The following is third in a series of profiles about Bureau of Diplomatic Security employees, contractors, military personnel, and host nation security personnel who lost their lives providing a secure environment for the conduct of American diplomacy.
Currently, 137 individuals have made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty throughout the Bureau’s 100-year history. They are honored on the Diplomatic Security Memorial at DS headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. For more information, visit www.dsmemorial.state.gov.
It was a blustery, cold day outside the Fort Myer Chapel near the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery on January 9, 1989. Family, friends, coworkers, and other federal officials gathered in the chapel to pay their respects to DSS Special Agent Ronald Albert Lariviere and two of his colleagues, DSS Special Agent Daniel O’Connor and Matthew Gannon, a political officer in Beirut and the brother of DSS Special Agent Richard Gannon. They were among 259 passengers killed aboard Pan Am Flight 103 in a terrorist bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, December 21, 1988.
Also in attendance during the Fort Myer ceremony was Secretary of State George P. Schultz. Ron had previously served as a member of his protective detail.
During the memorial service, then U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon John T. McCarthy delivered the eulogy, noting that, before his death, Ron’s assignment with U.S. Embassy Beirut, had been to protect him and the deputy chief of mission—24 hours, night and day. He also noted Ron led the Lebanese security force that safeguarded the ambassador from terrorist kidnappers and bombs. “Ron was a very special kind of security officer…a very ambitious young officer, a very clever, a very capable young officer, a very intelligent man…(with) an extra dimension that not everybody has—he was a very compassionate young man,” Ambassador McCarthy remembered.
“Ron was a manager,” said Ambassador McCarthy. “He managed something like 65 Lebanese young men from all of the various Lebanese religious persuasions into a single guard force. Anytime I went anywhere, Ron went first to look over the terrain, to look over the office space, to look over the area, to make sure that it would be safe for us to go. Anytime I went to a dinner party, Ron, if he was on duty, was just a few rooms away in case something happened that should not have happened. And, in fact when I went to bed, I went to bed in the comfort of knowing that Ron and one other American officer would be sleeping in a bedroom just a few steps from my own. Ron was really protecting me at all times of the day.”
The ambassador observed that Ron’s professionalism and devotion to duty was but one facet of his life. He noted that Ron left Beirut on the same helicopter as he did, eager to see his family over the holidays. When a delay caused a missed flight, Ambassador McCarthy said it was Ron’s desire to return home as quickly as possible that prompted him to find his way aboard Flight 103, a flight that left a day before McCarthy’s plane.
Ron, originally from South Hadley, Massachusetts, had lived in Alexandria, Virginia, since 1986. He was returning home for the holidays to be with his wife, Ellen, and his two-year-old daughter, Jessica. Ron was also on his way back to the United States to be in the wedding of one of his best friends, DSS Special Agent Ed Guard, which was scheduled for December 30, 1988, in Fairfax, Virginia. Ed and Ron met in Basic Special Agent Course 34 (BSAC 34) in May 1987 and became fast friends. Ed remembered Ron as being one of the nicest, smartest, and funniest people he ever had the pleasure to meet.
The son of Albert and Claire Lariviere, Ron had two sisters, Anne-Marie Boucher, and Elaine Clark. After graduation from high school, Ron enlisted in the Army, and, after discharge, received a bachelor’s degree in business.
“Ron was the most fun and ‘alive’ person I have ever known,” said Elaine. “He literally had a twinkle in his eye and a spark for life.” She recalled getting letters from him in Beirut where he wrote about helicopters landing on rooftops and evasive driving through the streets. “It sounded horribly dangerous, but Ron approached Beirut with an almost clinical precision and detachment. He had a plan; he knew what to do.”
“Ron was devoted to his work,” said Elaine. “He loved his colleagues, was proud of his work, and proud to be part of Diplomatic Security. It is so meaningful to our family that DS remembers him. I wish that our parents were still alive to know how DS honored his life.”
“Our family is so proud of Ron’s service to his country,” said his sister, Anne-Marie. “He could have accomplished great things had his life not been ended so quickly by an act of terrorism. The pain of his loss remains with our family to this day.”
On January 11, 1989, three weeks after Ron’s death, 600 law enforcement officers, state and federal leaders, family, and friends gathered at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City for a special memorial service honoring Ron and his DS colleague, Dan O’Connor.
“Indeed it is a dangerous world out there,” said DSS Special Agent Brendon Patrick O’Hanlon who addressed the gathering. “Yet officers like Special Agent Lariviere and Special Agent O’Connor continue to wear their shields as badges of honor in pursuit of democracy…arm themselves with compassion as they involve themselves in this troubled world.”