Gandasari Abdullah Win

July 10, 1934 ~ January 19, 2024 (age 89) 89 Years Old

Gandasari Win Obituary

Gandasari Abdullah Win passed away peacefully surrounded by loved ones in Boulder, Colorado on January 19, 2024. She was 89.

Riri, as she was known to friends and family, was an intrepid and independent spirit whose warmth and kindness helped open doors to opportunities and touched people around the world.

She was born in 1934 in what was then Batavia in the colonial Dutch East Indies. She and her seven brothers and sisters lived through the Japanese occupation during WWII, and the subsequent Indonesian fight for independence. As a young teenager, she was a part of a traditional Minangkabau dance troupe that frequently performed for President Sukarno and other giants of the Indonesian independence movement, of which her father, Baginda Dahlan Abdullah, was a part. Riri first left Indonesia in 1950 at the age of 15 to accompany her father, who was Indonesia’s first ambassador to the Middle East, accredited to Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan, along with her sisters. Her mother, Siti Akmar Abdullah, remained in Jakarta with her brothers as they prepared the household for the move. Her father died a few weeks after arriving in Baghdad.

After returning to Indonesia, Riri was among the first graduates of the Foreign Service Academy of the Republic of Indonesia and worked briefly at the Foreign Ministry and the United States Information Agency in Jakarta prior to receiving a US Government scholarship to study at the University of Washington in Seattle. After a short time there, she transferred to Washington, D.C. to study at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and Howard University, from which she received a master’s degree. While studying in Washington, D.C. she met U Kyaw Win (“Win”) from Rangoon, Burma, whom she married in 1958.

After an extended wedding trip through Europe and Asia, Riri and Win settled in Burma, where Riri taught at Kingswood School in Kalaw and later worked at the Indonesian Embassy In Rangoon. While there, she and Win received offers to teach Indonesian and Burmese, respectively, at the U.S. Army’s Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. Their children Zali and Dewi were born during that time in Monterey.

Riri continued her studies at Claremont Graduate School, where she earned a second master’s degree and became the first Indonesian woman to earn a PhD at an American university. She then taught government for more than 30 years at Golden West College in Huntington Beach, California, before retiring in 1999 and moving to Boulder, Colorado.

Throughout her life, Riri and Win traveled the world together. From Nord Kap in Norway to Antarctica and around the world several times, she visited more than 100 countries, completed a Fulbright Fellowship in India, and, after retirement, taught English as a volunteer in Indonesia, Burma, and Kyrgyzstan. She hosted guests from many countries – from struggling students to political leaders in exile, some of whom stayed for years and became family, including two Cambodian refugees whom she and Win sponsored at the end of the Vietnam War. Riri would think nothing of hosting 75 people for dinner at her beloved home in the hills above Boulder and often hosted the University of Colorado’s Indonesian community on Indonesia’s Independence Day.

In addition to her academic interests, Riri was an active supporter of Burma’s expatriate democracy movement for 50 years. She traveled frequently with Win to border conflict areas, encouraging peace discussions, distributing humanitarian assistance, and promoting women’s rights. As part of the charitable ethos instilled by her mother, she sponsored scholarships and primary-school education in Burma and Indonesia, and supported women’s economic and social empowerment.

At home, she received never-ending pleasure working in her garden. She also enjoyed playing the piano, making quilts, attending theater, and learning how to paint. More than anything, however, she loved spending time with her family, especially her two grandchildren, Maya and Spencer.

In addition to her beloved grandchildren, Riri leaves behind Win, her husband of 65 years, son Zali (Tom Ratekin), and daughter Dewi (Brad Haigis) as well as numerous nieces, nephews and close friends.

Throughout her life, Riri believed that education was the keystone to a better world. Her legacy will survive in all those she taught and mentored.

In lieu of flowers, donations to “Friends of Pariaman,” PO Box 3, Accord, NY 12404, or the charity of your choice would be appreciated.

Riri’s family would like to express their gratitude to the staff of Compassionate Hospice Care, Sunrise Boulder, and the many medical providers and spiritual partners who supported her as she fought cancer.

Burial and Celebration of Life Services in Boulder will be announced soon.

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