John Granville was a South Buffalo boy who devoted his life to Africa after serving in the Peace Corps.
The Canisius High School graduate was shot to death in Sudan on Tuesday while working for the U.S. Agency for International Development in the capital city of Khartoum.
He was 33, a longshoreman's son so beloved by an African tribe in Cameroon that it made him an honorary chief.
"John's long-term plan was to spend his entire career working in Africa and helping the people there," said Sean McCabe, the husband of Granville's sister, Kathleen, and one of the relatives who gathered at the current home of her mother in Angola on Tuesday afternoon.
The U.S. diplomat had once told his mother that if anything happened to him in Africa, she should know that he was doing what he loved.
In a statement, the family said, "John's life was a celebration of love, hope and peace. He will be missed by many people throughout the world whose lives were touched and made better because of his care."
For the USAID, Granville was working to implement a 2005 peace agreement between Sudan's north and south that ended more than two decades of civil war, the agency said.
He was being driven home after a New Year's Eve celebration at the British Embassy when another vehicle cut off his car and the gunmen inside opened fire, the Sudanese Interior Ministry said.
His Sudanese driver was killed instantly. Granville was wounded five times, in the hand, shoulder and stomach. A U.S. Embassy official first told his mother by telephone that he was in surgery. But word arrived later that doctors were unable to save him.
Granville's sister told the CNN television network that she believes hospital workers did not notice her brother had been shot in the stomach, which caused fatal internal bleeding.
His family now is working with the U.S. State Department and Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, to send Kathleen McCabe to retrieve the body.
After graduating from Canisius High in 1993, Granville went to Fordham University and then into the Peace Corps in Cameroon. Not content to perform just his assigned task, teaching English, he took on a number of duties, including arranging the financing for a new school, said Michael C. Herrold, another Peace Corps volunteer who became Granville's friend and business partner and now lives in Dallas.
Soon after both returned to the U.S. in 1999, they started to think of ways to get back to Africa. They started Bamileke Import, a company that sold furniture and crafts made in Cameroon, primarily out of a storefront at 360 Delaware Ave. in Buffalo.
Both men had marveled at the furniture, sculptures and paintings villagers had made. Granville, in an article for The Buffalo News in July 2000, recalled being approached by two artisans eager to export. "At first, it just didn't sound feasible," he said at the time. "There were a lot of obstacles to getting furniture out of Cameroon and over to the U.S."
They spent 14 months talking with village chiefs, artisans and other Cameroon furniture makers. An important guideline was established: The artists would always be paid double the price that they would normally get in their region.
At Granville's urging, he and Herrold began a "sustainable forest" program to restore the wood they were taking out of Cameroon as furniture, and they set up a scholarship program for young girls to go to school. The Bamileke tribe, so appreciative of Granville's work, made him an honorary chief, Herrold said.
Granville also pursued a master's degree in International Development and Social Change from Clark University of Worcester, Mass. Later, as an USAID fellow, he distributed radios to the people of South Sudan so they could hear USAID broadcasts.
"The African way of life speaks to people's hearts," Herrold said.
"People live in the midst of a lot of tragedy, a lot of hardships. And they pull together. John was involved in that support," Herrold said. "I talked to him after he got his MA in International Development and was taking a job with USAID. He knew how dangerous it was. But he said he wouldn't want to be doing anything else."
Granville was shot the day after a joint African Union-United Nations force took over peacekeeping in Sudan's Darfur region, and President Bush signed legislation to allow states and local governments to cut investment ties with Sudan because of Darfur's bloodshed.
Sudan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its deep regret over his killing and called it a heinous attack. The ministry vowed to bring his killers to justice while expressing doubt that it had "political or ideological connotations." But the U.S. Embassy said it was too soon to determine the motive.
Jane Granville told CNN that her son was aware of the dangers where he worked:
"John said, 'Mom . . . if anything happens to me over there, . . . just know that I was doing what I loved in helping those people."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org