With the passing of former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, stories of his kindness and good humor have come through with the many condolences.
One such story involves Annan being mistaken for actor Morgan Freeman while vacationing in Italy. Annan was looking for a respite from public life after leaving the U.N. at the end of 2006. He stayed at a friend’s hideaway, off the grid ― no TV, radio or newspapers.
Jean Catuffe via Getty Images Kofi Annan, former United Nations secretary-general, attends the 2018 French Open.
A few weeks into their vacation, he and his wife went into town to buy a newspaper. A group of men in a shop appeared to recognize him and rushed over. Annan felt his anonymity had been ruined.
“Morgan Freeman, may I have an autograph?” one man said. Annan reportedly smiled, graciously signed “Morgan Freeman” with the man’s pen, and returned to his sabbatical.
“So when people say, ‘Here’s a man who needs no introduction,’” he told The Guardian in 2012, “I say to them, careful!”
Annan served as U.N. secretary-general from 1997 to 2006, and was the first black African to do so. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001.
Annan died early Saturday in Switzerland at the age of 80.