UN Headquarters

29 November 2016

Remarks at memorial in honour of Ambassador Joseph Verner Reed

Ban Ki-moon

Let me begin by thanking Ambassador Reed’s family for joining us.
We are pleased to welcome his daughter  Ms. Electra Reed, son-in-law Mr. Paul Kusserow and beloved grandchildren Marina Kusserow and Vladimir Reed.
Ambassador Reed was at home here.  So to his family, we say welcome to the United Nations.  Welcome home. 
I would also like to recognize Mr. David Rockefeller – and I wish you a belated happy 101st birthday.  Every year, Ambassador Reed hosted an extremely enjoyable lunch in honour of Mr. Rockefeller.  We will miss that gathering dearly.
It is fitting that this memorial takes place in this Chamber.  Ambassador Reed served as United States Ambassador to ECOSOC in 1984 and 1985.
Joseph Verner Reed was such a good friend to the United Nations.  And he was a good friend to me too.
Not only as a Secretary-General. We first met in Washington, D.C., in 1989.  I was Consul General of Korea, in Washington D.C.  He was Chief of Protocol for the U.S president at the White House.
We worked together in many ways. It was not a one -sided help from Ambassador Reed of course. I was asking many things and we received all the support.
I was an admirer of the United States, and he expressed a keen interest in Korean art and culture.
When I returned to this country in 2001 as Chef de Cabinet to the President of the General Assembly, Ambassador Reed was also here in New York, serving as the Secretary-General’s representative on the Staff Management Coordinating Committee – a very sensitive assignment.
Five years later, when I took office as Secretary-General, Ambassador Reed was working as a special adviser to then Secretary-General Kofi Annan and he stayed and continued during my time as a Secretary-General. He has been the Dean of the Secretary-General’s. He was the dean of all UN Staff.
Of course during these many years, he opened doors to new friendships for my wife and me, just as he did for many other members of the diplomatic community through the UN Hospitality Committee.
As a member of the UN Arts Committee, he made the Headquarters complex not just an interesting place to visit, but a beautiful sight to behold.  He also helped to select artwork for my official residence, where the main reception room includes a few pieces from his beautiful collection of vases.  Even when he was not with us, we were surrounded by his good taste!
He also organized the annual celebration of UN Day at the Julian Curtiss School in Greenwich, Connecticut, where he brought people from all walks of life together to celebrate our Organization. 
My wife and I were plunged into sadness when we learned of his passing.  We will always cherish memories of our many times together, from meals to meetings to UN events.  We remember his personal touch -- flowers on birthdays, cards on holidays, good cheer the full year round.
He often surprised me and my wife as he remembered all important dates. He would send greetings with flowers. And we appreciated his deep and thoughtful consideration. I am told that he died shortly after emailing several UN colleagues working with him on new ways to beautify the United Nations.  He recalled a UN emblem that is now a feature of the gates just outside this building. 
With the characteristic cheer, he noted how it has become an instant tourist attraction.
If you pass by that emblem at any time of the day, you will likely see people young and old from all around the world proudly posing for pictures – smiling, with the UN emblem and our magnificent building in the background. 
In those faces, you see joy.  You see awe.  You see inspiration.
I can think of no better living memorial.
Now, whenever I see someone posing for a picture there, I see instead a picture of Ambassador Joseph Verner Reed.
I feel blessed to have been his friend.  The United Nations family is fortunate to have had such a wonderful supporter, wonderful leader.
We mourn his passing and give thanks for his life of global service.