Ambassador and diplomat Robert Oakley, 83, who served in trouble spots around the world during a nearly four-decade Foreign Service career, died Dec. 10 at a nursing home in McLean, Va. He had been suffering from a Parkinson's-related disorder, his wife, Phyllis Oakley, said.

Except for a stint in Paris, his only European assignment, Mr. Oakley did not get the relatively cushy postings. His resume included three ambassadorships - to Pakistan, Zaire, and Somalia - plus time in Vietnam (during the war), Afghanistan, Sudan, and Lebanon.

Mr. Oakley had retired from the Foreign Service - twice - when he got an emergency phone call in 1993 while at a party. Could he come to the White House early the next morning?

Mr. Oakley, known as an unrelenting troubleshooter, was asked to take on one more assignment: Go to Somalia and gain the release of a U.S. helicopter pilot captured during what came to be known as the "Black Hawk Down" firefight.

"They knew he was the man to do it," his wife said last week. "And they knew Bob would say yes."

- L.A. Times