A guest post by Michael Collis
In 1999 a new gringo arrived in Iquitos. It was Pierre Bouloyne a retired judge from Georgia, USA. Pierre, a divorced man in his late sixties, had decided to devote his money and the rest of his life to helping the poor children of Iquitos.
He acquired some land just outside the city and started to build an orphanage for poor kids. The substantial property would house up to two hundred children. The home was to be built on some 6 acres of land and would have gardens to grow fruits and vegetables along with a small chicken farm which the children would work and take the produce to market.
After a few setbacks, work started in the latter part of 1999 and by April 2000 was nearing completion with electricity provided by a generator. After a while Pierre decided to live on the property, mainly to guard the contents of the house. Pierre lived with his handyman / watchman until one Saturday night in April 2000.
Pierre was taken ill and his handyman rushed him to the Iquitos Hospital where a doctor quickly diagnosed that he was having a heart attack, it was also found later that he had malaria. The doctor immediately needed to give Pierre oxygen. Here in Peru medicine and oxygen are not provided free. The oxygen would cost about $10US but Pierre had forgotten to bring any cash with him and the hospital had no facility to accept credit cards. The handyman disappeared into the night to try and find the money. He never returned and Pierre now in a really bad way was left sitting on a chair in the corridor. At about 4 a.m. that April morning Pierre died without any treatment. The oxygen could have saved his life.
Myself and the other expats here were shocked and saddened about Pierre’s death especially as he seemed so fit and was always seen jogging around the city. Pierre’s body was put into the city morgue where it stayed for 4 days. During those 4 days an american named Gerry had contacted Pierre’s 2 daughters who said that their Father had abandoned them to go to Peru to help poor children and that they had no interest in their Father.
I remember that Thursday after Pierre’s death very well when Gerry told me that the morgue had telephoned him and said that they no longer had any room for Pierre’s body there, and that the body had to be removed. Gerry quickly borrowed a pickup truck and went to the morgue where Pierre’s naked body was lying on the floor covered in a sheet. Gerry pulled a few strings and Pierre was placed in the police morgue. Now we needed to give Pierre a funeral. We contacted the American Embassy in Lima and told them about our predicament. They were very apologetic but said they had no budget to pay for the funerals of US citizens who die abroad.
What were we to do?
At that time we had a unit of US Marines stationed here in Iquitos so I spoke to the Commanding Officer, Colonel Mike Pierce and asked if he could help. He wanted to know about Pierre, then I remembered that couple of weeks earlier Pierre had been interviewed by “La Region” newspaper who had published an article about him. I found a copy of the newspaper in the City Library and gave it to Colonel Pierce. The article was in Spanish and was quite long but Colonel Pierce read it carefully and then jumped up and exclaimed “Once a marine always a marine!”
“What’s up Mike?” I asked.
Mike replied “Pierre was in the marines and was well decorated in the Korean War so the Marine Corps will pay for the funeral.”
A few days later Pierre was given a full military funeral at the Central Cemetery with a unit of US Marines in full military dress and a 21 gun salute while a bugler played the “Last Post”. As the Stars and Stripes were removed from the coffin and Pierre was lowered gently into the grave Gerry and I gave a poor rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “I did it my way”. It was the first and only US military funeral in Iquitos. Over 100 mourners attended and the funeral was screened live on local TV.
Although Pierre had been in Iquitos for less than a year he surely had made a good name for himself as being a good man who was prepared to give all to help the underprivileged children of Iquitos. To my knowledge none of Pierre’s family have visited Iquitos or his grave since then and no one knows what happened to the nearly completed orphanage, its contents or the large amount of money Pierre had deposited in a local bank.
The story of Pierre Bouloyne, his life and death in Iquitos
A guest post by Michael Collis, the editor of the Iquitos Times.
Bill Grimes is the publisher of the Captain’s Blog. If you are interested in the characters of Iquitos follow the links below to read their stories;
Is Richard Auckoo Fowler The Iquitos Scoundrel?; Learn the truth in the comments. Decide for yourself, and add a comment.
Or; Is Gerald Mayeaux The Iquitos Scoundrel?; Learn the truth. Give us your opinion.