Thursday, April 13, 2006

Halvor O. Ekern, a retired foreign diplomat and World War II veteran, died March 9 at the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington following a cardiac arrest. He was 88.

Born March 31, 1917, in Lewiston, Mont., Col. Ekern worked as a trapper, logger and dam-construction foreman before graduating from the University of Montana in 1941 with a degree in forestry.

In June 1941, Col. Ekern was called to active military duty as a second lieutenant in the ROTC and was assigned to the 32nd Infantry Regiment in Fort Ord, Calif.

He then was transferred to the 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment, where he served for the duration of World War II and assisted in organizing the ski troops of the 10th Mountain Division.

Col. Ekern participated in the Aleutian and Italian campaigns. He was promoted to captain in 1943, major in 1944, lieutenant colonel in 1947 and colonel in 1961.

After the war, he transferred from the mountain division to the headquarters of the U.S. Forces in Austria, where he was assigned as the quadripartite adviser to the commanding general and U.S. high commissioner.

In 1947, Col. Ekern served on the delegation of Secretary of State George Marshall to the Council of Foreign Ministers.

He joined the U.S. Foreign Service in 1950, remaining at the U.S. Embassy in Austria as a quadripartite director. He was a member of the U.S. delegation to the Austrian Treaty negotiations in 1955.

From 1956 to 1959, Col. Ekern served in the Office of the Special Assistant to the Secretary of State for Atomic Energy Affairs in the State Department.

He graduated from the State Department’s Senior Seminar on Foreign Policy in 1964 and served in the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research from 1964 to 1967.

Col. Ekern served as a political adviser to the commander in chief of U.S. Army Europe from 1969 to 1973 and was a member of the U.S. delegation to the NATO/Warsaw Pact negotiations on mutual and balanced force reductions in Vienna, Austria, from 1973 to 1974.

After retiring from government work, Col. Ekern worked as an editor, writer and publisher, as well as in the security field. He also was president of the Arlington County Taxpayers Association and was chairman of the Arlington County Republican Committee.

Col. Ekern received numerous awards, including the Bronze Star with clusters, the Army Commendation Medal, the Department of Army Meritorious Civilian Service Award, the Department of State Meritorious Honor Award, the Department of Army Distinguished Civilian Service Medal and the German Great Cross of Service.

He also was a member of many organizations, including the Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity and the International Order of St. Hubert.

Survivors include his wife, Margaret T. Ekern of Arlington; daughters Margaret Kay Ekern of Falls Church, Holly N. Ekern of Junction City, Ore., and Carol Ekern Connors of McLean; son Bryan R. Ekern of Bend, Ore.; sister Mary Norma Bussell of Penticton, British Columbia; and one grandchild.

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