Service will honor U

Jake Kapsner

Sarah McKenzie

A 35-year-old woman working on her Ph.D. in international development at the University was murdered in Uganda while on a six-week public health care mission.
Friends and family of Cecilia “Cecie” Goetz will pay tribute to her today at 3 p.m. at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis.
Goetz was in her locked hotel room Tuesday, July 28, in Kampala, when an unidentified assailant broke in, attacked her and stole her credit cards and personal computer, according to authorities.
“(The Goetz family) is remarkably strong. It’s a devastating situation for her family,” said Arlen Erdahl, executive director of the Minnesota International Health Volunteers, the agency Goetz worked for. “Even for our MIHV family — it’s been devastating.”
According to local newspaper reports in Kampala, a killer or killers stabbed Goetz with shards from a broken toilet seat cover. Authorities also found a knife and leather case in her hotel room.
Ugandan police are offering a $5,000 reward to anyone with information related to Goetz’s murder, according to news reports.
For the past three years Goetz worked as a full-time staff member for the non-profit agency, which serves communities in developing countries.
Goetz specialized in nutritional issues for mothers and young children. She had been working in rural villages outside of Kampala for the past two-and-a-half weeks, gathering information on child health care concerns. She had returned to the capital city for a conference with other heads of the organization.
“This is both a personal and a professional loss, because she was such a delightful person,” Erdahl said.
Although agency volunteers take safety precautions, Erdahl said no one is 100 percent immune from danger. Since the organization’s inception 19 years ago, one other person has died from injuries related to work overseas, he said.
Goetz had extensive experience in Africa — at times in volatile places — but she always remained sensitive and careful throughout her missions, Erdahl said.
“She loved Africa. Now her life and that wonderful service is taken from them and us,” he said.
Goetz is survived by her sister, Laura of Chicago; two brothers, Thomas of New York City and Frederick Jr. of Minneapolis; and parents, Frederick and Mary Rose, also of Minneapolis.
“Her work was all about risk prevention, and we were always aware of the safety issues that came with her job,” said her brother, Tom Goetz. “She always stayed in touch.”
Although none of Goetz’s family members joined her on any of her African travels, they always supported her ideals, he said.
Members of the family share her health care interest. Frederick Goetz, a professor emeritus specializing in diabetes, has been a University professor of medicine for more than three decades. Mary Rose Goetz is a public health nurse and Laura Goetz, a graduate of the University’s medical school, is a surgeon.
“The lesson here is that the work is very important. We never think of ourselves while we are on these missions,” said Dr. Bert Hirschhorn, a mentor to Goetz and retired visiting professor in the school of public health.
Goetz’s humanitarian efforts in Africa earned her a human rights award last year from the Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights.
Goetz earned master’s degrees from the University in international development and public health. She earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis.
Goetz consulted with Hirschhorn on public health issues over the past five years. “She was a remarkable co-worker,” he said. “She always had a spark of good humor and a passion for social justice.”
Hirschhorn will deliver the eulogy address today at Goetz’s memorial service.