Linguist, Diplomat, Painter Milly Buchanan Dies

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The death is announced of Mrs. Mildred (Milly) Marie Buchanan, a noted Liberian diplomat, linguist and painter, which sad event occurred on April 6, 2015 in Lusaka, Zambia.

She was in her 75th year.

A prolific painter, Milly’s artistry began in Vevey, Switzerland, where her talent was first noticed at the age of 10, by a prominent Swiss artist, Guy Baer. In the late 70s, Milly developed her personal style of Afro-Cubism—her shattered-glass art expression of the sociopolitical turmoil in Liberia and Africa.

Truly a renaissance woman Milly was beautiful, tall and elegant.  She was also an architect, a conference interpreter and translator, who spoke and wrote in five languages—English, French, German, Italian and Spanish

She was also a former model.  One of her outstanding appearances was in the September 1971 issue of   Ebony Magazine.  She was also a fashion fair poster-model for Essence Magazine.

Milly’s extensive life spanned the African continent and she developed personal and professional relationships with Africans from all walks of life, including the late President Sekou Toure of Guinea, Zambian Foreign Minister Vernon John Mwaanga and South African recording artists Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba. 

Milly was also a friend to market women, students, farmers and fisherman. During her time in Suakoko she befriended many members of the faculty and student body of Cuttington College and Divinity School (now Cuttington University).  In 1963 she assisted in staging one of Cuttington’s annual operatic performances, The Mikado.

Her broad and rich network of friends and colleagues gave her a unique perspective from which to artistically represent the essence of the African struggle and spirit of resilience and hope.

Milly was on the Liberian delegation to the first Pan-African FESTAC festival of Arts and Culture FESTAC '77, held in Lagos, Nigeria.   

She worked for several years with the nascent ECOWAS Fund in Lome, Togo; with the UN Office in Nairobi, and as a freelance interpreter for the UN Economic Commission for Africa and for the African Union.

Milly Buchanan's service to the Government of Liberia began under the administration of President William V.S. Tubman, during which she did the landscape designs for the Capitol Building and the University of Liberia.  She also served in the Tolbert and Doe administrations as part of the interpretation team in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

During the war years, Milly Buchanan continued to serve in the Foreign Ministry as diplomatic liaison for international organizations and in various capacities, attending and advising the government on international relations through her participation in hundreds of conferences, meetings, and other missions.

Milly was also a founding member of the Union of Liberian Artists, an organization that creates a forum for the exchange of personal experiences in various refugee camps, motivates young self-taught artists to develop their skills, hosts art exhibits and promotes their works.

Mildred (Milly) Buchanan was born on April 12, 1940 to the union of Mr. Thomas Buchanan, Deputy Minister of Public Works, R.L., and his wife Mrs. Sara King Buchanan, niece of former President Charles D.B. King.

Milly schooled in Switzerland, where she acquired and learned to speak and write, in addition to English, four other European languages.  In the late 1950s upon her return home, she was wedded to Mr. Julius E. Cooper, a prominent Liberia agronomist, who served as Deputy Director of Research at that Government Farm in Suakoko, Bong County (now the Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI).  Julius later became Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Minister of Action, Development and Progress (ADP).   

Milly's son, Julius Everett Cooper, Jr., eldest sister, Mary Jane Buchanan Vaitsas, and elder brother, Harold Buchanan, pre-deceased her.

Milly's memory will be cherished by her four children: Mrs. Jeanine Milly Cooper (Johan Heffinck), Mrs. Erika Eugenia Cooper Hill (Frederick Hill), Vernon John Mwaanga (Phyllis Vlahakis), and Sara Elizabeth Buchanan; and her 20  grandchildren: Fabio, Brice, Ariane, Elyan, Chasya, Christa, Zubin, Ilse, Ann, Daniella, Stavros, Julius, Whitney, Baggio, Milly, Gifty, Thomas, Anne Marie and  Xenia; two great-grandchildren: Zion and Patricia; three sisters: Enid Buchanan, Joyce Buchanan, and Shadrene Howard.

Survivors also include her uncle Roosevelt King; her niece  Sahe Williams and nephews Eric Buchanan, Harold Buchanan; her cousins: Gloria Sherman, James T. McCritty, Emeretta Vincent, Remi Aniteye, E. George King, Roosevelt King, Isabelle Paul, Virginie Viltardif Campailla, Ilse Zahn Cooper;  foster brother Hans Buchanan, foster sister Janet Dean Richards; and a host of other relatives and friends.

Family sources said her body was cremated in Zambia.  Memorial services are being planned for Monrovia and the United States. 

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