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Posthumous medal given to Corvallis man who was killed in March

By KYLE ODEGARD

Gazette-Times reporter

Paul Converse, a graduate of Corvallis High School and Oregon State University, has been posthumously awarded the Department of State Thomas Jefferson Star for Foreign Service, one of the nation's highest honors.

Converse died March 24 after an Easter attack on the American-protected Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq. The 56-year-old was working for the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction as a forensic auditor. He studied contracts, fighting and preventing corruption with a watchful eye.

President Bush approved awarding of the medal, which Converse's parents received Thursday.

"We're very proud of our son," Leona Converse had said in an earlier interview after her son's death. Richard and Leona Converse declined to be interviewed regarding the award.

Ambassador Lawrence E. Butler, deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, flew into Oregon from Washington, D.C., to present the medal Thursday.

"Paul apparently developed a reputation of being not just smart and meticulous, but of being willing to stand up when people were doing the wrong thing," Butler said. "This nation is fortunate there are people like Paul Converse."

The Jefferson Star recognizes individuals serving or traveling abroad who are killed or incur a serious injury or illness that results in death, permanent incapacity or disability.

Butler said this is the first time he has seen it awarded in 32 years of foreign service.

"It was what he did and how he did it and where he did it, and it all added up."

Paul Converse, who served a six-months stint as a Corvallis City Council member in 1995, previously worked in Bosnia for an international government agency, and in Kosovo. His remains were cremated, and he was laid to rest in a family plot in Oak Lawn Cemetery in Corvallis. A private ceremony was held in early April.

Kyle Odegard can be contacted at kyle.odegard@lee.net or 758-9523.

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