and a very good beer drinker.  We played football against the Sig Tauson many drunken evenings.  We would line up and charge onto the street.  Lots of good memories!!!

Don Koeppen

406 Kootenai Creek Rd.

Stevensville, MT   59870




Vietnam Veteran Statistics

A little history most people will never know.

Interesting Veterans Statistics off the Vietnam Memorial Wall

"Carved on these walls is the story of America , of a continuing quest to preserve both Democracy and decency, and to protect a national treasure that we call the American dream." ~President George Bush

SOMETHING to think about - Most of the surviving Parents are now Deceased.

There are 58,267 names now listed on that polished black wall, including those added in 2010.

The names are arranged in the order in which they were taken from us by date and within each date the names are alphabetized. It is hard to believe it is 36 years since the last casualties.

Beginning at the apex on panel 1E and going out to the end of the East wall, appearing to recede into the earth (numbered 70E - May 25, 1968), then resuming at the end of the West wall, as the wall emerges from the earth (numbered 70W - continuing May 25, 1968) and ending with a date in 1975. Thus the war's beginning and end meet. The war is complete, coming full circle, yet broken by the earth that bounds the angle's open side and contained within the earth itself.

The first known casualty was Richard B. Fitzgibbon, of North Weymouth , Mass. Listed by the U.S. Department of Defense as having been killed on June 8, 1956. His name is listed on the Wall with that of his son, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Richard B. Fitzgibbon III, who was killed on Sept. 7, 1965.

· There are three sets of fathers and sons on the Wall.

· 39,996 on the Wall were just 22 or younger.

· 8,283 were just 19 years old.

The largest age group, 33,103 were 18 years old.

· 12 soldiers on the Wall were 17 years old.

· 5 soldiers on the Wall were 16 years old.

· One soldier, PFC Dan Bullock was 15 years old.

· 997 soldiers were killed on their first day in Vietnam .

· 1,448 soldiers were killed on their last day in Vietnam .

· 31 sets of brothers are on the Wall.

· Thirty one sets of parents lost two of their sons.

· 54 soldiers on attended Thomas Edison High School in Philadelphia . I wonder why so many from one school.

· 8 Women are on the Wall. Nursing the wounded.

· 244 soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War; 153 of them are on the Wall.

· Beallsville, Ohio with a population of 475 lost 6 of her sons.

· West Virginia had the highest casualty rate per capita in the nation. There are 711 West Virginians on the Wall.

· The Marines of Morenci - They led some of the scrappiest high school football and basketball teams that the little Arizona copper town of Morenci (pop. 5,058) had ever known and cheered. They enjoyed roaring beer busts. In quieter moments, they rode horses along the Coronado Trail, stalked deer in the Apache National Forest . And in the patriotic camaraderie typical of Morenci's mining families, the nine graduates of Morenci High enlisted as a group in the Marine Corps. Their service began on Independence Day, 1966. Only 3 returned home.

· The Buddies of Midvale - LeRoy Tafoya, Jimmy Martinez, Tom Gonzales were all boyhood friends and lived on three consecutive streets in Midvale, Utah on Fifth, Sixth and Seventh avenues. They lived only a few yards apart. They played ball at the adjacent sandlot ball field. And they all went to Vietnam . In a span of 16 dark days in late 1967, all three would be killed. LeRoy was killed on Wednesday, Nov. 22, the fourth anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination. Jimmy died less than 24 hours later on Thanksgiving Day. Tom was shot dead assaulting the enemy on Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

· The most casualty deaths for a single day was on January 31, 1968 ~ 245 deaths.

· The most casualty deaths for a single month was May 1968 - 2,415 casualties were incurred.

For most Americans who read this they will only see the numbers that the Vietnam War created. To those of us who survived the war, and to the families of those who did not, we see the faces, we feel the pain that these numbers created. We are, until we too pass away, haunted with these numbers, because they were our friends, fathers, husbands, wives, sons and daughters. There are no noble wars, just noble warriors.


We had Junkle and Steinklift as our swatters when I pledged. They swatted
well, and properly. I would have not wanted to taken a misplaced swat. That
being said, I hated frats as a frosh, said I would never pledge, as I
thought they make you puke by eating puke causing stuff. When they recruited
me John Ertl and Robbie Schultz, they said they were swatters not the other.
So I decided to do it.
When I saw the 80-90 actives at that first meeting and realized they had
taken swats too, I felt I could do it to, must be worth it, they all
couldn't be crazy?
In hell week, Junkle thinks up this game called bombardier.
My best friend Pat Mitchell (Mitch) and I were on the end of the small
pledge class line, and somehow we snuck words to each other saying we were
not going to eat that raw egg.
When Junkle told me to get up on the chair and Mitch down on the floor with
his mouth open, yelling at me to "drop that egg in skunk Mitchells mouth,
skunk Vuchetich, I just smashed that egg on Junkle's head. Watching as it
oozed down his face, he yelled,
"get down for 30 skunk" and he cracked off 30 hard ones. We were quite
"seasoned" by that time, it was not too bad.
Then he yells Mitchell get up on that chair, and drop that egg in
Vuchetich's mouth. (I thought for sure Mitch would drop it on me) He waited
for just a second then matched the smashed egg with mine on Junkle's head.
The place went nuts! Junkle said Mitchell down for awhile, and he cranked
off 40 on my buddy.
Later, in his low middle linebacker voice, Bob says to us. "Bout time
someone in this pledge class showed some balls".

I brought it back (more) in fall semester of 72 (my extra semester) and we
filled the place up again with actives. I think I had 19 pledges, and 2-3
were Vets.
I had bird hunted with them, and told them once over a drink when they
decided to pledge, that I could not swat them because of the sacrifice they
did for us. Wally "the Vet" looked at me and said, "did you have to take
swats to get into this frat Mark".
The rest was history.

I've emailed both Stoney and Junkle, nice to see photos of my big brother
Vince Tranchita lately to.

Blessing to the Phi Chi's!
I have been blessed!
Mark Vuchetich

I had a long and I must admit tearful conversation with Butch's wife - Deborah & his daughter Renee last night. She is just a SUPER lady, they were married for 40 years and he was a fighter, to the end. He was fighting this for the last 6 years and NEVER took any morphine or other pain medications. He died in the hospital with her and as i recall his daughter, although his son may also have been there. His son has taken it pretty badly she said. The kids are like 38 and 35, as I recall and they have 5 grand kids. 

When I had that long conversation with Butch, when we were at the pool in Scottsdale last year I asked him to send me the information on his life and specifically his time in the military, as I just knew he had a pretty significant career as a pilot. His wife told me that he flew 2 missions a day in Vietnam and that he was a member of the Air Force Thunderbirds - you may know something about that Rumpa.

She also told me that Butch died of Collective Duct Renal Cell Carcenoma, something very rare and that she said he was the longest survivor of. She was very talkative about everything and really wants to stay in touch with us Phi Chi's and would like to attend one of our events, so I going to keep her informed and gave her daughter info on our website so they can keep up with us. Debra would LOVE to hear from any Phi Chi's and said I could give out her phone number, so I really encourage brothers to call her as I know it would do her and her family a lot of good. Her number is 520-749-3669.

I am a better person after talking to them and it has brought a new understanding for me in my understanding about handling impending death. I must admit that I feel Butch heard our conversation. As you know Ken, Butch told me not to notify a bunch of brothers about his impending death and how he regretted not being in touch with other brothers over the years and I really wanted to, but honored his wish. I am a different person and if in the same situation would want to talk and see other brothers, but each individual has to make that decision. I am re-invigorated to make an attempt to get to more brothers and hopefully give them the opportunity to reacquaint themselves with other Phi Chi, should they so desire, as many of us are getting older and closer to that reality.  The idea is that hopefully there are things we as brothers can do to help out other brothers, or at least give them that opportunity.
Brother Ron

I am sorry to say that Carole and I will be in Denver March 5.  It's our granddaughter's birthday (Piper).  We try to get out there three times a year for each of the kid's birthday.  I can't tell you how much I will miss being there.  I looked at the 1950's Phi Chi pictures.  I taught in the same school district with Ed Setter, and guess what...he was our daughter Michelle's favorite teacher.  I might add; it was her favorite teacher at Roosevelt Elementary School.  I forwarded it to Michelle, and told her she would be surprised.  Thanks for you do, Ken, and I will send to $25 to help cover the costs.  For sure, I will see you this summer.  Say hi to everyone.  It is truly amazing to see these guys after so many years.



Pat and Carole Glynn

LETTER FROM RICHARD LANGE '43 (typed from hand written note)




Hi Ken,
Thought I would let you know I am still here.  In a few months I will be 90 - on June 3rd.  Since I was born in 1921, the Frat and I are the same age.  In fact I received my graduation degree in Miami, FL since I was stationed there when I received it - 1943.  I was a bombardier/ Navagater 2nd Lt. in the Army Air Corp. flying missions out of Italy with the 15th Air Force School - at 8 hours a day - five days a week  for 11/2 years qualified for 4 Air Force Wings.  Flew missions in a B-24 bomber over Germany and Austria.
Best Regards:
Dick Lange

From Brother Gregg Zaremba(ziggy)
As most of you know, Suzanne and I were lucky enough to get a chance to visit the Persian Gulf area (Qatar, UAE, Oman) for three weeks back in November. I apologize for not updating you sooner but circumstances didn't allow it. To start with, first Suzanne than I came down with a virus we must have picked up from one of the 300 Seven-Eleven managers who flew back to the states with us. After recovery, other things took precedent. With that behind us, let me tell you about our trip.
It was fabulous. Direct flights from Washington to Doha (12.5 hrs) and back (14.5 hrs). Once there, our hosts treated us like Royalty. Because we had locals as guides, we were able to see and do things that most tourists couldn't. For instance, while in Oman, we stayed on a farm owned by one of the family. We also got to go to a farm that trains camels for racing.  I've got over 2,000 photos I have to go through.I need to weed out some so I don't put everyone to sleep while showing them. We learned a lot about the countries and the people. The food was pretty much like here - chicken, fish, goat. The main thing that was different, was using our hands instead of utensils and sitting on the floor to eat. That wasn't the case all the time but when we did,it made cleanup easy.
That's about it for now. Keep the light on in the window.

From Brother Scott Hansen
Greetings from Coronado,

In the past, I've been limited to sending one or two pictures with an email. Thru our facebook, I can offer more pictures. If you're interested, go to:

Click here for pictures

Someone please let me know if this worked. Yesterday I walked a few miles down the beach towards Gorgona, they sell huge fresh caught lobsters there for $6, we're getting one tomorrow. I met several people on the beach that used to live in the USA, but now they're here fulltime and some said they'd never go back. The landlord lives here much cheaper than in the states. He currently pays 1/10 of what we're paying for healthcare, and has better coverage.

Today we went up into the mountains to a very interesting place called El Valle. It's the world's second biggest crater created by a volcano blowing its top millions of years ago. The town itself sits in the middle of the crater. It used to be the place where wealthy Panamanians would go during the hottest periods. There were really some outstanding mansions. The temperature there was 15 degrees less than on the ocean. We're right at the end of the rainy season, moving into their hot season. A few odd things happen--packs of parrots fly over very low, making alot of noise, almost like they're angry. The first group went over at suppertime.
Tomorrow we'll walk the beach again, I found my first sand dollar yesterday. Monday we go back to Panama City where we landed--the landlord has some shopping to do. I've never been much for big cities, but Panama City is impressive. If you've got the time, do a search, just to see the skyline.

It's been a long day, I'll write again in a week or so.

Scott and Barb Hansen

Three recent coments from your Brothers:
WOW - Very nice ... we are almost becoming a respectable organization! :)

Rick Doering

My apologies but due to a temporary assignment in London, I will not
be able to attend....keep me on the list though!!!


Chris Greer - re 2010 golf outing


Hi Ben, Almost made this one, sure wish I had from some of the names that will be there.

Please give my best to Essig, Gavigan, Dougherty, Higgins, Stenklyft (my pledgemaster), Bob Schultz, and Teresinski. Those are all names I remember and can see their faces many years ago.

Best wishes to all you guys!

Mark Vuchetich (Vitch)

Class of 1972, pledged fall of 69

From Brother Jeff Frazer for all of the early 70's gang that may remember their classmate:


Coaching hall-of-famer guided M's for 13 years

Dan Brunner, a member of the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame, has joined the staff at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

Brunner, former head coach at St. Francis and Hartford high schools, earned All-American honors as a member of the Warhawks in the mid-1970s.

Brunner recently retired from teaching after coaching at Hartford Union High School for 19 years. He led the Orioles to a 10-2 record in his last year, with the team advancing to the WIAA Division 1 quarterfinals. He compiled a 135-52 record, including seven conference titles, at Hartford.

Prior to Hartford, Brunner coached at St. Francis High School, where he led the Mariners for 13 years and to a Parkland Conference title in 1980.

Brunner played his collegiate football as a tight end for coach Forrest Perkins. He lettered four times and earned all-conference honors three times, and culminated his career with National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics All-American honors in 1975.

The 1974 and "75 Warhawks won Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles. Brunner's years saw the Warhawks go 7-3, 6-2-2, 8-3 and 8-3. He totaled 82 receptions for 1,008 yards at UW-W.

"When I played for Coach Perkins, he always referred to the strength of being part of the 'Warhawk family,'" Brunner said. "His guidance has played a big role throughout my life. As I progressed in my coaching career, I hoped that I could return to that Warhawk family in a coaching capacity and give back to a place that helped from the foundation of a wonderful professional career. This opportunity allows me to do that.

"I look forward to being a part of one of the finest football programs in the country. I am excited for the opportunity to work with Coach (Lance) Leipold and the outstanding staff he has in place."

After ending his career at UW-Whitewater, Brunner had tryouts with the Green Bay Packers in 1976 and '77. He was elected to the UW-Whitewater Athletics Hall of Fame in 1994 and was honored by the WFCA in 1996.

Brunner joins a program that has won four consecutive WIAC titles and has advanced to the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III championship game - the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl - the last four years, winning the 2007 national championship.

From: Charles Roth, Class of 1962

































Brother Ken,

                I’m glad that you have become active as Phi Chi Epsilon active Alum.  I’ll always remember the extra enjoyment and friendship I received as a Phi Chi.


                Hope to be able to come to the Homecoming game and maybe the night before.  I’ve been a loyal Warhawk  football fan ever since I played in the 1959 Championship team under Forrest Perkins.  These last 5 years have been outstanding, the greatest sports story in Wisconsin’s History.


                Thank you for the news letter and keeping me informed.  Enclosed is a check for $20.00 for dues.


                Have you established life membership yet?  Do you have a membership card?


                I’ve always been proud of being a Phi Chi Brother.


God Bless all Phi Chi’s

Almost one year ago we recieved this e-mail and our hearts broke
Mine is still broken  So let us take a little JP time on the 15th  Remember what joy this courageous,witty,master of the word,lover of music,food,travels and one who inspired all of us to laugh more, explore the unknown,and fight to the death  Lucky for all of us to have had John Palmer in our lives, and someone whom we could truely call a friend
Damn, I miss him  I am heading to the mid-west this morning and Johnnys spirit will be coming along for the ride We did this roadtrip in the summer of 2007,nothing but disagreements,agreements,divy diners,wine,good'olemid-west storms, and an absolute blast!
I also want to send warm thoughts to Johns daughters and sons, thanks for sharing so much, and we all be with in the spirit of  Love       CZ 

We are big sports fans.  My oldest son, Justin, was an All-American 3rd baseman at USC and was drafted by the Royals.  Made it to AAA before suffering a career ending injury.  He is now one of their coaches in the minor leagues.  My second son, Brandon, was drafted in the 8th round  by the Brewers and made it to AAA also.  He played one year in the Phillies organization after leaving the Brewers and then decided he was tired of bus rides.  Many of his former teamates are on the Brewers currently.  My youngest son, Darren, was a high school All-American.  Went to Stanford and then USC.  Suffered a career ending injury while there and is now involved in the real estate profession in Tempe, AZ.  Gary ----- Original Message ---- From: "" <> To: Sent: Wed, May 12, 2010 1:39:53 PM Subject: Hi from Ken - Phi Chi Gary - from our conversation I gleaned that you and your family were big sports folk.  I just realized that you were in the same class as Gary Witthuhn and he is still pitching fast ball in the Milw area. He says he doesn't have much of an arm left, but is still on the mound.  I just figured you might have had something in common with him - see him at different outings. Ken Johnson

Thanks for taking the time to drop me a note. Yes definitely put Ginny in
the space as my spouse now going on 43 years. I haven't kept contact with
Phi Chi brothers from our era and I know the fraternity went through some
dark days at Whitewater. But the efforts of your group establishing the
website and the apparent progress of the local chapter getting back into the
mainstream activates some good memories from our time at UWW.

Yes I think you do recall correctly as I remember getting a singing group
together for our fraternity. The kazoo marching band sounds like a lot of
fun. I have been back to Whitewater several times as my oldest son lives on
South Street near the high school. He met his wife Marcia at Bethel College
in St. Paul Minnesota and after traveling around a while they decided to
settle at Whitewater. He has an unusual situation in that he works as a
police officer in El Monte, CA and commutes from here to Wisconsin. When he
is in California he stays with us and works as much overtime as possible.
Then he takes his accumulated overtime as time off and will fly back to
Wisconsin to be with his family. He gets back there about 1 1/2 weeks for
every three weeks he is here. It's not an ideal arrangement but he and his
wife make it work. They have two children a girl 10 than a boy six. He makes
about three times what he could make in Wisconsin in law enforcement so they
view this arrangement as he worth it. He has been doing it for about six
years. Anyway, I do have an incentive to get back to Whitewater and would
try to get back this fall if it weren't for my travel to Asia. Last time I
was there I got a chance to visit with Coach Rabe; I wrestled on the warhawk
team for four years. The wrestling program took a giant step forward when
coach Myers took over. Boy, the football team really took a giant step
forward under Berzewiz. I've watched them play for the national
championship the last couple of years.
Anyway, thanks again for the note and I hope some time to join you in a
reunion in the near future.



































Ken asked if I might write a piece about living in Costa Rica (CR).  Although I’ve been taking holidays in this country for the past six plus years, I’ve been calling Costa Rica home for only the past 6 months.  That certainly doesn’t qualify me to be writing a very thorough description of life here but I’d be happy to share with you my experience to date.


Costa Rica is a relatively small Central American country slightly smaller than the state of West Virginia. It is situated between Nicaragua to the North and Panama to the South.    It’s possible to drive from one end of the country to the other in under a day, not that you’d ever care to especially considering the lousy road conditions in large parts of the country.


We’ll start with the people.  The overwhelming majorities that I’ve encountered are very friendly towards foreigners.  CR is a Spanish speaking country but in most of the tourist areas, finding bilinguals that speak English is not hard especially at the places that cater to foreign travelers.  Their population has a literacy rate on par with that of the United States.  Traveling out of the tourist areas without at least survival Spanish, which is my level, can be a challenge, however. Tourism plays an increasingly large role in the country’s economy and finding ways for you to spend your vacation dollars is not a problem.


Important to many of you will be easily accessible and good tasting beer. You can put that aside as a worry.  Natural beauty is the main draw here with incredible forests and beautiful beach resorts toping the list.  Costa Rica is not known for being a culinary hot spot but good food is abundant at all the major resorts and cities of any size such as the capitol, San Jose.  Flora and fauna are treasures recognized here by a government that has taken great measures to protect and develop to attract Eco-tourism.


In 1948 the president of the country abolished their military.  Kind of a gutsy move back then that has proved to be a good investment in their collective future enabling them to invest in their education and environment.  Somehow or other infrastructure got shortchanged, however.  I don’t know what qualifies a country to be called third world but I wouldn’t put CR in that category.  I haven’t had to share a bus with any chickens yet.  It has a very stable government composed of a legislature with one house, a judicial and an executive branch where the president has a 6-year term limit. Too many political factions here translate to nothing substantive getting done.  


The country’s main exports are coffee, pineapple and sugar but technology along with tourism are playing an increasingly larger role in its economy.  San Jose has a burgeoning and affluent middle class drawing large and high-end retailers.  Pricey German and Japanese cars are not uncommon on the roads.  Living here is not cheap but you can live quite well without spending a lot of money.  My wife, Jannelle, and I live in a modest home by US standards but fairly luxurious by Costa Rican standards.   Basic costs of living such as utilities and taxes are very reasonable.  Groceries are also reasonable unless you go for a lot of imported items. Don’t look for any Whole Foods to open down here any time soon but in the areas that attract tourists, there are some really nice grocery stores that offer much of what your accustomed to seeing in the US.  Did I mention that they have good beer here?  Domestic help is also a bargain.  Property has gotten expensive if you’re looking in popular resort communities.  Cars are expensive if you’re buying here and also expensive if you’re bringing one in from outside the country.  Gas is about $4.00 a gallon with diesel a little cheaper. 




One of the things that are most appealing to me is the pace of life.  Very laid back; something that they call tranquilo.  If you’re living in San Jose, that’s a little harder to experience but I don’t know why you’d want to live there. Very little architecture worth seeking out, crazy traffic and high crime rate.  The old expression mañana fits well here and one thing I’ve learned about using that word if you’re trying to get something done is that it doesn’t necessarily mean tomorrow but simply not today.  Getting anything done by utility companies such as the Phone Company for instance can test your patients.  While I’m on the subject, high speed Internet is available here in most communities of any size.  We’re still on a dial up service but will have high speed any day now, probably mañana.  Some of this might be in for a change, which is good, as a result of CAFTA allowing more competition. 


It’s easy to find pockets of US Expats in many communities here to hang with if blending in with the locals is not your cup of Joe especially if you don’t speak a lot of Español.  But why leave the US if you don’t want to experience the culture of whatever country you may find yourself in?  Tico’s, what Costa Rican’s refer to themselves as (not a pejorative) are generally happy, engaging and nice to be around. 


Some negatives: Central America has one of the highest murder rates in the world according to a Tico Times article that I just read but Costa Rica’s average being the lowest in Central America.  There are 11 murders for every 100,000 people. No numbers on muggings and the like but most of this stuff goes on in San Jose where there is gang activity and drug related bad stuff.  Probably not any different than many parts of Milwaukee or Chicago.  Like any of these places, you just stay away from them.  I’ve heard lots of stories about people getting ripped off in high volume tourist areas when belongings are left in plain sight inside of a car. A little common sense can go a long way in keeping you out of trouble.


For every bad story I’m guessing that there are many more good stories to outweigh the downside.  I for example once left a carry-on suitcase in an airport security area and when I returned it was gone.  I had lots of valuables inside it including my laptop and camera.  It had been loaded on with someone else’s luggage accidentally, driven to some hotel and when discovered by the group it went with, was returned by a taxi driver to the airport and eventually back up to me by another taxi driver with everything still inside.  Lucky?; maybe but fear of getting ripped off or mugged would be the last reason for not coming here to live or visit.


Medical care is of good quality in San Jose.  Many Americans go there for specific and general health care.  The same goes for regular dental.  I had a dental crown replaced for $300.00 that was going to cost me $1,200.00 in Denver.  Medical tourism flourishes here just as it does in other parts of the world where people, mostly uninsured US citizens I suspect, are looking for quality medical care without having to go bankrupt.  I live in the mountain community of Monteverde, which has a population of about 5,000.  We have a clinic here but high tech emergency care is not available without traveling a ways, which might not be an option.  My choice.   Banking is difficult but doable.  You’ll roll your eyes when you find out how much paper work you need to go through to open an account.


I like living here but ask me again in another six months or so. I’m here because my wife found meaningful work in Monteverde working for a non-profit, plus we already had a house here.   Not being able to speak the language well is a problem for me and I don’t expect to become fluent anytime soon. After all, I’m just barely fluent in English.  Trying to communicate will go a long way in endearing yourself to the locals.  Even being able to offer the usual pleasantries is greatly appreciated which will go a long way in helping you to get what you want or need.


Hope you enjoyed my little spiel here about life in CR.  I’m sure I probably missed something important.  Write if you think of something.  If you’re ever visiting CR and include Monteverde in your travels, get in touch.  We can exchange the secret handshake.



The Happiest People




Published: January 6, 2010

SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Nicholas D. Kristof

On the Ground

Nicholas Kristof addresses reader feedback and posts short takes from his travels.

Hmmm. You think it?s a coincidence? Costa Rica is one of the very few countries to have abolished its army, and it?s also arguably the happiest nation on earth.

There are several ways of measuring happiness in countries, all inexact, but this pearl of Central America does stunningly well by whatever system is used. For example, the World Database of Happiness, compiled by a Dutch sociologist on the basis of answers to surveys by Gallup and others, lists Costa Rica in the top spot out of 148 nations.

That?s because Costa Ricans, asked to rate their own happiness on a 10-point scale, average 8.5. Denmark is next at 8.3, the United States ranks 20th at 7.4 and Togo and Tanzania bring up the caboose at 2.6.

Scholars also calculate happiness by determining ?happy life years.? This figure results from merging average self-reported happiness, as above, with life expectancy. Using this system, Costa Rica again easily tops the list. The United States is 19th, and Zimbabwe comes in last.

A third approach is the ?happy planet index,? devised by the New Economics Foundation, a liberal think tank. This combines happiness and longevity but adjusts for environmental impact ? such as the carbon that countries spew.

Here again, Costa Rica wins the day, for achieving contentment and longevity in an environmentally sustainable way. The Dominican Republic ranks second, the United States 114th (because of its huge ecological footprint) and Zimbabwe is last.

Maybe Costa Rican contentment has something to do with the chance to explore dazzling beaches on both sides of the country, when one isn?t admiring the sloths in the jungle (sloths truly are slothful, I discovered; they are the tortoises of the trees). Costa Rica has done an unusually good job preserving nature, and it?s surely easier to be happy while basking in sunshine and greenery than while shivering up north and suffering ?nature deficit disorder.?

After dragging my 12-year-old daughter through Honduran slums and Nicaraguan villages on this trip, she was delighted to see a Costa Rican beach and stroll through a national park. Among her favorite animals now: iguanas and sloths.

(Note to boss: Maybe we should have a columnist based in Costa Rica?)

What sets Costa Rica apart is its remarkable decision in 1949 to dissolve its armed forces and invest instead in education. Increased schooling created a more stable society, less prone to the conflicts that have raged elsewhere in Central America. Education also boosted the economy, enabling the country to become a major exporter of computer chips and improving English-language skills so as to attract American eco-tourists.

I?m not antimilitary. But the evidence is strong that education is often a far better investment than artillery.

In Costa Rica, rising education levels also fostered impressive gender equality so that it ranks higher than the United States in the World Economic Forum gender gap index. This allows Costa Rica to use its female population more productively than is true in most of the region. Likewise, education nurtured improvements in health care, with life expectancy now about the same as in the United States ? a bit longer in some data sets, a bit shorter in others.

Rising education levels also led the country to preserve its lush environment as an economic asset. Costa Rica is an ecological pioneer, introducing a carbon tax in 1997. The Environmental Performance Index, a collaboration of Yale and Columbia Universities, ranks Costa Rica at No. 5 in the world, the best outside Europe.

This emphasis on the environment hasn?t sabotaged Costa Rica?s economy but has bolstered it. Indeed, Costa Rica is one of the few countries that is seeing migration from the United States: Yankees are moving here to enjoy a low-cost retirement. My hunch is that in 25 years, we?ll see large numbers of English-speaking retirement communities along the Costa Rican coast.

Latin countries generally do well in happiness surveys. Mexico and Colombia rank higher than the United States in self-reported contentment. Perhaps one reason is a cultural emphasis on family and friends, on social capital over financial capital ? but then again, Mexicans sometimes slip into the United States, presumably in pursuit of both happiness and assets.

Cross-country comparisons of happiness are controversial and uncertain. But what does seem quite clear is that Costa Rica?s national decision to invest in education rather than arms has paid rich dividends. Maybe the lesson for the United States is that we should devote fewer resources to shoring up foreign armies and more to bolstering schools both at home and abroad.

In the meantime, I encourage you to conduct your own research in Costa Rica, exploring those magnificent beaches or admiring those slothful sloths. It?ll surely make you happy.


I invite you to visit my blog, On the Ground. Please also join me on Facebook, watch my YouTube videos and follow me on Twitter.

Sign in to Recommend Next Article in Opinion (2 of 28) » A version of this article appeared in print on January 7, 2010, on page A31 of the New York edition.



We had a weather problem today, it was 85 to 90, high humidity. We were forced to go to the beach twice. Sorry, I wouldn't do that again. We're 11 days into this 3 month project, to decide on whether to get out of Wisconsin winters, or move here full time. That answer will come as the weeks roll by. Last week we went out with a realtor that we found on the internet 6 months ago. We looked at over 20 properties, half condos, half houses, some bargains in each group. Tomorrow we head out with another realtor to check out the other end of town.

  • A little about Manzanillo........It's over 400 years old, currently a population of 140,000, the safest city in Mexico. It's Mexico's biggest port on the Pacific. It's climate is close to Hawaii, 85-90 daily, drops to 60 at night. It's also a sailfish capital of the world. We met an engineer on the plane that lives in Guadalarah (s?), he's coming down here 2nd week of January, said he'd take me fishing--we'll see. Manzanillo is not a big tourist town, it's just starting to catch on. I met a retired Catholic priest today from Rockford whose been coming here for 39 years straight. He's been all over Mexico ans says this is the best spot. He looked 60, he'll be 76 on his next birthday.
  • We started our quest to get out of Wis. 4 years ago when I retired. We've been to Costa Rica, Belize, and several trips to the southeast US looking for a place with our name on it. Taxes in Mexico are a few hundred dollars on a $300,000 house. Medical coverage is $250/person/year including medications and everything in a system that's better that ours. Currently we pay $11,000 for medical coverage with a $5,500 deductible before anything kicks in. That along with our $6000 in property taxes gives us incentive to move here.
  • This morning we went to a new beach 2 blocks from our apt.. I looked up and down the beach, didn't see anyone else. We did see 3 people walk thru in our 2 hours there.  There are over 10 miles of beaches in the city of Manzanillo. The water's very clean, great for snorkeling, diving, surfing and fishing.  Punch in "Retiring in Mexico" on your computer and see what you come up with. When you turn 65, you can get a card that gets you half off on airfare, buses, sporting events and a long list of other things.
  • I'll write in a few weeks. Hopefully you receive some photos with this, I've been having trouble sending them out.
  • Merry Christmas
  • Scott and Barb Hansen




    We hope you're all getting ready to spend Christmas    the way you want with the people you want to be with.  Since our last note, we ran into some trouble. I got real sick12 days ago, went to a Doc, got meds, but it only got worse.  I went to a second Doc and he diagnosed us with bedbug bites. I had about 70 bites, Barb had less.  They don't show up for the first nine days, so when they were visible, we were really sick. I had a high fever, extreme chills, couldn't eat much or sleep much.  The new meds slowly worked and I got rid of the fever 2 days ago, but am still pretty weak.  Barb is about a day behind me in recovery--it's the sickest we've ever been.   Bedbugs were gone for many years, now there's a worldwide surge.


  •      Our realtor found us a much nicer place for a great price. It's called Las Hadas and it's where they filmed Bo Derek in the movie "10". It's a nice condo with a great view.   The landlord lives next door, she's been here for 25 years and has adopted us. We found out the first landlady is a criminal and we may have trouble getting any money back.  Once we got here to Las Hadas, our vacation started.  We've met some wonderful people here.
  • Hopefully tomorrow we can get back to swimming and beachcombing.    Happy Holidays to you all,

     Clayton Droullard Honored


         George Allen stepped on Morningside College's campus in 1948, beginning a long successful coaching career while also introducing two coaches who would become his life-long friends, Clayton Droullard and Gene Asprey.  With the leadership and coaching of these three great men, Morningside enjoyed eight wonderful years of football and two North Central Conference Championships.

           During this period the discipline and leadership demonstrated by these coaches touched the lives of more than two hundred young men. The purpose of this scholarship is to provide one scholarship annually to a student-athlete participating in football at Morningside College.

    The fund reflects the thoughtfulness and generosity of his former students, football teams and friends.  Eligible students consist of all academically qualified, full-time, undergraduate students meeting the admission standards of Morningside College with preference given to students pursuing a coaching/teaching career.

            The Allen-Droullard-Asprey Endowed Scholarship has received support from 71 individuals amounting to $26,000.  This scholarship will be distributed to a Morningside College student for the first time in the fall of 2009. 



    When in Doubt, Blame a Phi Chi
    The future has been foretold.  Results of the 2008 Presidential Election were decided by one voter - Brother Chris Couture!  See the news clip here.

    Brother Phi Chi's,
    This is formal notice that I am renouncing my Jewish ways and have purchased a plane ticket and rental car to attend this year's homecoming on October 25th. I live in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (A West Palm Beach suburb, 50 miles north of Ft. Lauderdale) and if I can make it up for homecoming I sure hope many of you can excuse for any of you from the southern part of Wisconsin & northern Illinois. We are really getting this Phi Chi Alumni situation going and it would really be great to have a big showing for this event, so please try to make it.
    I have just found and spoke to Past President Mike Lamendola and am asking for you to email him at and welcome him back - he hasn't gone into the website to sign up yet, so It would be nice for you to help nudge him a little. If you haven't signed up yet, or know of others, please do so as soon as soon as possible - if you are having trouble doing so, please let me know as some have had a problem signing up.
    Make sure you check out the pictures on the website, I have just added some more from the Florida Outing with such notables as Don Jacobson, Ken Johnson, Wally Juzenas, Louie Piorkowski, Dale Poeppel, Scotty Huth, Mike Kollross, Pat Glynn and yours truly in attendance - did I mention Chris Holm too?!!! Correct me if I'm wrong, but she was a Tri Sig as I recall? We are doing it again this upcoming February and we will have a date soon, so start making your plans to come on down to Ft. Myers and join us.......Yes, I WILL be there too!!!! There are also some great photos of the Kerry Nelson Brewers Baseball game a few months ago - see if you can pick out Tom Schwoegler, Gary St. Louis, & Tim Clark, to name a few in attendance there - oh, did I mention Dr. Droullard?!!! Make sure you go into the Miscellaneous photos in the Photo Page section also to see pictures of  Mike Beaupre & Barb (formerly Stern, but now long time Beaupre), Rudolph the Rooster crossing Hwy 12 on his daily jaunt to the library fountain accross the street from the Fraternity House, Don Valley, John Belushi and that famous Phi Chi photo on the steps of the house back in '62 or '63. I have many other photos that will be added and if you have any, please let me know so I can get a copy & put them in.
    See you at Homecoming,
    Brother Ron "Formerly known as the Jew" Bailey

























































        I can tell you that it is tough for my family and Jeanne for me to pass at such an early age.  I can tell you since our first Brewer outing and golf outing that I thought many times about the wonderful experiences I had at Whitewater with my frat brothers and the love that I have for each brother.  I was told by Beaupre who summoned me to the house as a pledge and said that I would be running for Student Council President.  He made it clear to me that each Phi Chi must do something for Phi Chi Epsilon during their tenure as a student at Whitewater.  I look at your pictures in the yearbook and I think about your contributions to the Phi Chi's.  Not only have I realized your contributions that were significant but what I learned from my fellow pledge brothers and late Phi Chi's.


        Phi Chi til I die,

        "Doc" Kerry Nelson



                                                  FORWARD TO MY PHI CHI BROTHERS

                                                                              John Palmer(pledge class 1966) 


                      As some of you are aware, I have been dealing with cancer for the past couple of years. I have been asked to address a large American Cancer Society fund raiser here in my home town of Carbondale, Colorado. Rumpa asked me if I would share my thoughts with the brothers.


                      I must say that reconnecting with the fraternity alumni has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my new life. I probably would not have had, nor taken the time, to make the trips to Wisconsin and Florida if I hadn't retired to concentrate on my recovery. These trips were all very therapeutic. The loss of Kerry Nelson was, of course, sobering for a guy in my spot, but seeing Tim Clark at the Brewers game was inspiring.


                      There is great value for us all in this revitalization of the brotherhood. Don't miss out; attend the events, sign up online and join the organization! The boys who have put this together deserve a lot of credit.


                      Be well, everyone,