Kenneth Michael Absher, 77, passed away Saturday, August 25, 2012 at his Bryan residence. Visitation will be Thursday, August 30, 2012 from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Memorial Funeral Chapel, 1515 S. College Avenue, Bryan, Texas followed by the Rosary. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated 11:00 a.m., Friday, August 31, 2012 at St. Mary's Catholic Church, 603 Church Avenue, College Station, Texas. Burial arrangements are pending.
Mr. Absher was born in Wichita, Kansas on May 24, 1935. He was preceded in death by his parents Kenneth Bryan Absher of Oklahoma and Evelyn Costello Absher of Pleasanton, Kansas. Both the Absher and Costello families were from Ireland. His first wife, Patricia Shook Absher, also preceded him in death. He is survived by his wife, Cynthia J. Absher, and two daughters from his marriage to Patricia, Leslie Margaret Absher and Evelyn Claywell Absher. He is also survived by his younger brother, Thomas Absher and wife, Erika, and his three children and families: Robin Barstow and her husband and two daughters of Lamoine, Maine; Shannon Absher and her husband and six children of Glen Ridge, New Jersey; and Matthew Absher and his wife and daughter of Pasadena, California. He is also survived by his brother-in-law, Roger F. Jadosz and wife, Susan of North Kingstown, Rhode Island, sister-in-law, Joyce B. Willis of Martinez, California, niece Amber F. Jadosz of San Francisco, California, nephew Evan F. Jadosz of North Kingstown, Rhode Island, and nephew Shawn F. Willis and wife Micheline and their two daughters, Cynthia and Stephanie of Walnut Creek, California. He is further survived by members of his first wife's family, Anne Claywell Shook Aderhold and husband, James Edward Aderhold, Robert Aderhold, Jim Aderhold and wife, Kristina, Phil H. Shook and wife, Kitty, as well as numerous cousins.
Mr. Absher was raised in San Antonio, Texas. He attended Alamo Heights and Texas Military Institute before graduating from Phillips Exeter Academy in 1953. During his two years at Phillips Exeter Academy he was actively involved in the band, orchestra and dramatics. He served as band President in his senior year and earned all-club football honors. In the years following graduation he remained an enthusiastic supporter of the academy and Class, attending many class reunions, during one of which he entertained his Classmates with his prowess in magic. His service to Exeter and his Class included his present tenure as Class President in which role he was busy planning the Class's 60th reunion set for May 2013. Mr. Absher received a BA in Philosophy from Princeton University in 1957, where he wrestled in his freshman year, was head announcer of the campus radio station in his sophomore year, and earned his varsity letter in fencing. As was the case with Exeter, he remained an enthusiastic alumnus of Princeton, attending many major reunions and retaining a membership in the Princeton Club in New York City.
After serving on active duty in the US Army for two years, Mr. Absher returned to San Antonio where he worked as a city manager trainee, and the city's public information officer. He also served with the 36th Division, Texas National Guard, and was honorably discharged from the US Army in 1963.
In December 1961, Mr. Absher moved to Washington, D.C. to begin his career with the Central Intelligence Agency. He retired from the CIA on July 31, 1993, as a member of the Senior Intelligence Service. He served over 31 years in the Directorate of Operations, now known as the National Clandestine Service. He was Chief of Station in Two different field assignments, and chief of base in two others. He had four tours in CIA headquarters managing foreign intelligence operations.
During his career, Mr. Absher served in Western Europe, the Caribbean and Indochina. He provided direct intelligence support to the US handling major Cold War events such as the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis; the Vietnam War; the 1983 military and rescue operation in Grenada (Operation "URGENT FURY"); and the break-up of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. Mr. Absher holds the Medal for Civilian Service in Vietnam; a Certificate for Exceptional Service Under Conditions of Hazard or Hardship; four Meritorious Unit Citations; three Superior Performance Awards; letters of appreciation from several US Ambassadors, FBI, DEA and staff consultants to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. He was twice awarded the Intelligence Medal of Merit.
Since his retirement from the CIA, Mr. Absher had taught at the University of Texas at San Antonio, and from 1997 to 2002 at the National Defense Intelligence College in Washington, D.C. He was a consultant to the President's Commission on the Roles and Capabilities of the United States Intelligence Community (the Aspin/Brown Commission) which published its appraisal of US intelligence in March 1996. He was a consultant to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and contributed to its staff study "IC 21: Intelligence Community in the 21st Century" published in April 1996. In 1999, Mr. Absher published as article in CIA's "Studies in Intelligence" on the Agency's role in Operation URGENT FURY. His article won an award from CIA's Center for the Study of Intelligence.
From January 2003 to February 2005, Mr. Absher served on the Joint Terrorism Task Force in San Antonio. During 2005, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice appointed him to three accountability review boards to investigate terrorist attacks in Iraq which killed eleven US mission personnel. For seven weeks in the summer of 2006, he worked in the Office of the Director of CIA and the DNI representative at the headquarters of the US Pacific Command Assessing the North Korean Missile launches.
Since 2005, Mr. Absher served as Fellow of the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs and adjunct faculty member at the George Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University. In that capacity he encouraged and advised Bush School students interested in public service, particularly in the U.S. intelligence community. In 2011, Mr. Absher led a group of Bush School students in a Capstone research project assessing the effectiveness of interagency coordination within the intelligence community. The results of the study were briefed to the Director of National Intelligence.
In 2009, he published a study of the role of intelligence in the Cuban Missile Crisis, Mindsets and Missiles: A First Hand Account of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Mr. Absher, together with co-authors Dr. Michael Desch and Ambassador Roman Popadiuk, in 2012 published the first scholarly account of the history and role of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board, Privileged and Confidential: The Secret History of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board.
Mr. Absher recently served on the Board of Directors of the World Affairs Council of San Antonio and other organizations, and on the Board of the National Defense Intelligence College Foundation in Washington, D.C. Mr. Absher was an active parishioner of St. Mary's Catholic Church, College Station, Texas,
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Hospitalized Veterans of America or Veterans Inc., Worcester, Massachusetts.