Ed Nef – Billy Lee’s 70+year-long friend from Phillips Andover

Author of “Life Out Loud – A Memoir of Countless Adventures and No Regrets”  –

My father Victor Nef set up a good example for us all as a distinguished diplomat who had served his motherland, Switzerland, throughout his four decades’ career.  He helped Switzerland maintain strong friendship with the United States and Canada and others.  During World War II, as Swiss Consul General in New York, he was one of the primary commercial contacts between the United States and the Axis Powers.  This was an extremely important responsibility since Switzerland was the primary independent neutral country serving as an intermediary between the Allies and the Axis.  

In 1959, I followed my father’s footsteps by joining the US diplomatic service as a Foreign Service Officer (FSO) where for the next 25 years it was my responsibility to promote friendship between the United States and various countries with very different political structures.  In my nearly seven decades’ career life, I was promoting international friendship in nearly each job I took: from FSO, to Peace Corps official, to language school owner, where my responsibilities always centered around developing friendly relations with citizens of other countries.  As a matter of fact, what stimulated me to start a new adventure — producing documentaries — was during my first trip to Vietnam when I was nicely surprised and touched by the sincere willingness of the Vietnamese people, long our fiercest enemy, to reconcile with the United States and to establish friendly relations.  To this day I still have many good friends in those countries, such as Mongolia and Vietnam.  

All my three daughters have joined me to travel internationally, not only as tourists, but also as project managers/partners, film crew members and so on.  Any of these job responsibilities always required a focus on establishing friendly relations with our local hosts and co-workers.

– Christine: traveled to Zambia to build a home for a single mother; to Mongolia to help build my language school. 

– Patricia: traveled to Senegal to help me produce a film focusing on how Senegalese women liberated themselves from frequently unhappy circumstances and happily accepted our offers of friendship; she also traveled to Mongolia with her two sons to learn Mongolian culture.

– Stefanie: traveled to Mongolia with me to become acquainted with a foreign culture and befriend local children and adults.

All my four grandchildren have traveled internationally, first with their grandparents and parents, now on their own, to see much of the world and also to learn different cultures and histories.  This is how the family legacy of promoting international friendship is being carried on. 

Ed’ Parents Mr. & Mrs. Victor Nef – 1920s Mr.Victor Nef was Swiss Consular Officer in the United States
Ed Nef started a school in Mongolia
Daughter Stefanie assisting Ed in Mongolia
Grandson Andrew exploring in

Nef Family Vacation – Ed & Liz with daughters, son-in-laws & grand children



BILLY:  Inspired by What you did. Please elaborate a bit on “WHY” and “HOW”.

NEF:    In answering your question regarding “WHY” and “HOW”:

I was raised as someone who appreciates multi-cultural upbringing: a Swiss father, a Polish mother, and American upbringing, and during my lifetime living in seven countries and visiting all seven continents (including Antarctica), in addition to the Arctic.

To me, the story of Arctic explorer Alexander Mackenzie is one of the most touching stories of survival in the Arctic, based upon inter-human relations:
Circa 1790, Mackenzie was returning to his distant ship after all the other crew members had died.  He was alone and helpless, and came upon a small rescue hut built by him on his outbound journey, as a possible rescue station for the return.  He entered the hut and collapsed, thinking he was going to die very shortly.  Maybe as long as a day or so later, as he lay dying, there was a knock on the door.  In walked a native person, who happened to be in the area.  Both men were bowled over by surprise.  Of course the native person immediately set about resuscitating the dying man.  As one can imagine, presumably a bond was built between a native person and a Western explorer.  I often think of the story when I travel in remote areas. Although I never had such dramatic experiences, I did develop strong friendship with locals and appreciation of how such friendship can be incredibly important.

BILLY: I really admire your Natural Friendliness, your Exploratory Spirit, your Deliberate Efforts to Reach-out Globally, and the Effectiveness in Helping People Where It Counts Most.  To be able to relay this spirit to your descendants is especially admirable.