‘Really wonderful guy’ from Comox Valley remembered fondly decade after dying

Ten years later, the Comox Valley's Chris Klein-Beekman is remembered for his caring personality and his dedication to help others.

Ten years later, the Comox Valley’s Chris Klein-Beekman is remembered for his caring personality and his dedication to help others.

Klein-Beekman was serving as UNICEF program co-ordinator in Iraq in August 2003 when he was killed by a bomb explosion at UN headquarters in Baghdad. Monday, Aug. 19 marked the 10-year anniversary of his death at 32 years of age.

“He really made an impression on so many people,” Klein-Beekman’s friend and co-worker Geoffrey Keele said Tuesday. “I’ve been in contact with a lot of the Iraqis that we used to work with over the years, including yesterday on the 10th anniversary, and all of their thoughts are still with Chris — he really left an impression.”

Klein-Beekman grew up in the Valley before his post-secondary studies at the University of Victoria and University of Amsterdam. He joined the Department of Humanitarian Affairs at the UN in Geneva in 1995 and then joined UNICEF in 1997.

He became program co-ordinator in Baghdad, Iraq in May, 2002, and Keele says — like most people who met Klein-Beekman — they became fast friends after they met in Iraq.

“Chris was just a really wonderful guy,” recalls Keele, pausing to search for words. “Everybody who worked with Chris adored Chris. He really had an impact on all the people in our office and Iraq, Iraqis and international staff alike.

“He treated everybody the same, whether they were the head of the office or the lady who brought you the coffee, everybody knew Chris and Chris always had a smile for everyone and something nice to say. He really made everybody feel like they were a part of the team.”

Keele notes Klein-Beekman oversaw programs designed to improve the lives of children, like child protection, health, education, and water and sanitation programs.

“Twelve years of sanctions had left children in a very difficult situation; mortality rates were high, there was a lot of malnutrition, water infrastructure, health infrastructure had deteriorated terribly,” continues Keele. “His job was really to try and work with a government, Saddam Hussein’s government, to try and rebuild all of that infrastructure at a time when there wasn’t much money coming into the country.”

Keele adds Klein-Beekman had to be creative in finding ways to improve the lives of Iraqi children, like teaching locals how to monitor children’s weight and growth so kids suffering from malnutrition could be identified earlier.

Klein-Beekman was one of the first UN staff who went back to Baghdad after it was bombed in 2003, according to Keele.

Keele recalls Klein-Beekman told him all about his life growing up in the Comox Valley, noting “he obviously loved it,” and he came back regularly to visit his family.

Klein-Beekman was married to a woman he met while serving in Ethiopia, Nina Kebede, who came to the Comox Valley from Ethiopia for Klein-Beekman’s funeral.

Keele says the loss of Klein-Beekman was a loss for many children in the world.

“He was so good at his job, and so committed and so dynamic, that there are children in countries all over the world where he would have made such a difference, he would have made such a contribution,” says Keele. “And the fact that he died in that bombing means that the contribution he would have made was lost — and that’s a big tragedy.”

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

 

Just Posted

B.C. declares state of emergency as more than 560 wildfires rage

This is only the fourth state of emergency ever issued during a fire season

More than 22,000 blood donors needed

Canadian Blood Services is urging Canadians to help meet patients’ needs this… Continue reading

Courtenay Volunteer Fire Department to hold Tour de Rock fundraiser

On Sunday, Aug. 19, the Courtenay Volunteer Fire Department will be having… Continue reading

Trevor’s trust fund supports restorative project in Courtenay

Ashwell family donates $10,000 to Kus-kus-sum

Close finish at Nautical Days 4-Mile Road Race

Unique road race nears 50th year

Average Canadian family spends 43% of income on taxes: study

Fraser Institute’s consumer report shows taxes accounting for larger chunk of income each year

Are you Canada’s next Masterchef?

Home cooks looking to follow their cuisine dreams can apply now.

Regional climate adaptation agriculture testing to expand in B.C.

Ottawa funds farm projects to conserve water, remove invasive species

VIDEO: B.C. brother-and-sister RCMP officers Amazing Race Canada Heroes Edition

Courtney and Taylor Callens have become the team to beat

‘Can’t erase history’ by tearing down statues, Minister says

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna spoke on the contentious removal of John A. Macdonald

Man seriously injured in Lower Mainland home explosion

Police are trying to figure out what led to a homemade explosive detonating in a Coquitlam home

Canadian soccer captain Christine Sinclair continues to lead fight against MS

Burgers to Beat MS has raised more than $11 million since its inception in 2009

VIDEO: Post-surgery monologue comedy gold

If you’ve ever had surgery with anaesthetic you know the coming out of it process can be a treat.

LETTERS: Doctors speak out on surgical wait times for B.C. patients

‘Governments know they will lose private clinic lawsuit’

Most Read