Kofi Annan, former United Nations secretary-general, co-recipient of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize and one-time Greenport resident, died in Switzerland Saturday at the age of 80.
Mr. Annan was born in Ghana and served two terms as secretary-general, from December 1996 to January 2007.
Before being named to that position, the diplomat, who spent much of his life working for the U.N., lived on Bay Avenue in Greenport in a house he purchased in 1987 and sold to comedy writer Tom Leopold in early 1996. The real estate agent on that sale was former Greenport mayor Dave Kapell.
In a 2013 column, former Suffolk Times publisher Troy Gustavson recalled that Mr. Annan called Mr. Leopold to ask how he liked the house. Mr. Leopold thought he was being pranked by a friend and “almost blurted out something most unfortunate. But he hesitated just long enough to realize that it really was the secretary-general of the United Nations calling to see how he was doing.”
Local residents recall that Mr. Annan didn’t draw attention to himself.
Mary Foster Morgan of Orient said she met Mr. Annan when she rented the Bay Avenue house.
“He was a reserved, calm man and, as some of his friends have pointed out, he also had a playful streak, which came across as tremendous kindness,” she wrote in an email. “In his summer house there was a room he called the Ghana Room, with artwork from Ghana, low tables and very low chairs. I would sometimes go in and sit on one of those low seats, and compare how different daily life must be in Ghana.”
Dorothy “Tod” Berks of Orient said Mr. Annan and his wife “lived quietly in Greenport.”
“We would just see them walking around,” she said. “They were a nice couple.”
Ms. Berks’ husband, sculptor Robert Berks, was commissioned in 1997 to do a bronze portrait sculpture of Mr. Annan for the United Nations International School.
Mr. Berks, who died in 2011, created hundreds of bronze portrait sculptures, including John F. Kennedy, Albert Einstein and Abraham Lincoln.
The bronze portrait of Mr. Annan still resides at the United Nations, Ms. Berks said.
In October 2001, the United Nations and Mr. Annan were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
“Kofi Annan has devoted almost his entire working life to the U.N.,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee wrote at the time. “As Secretary-General, he has been pre-eminent in bringing new life to the organization. While clearly underlining the U.N.’s traditional responsibility for peace and security, he has also emphasized its obligations with regard to human rights.”
Photo caption: Kofi Annan (right) at the dedication of a sculpture depicting him at the United Nations International School in November 1997. The bronze bust was sculpted by the late Robert Berks of Orient (left). Robert Howard, a friend and benefactor of the UNIS, shakes Mr. Annan’s hand. (Credit: Robert Berks Studio Courtesy photo)