News from Luzhou . . . Finally!

 

Swamped in Make-up Classes, and More Make-up Classes, and More Make-up Classes

This semester’s continuity has been continuously compromised since the last update, nearing Easter Sunday. We’ve had Tomb Sweeping (April 5 with April 6 off), canceled Friday classes due to our college entrance exam for high school students taking place, three days for Sports Meeting April 15 – 17 (students compete in events with one another), an upcoming May 1st International Labor Day holiday and then 2 weeks off for 2nd year English major students who are participating in a “How to Start Your Own Business” credited course run by the government.

All of the classes missed, we as teachers are required to make up whenever we can fit them in so I’ve been doing my best to squeeze in evenings and weekends to fulfill this requirement. Add to this the 2 weeks I missed coming late to school, also cramming more extra classes into my schedule, and there has been really little time to post an update.

I’ll see if I can remedy that today

Annual Physical Exam for Visa

A few weeks ago, the Sports Meeting allowed me to disappear from campus for a few days to receive my physical exam in Chengdu to renew my visa. I have reported on this numerous times in the past, including the visit where it was announced I had syphilis! (Obvious mistake, as the second blood test showed a definite negative reading for any STD.)

As you can imagine, annual trips to Sichuan’s Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine clinic, where these physicals are given, gives me some anxiety during the 3-day wait for the results. “ What will I end up having this time around?” I keep wondering.

As it turned out, I was cleared and have my official certificate in hand to accompany the visa application process when it’s tim.

Delivery of American Goods

The Chengdu visit also allowed me to drop off items which my Chinese friends had requested I bring from America.

Mrs. Zhao, dog-walking friend and mother of poodle Hairy Bean, had wanted Joint Boosters. A 2-for-1 online health store allowed me to buy her 4 bottles (each is $80 in the States, impossible to find in China) for only $160. Of course, I am re-imbursed for such purchases. She now has enough to last her and her husband 6 months.

Mrs. He, my former dog’s sitter, received her Estee Lauder $100 de-wrinkle cream for herself and fish oil gel and lecithin tablets for her husband.

There in itself is a story.

Mr. He’s health has been deteriorating for several years. Whenever I visit their home for a home-cooked meal, usually 4 times a year, I see either his progress or decline.

This time around, he was less foggy than before and could carry on a conversation quite well but the tumor on the side of his neck was noticeably larger. I have never asked about what it is but I suspect cancer.

When it comes to such things in China, we don’t usually openly discuss it unless the subject is brought up by those who wish to share.

About 7 years ago, when Mr. He first began failing, we were sitting around the table having a meal when he out-of-the-blue brought up that he tried to commit suicide. He was in wonderful health before, a strong man with a tanned physique from outdoor swimming and playing golf. He was an engineer who had actually spent several years in the Middle East with his company.

He said he became depressed, quit his job and was receiving treatment. What kind of treatment, I don’t know but that was the start of his illness.

One does wonder if the tumor, not visible at that time, was affecting his system to cause such a mood swing from a man who was so full of life before.

I do remember that Little Flower’s death hit him very hard. Whenever my little dog came for her stay with the He family, it was Mr. He who took great care of her. They went walking together. He prepared her food, including hotdog snacks. She sat with him on the couch. She played with her toys with him. And once, she needed daily visits to the vet’s for 10 days. He was the one to take her for her injections and make sure she was getting better.

My little dog was, and still is, missed by all of us.

Labor Day Holiday Upon Us; Another Chengdu Trip

I am planning another trip to Chengdu this weekend, without any official duties aside from meeting up with friends again.

Mrs. Zhao and her dog-walking companions await. Perhaps another dinner with the He’s is also possible. A former Luzhou student, Ji Ke (Jason), has already asked for a meet-up. He is in the process of receiving his tourism license to officially tour foreigners in China. Frank (Gao Pei), a Sichuan University senior, is yet another who I’ll be checking in with. Frank will be off to America this summer to study for his MA in International Finance. Quite an amazing, bright and focused young man that I spent a year with walking the campus every day while he practiced his English.

After that, May will head up in full with more evening and weekend make-up classes before the semester finally ends in mid-June.

I will do my best to add a few more entries before then. For now, here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in From Along the Yangtze, Luzhou, Luzhou Vocational and Technical College, Tales from Sichuan's Yangtze Rivertown, Luzhou, Tales of China | 1 Comment

Trekking to the Luzhou Church on Sunday: Not for the Weak of Stomach

I have to wonder if our pioneering Methodist Canadian missionaries had the same feelings as I sometimes do when, in 1913, they made their way down the narrow alleyways leading to their newly-built, pristine worship center and sanctuary.

The China Inland Mission Canadian Methodist missionaries, including Luzhou church founders, Rev. Charles Joliffe (standing third from the left) and his wife, Gertrude (seated second from right, looking down at child)

The China Inland Mission Canadian Methodist missionaries, including Luzhou church founders, Rev. Charles Joliffe (standing third from the left) and his wife, Gertrude (seated second from right, looking down at child)

I especially wonder this as Easter arrives tomorrow. Here we are to be full of the joy and excitement of Christ’s resurrection, taking on a happy gait on our way to church. This is for most of you in America, witnessing pretty green lawns and spring flowers popping up around the church landscape.

Not exactly so for Christians heading off to Easter celebrations here in Luzhou.

Old Luzhou Still has Its Hold on New Luzhou

From the missionary diaries I’ve recently been reading, the area chosen for the church was certainly something! Open sewage canals lining the walkways, the odors of unwashed human bodies inside and outside the church, stinky, mangy strays searching desperately for food along streets, the stench of pickled vegetables piled high in baskets for selling, meaty animal carcasses dangling from butchers’ hooks, and blood-splattered ground where recently killed, plucked and lifeless chickens awaiting buyers.

Today, the protestant church is the last historical building left standing in the old district of Luzhou. Beautifully tiled sidewalks, wider roadways, highrise apartment complexes and fancy store fronts have completely overtaken what used to be a Chinese culture that knew nothing of the outside, modern world and its vast technologies.

The Luzhou Protestant Church is found nestled below the tall apartment complexes in the distance.

The Luzhou Protestant Church is found nestled below the tall apartment complexes in the distance.

Despite our newly-emerging Western look, walking down that stretch of alley to church, as those Canadian missionaries once did, is still not something for the weak of stomach.

It seems that in China, outdoor markets tend to hold fast to their locations, even those established 100 years ago. And so it is that the Luzhou church is right smack dab in the middle of a century-old open-air market.

The same scenes that greeted the first missionaries those many years ago also greet all of us Christians trekking to worship every Sunday. First we have the quacking (and quaking) live ducks in their rusted cages, ready for the slaughter. Their fate is ostentatiously displayed on wooden boards where former friends lay side by side, throats slit and plucked feathers scattered below. Fattened pigeons and chickens are also present, ready to join the fowl clan on adjacent tables.

If you arrive early enough for the 9:30 service, you’ll be greeted by their death throws. This likewise goes for the squeals and grunts from the pork and beef sections closer to the church entrance. Here you’ll find rows of unrefridgerated, swaying, skeletal remains of cow and pig.

The newly-tiled walkway, leading to the Luzhou Protestant Church, also leads one to fresh hunks of meat.

The newly-tiled walkway, leading to the Luzhou Protestant Church, also leads one to fresh hunks of meat.

Ribs, anyone?

Leaving the church, you might want to pick up your Sunday dinner.  Ribs, anyone?

And do I dare mention the big, fluffy, sweet and docile bunnies thrown into the fray?

That is just too, too sad for this American, especially to dwell upon for Easter.

Outside, Queasy Views; Inside, Celebratory Mood

Despite the above report on the stomach-churning scenes outside of the church, I will say that inside the sanctuary tomorrow will be just as joyful as yours in America, perhaps even more so.

It is the custom in China for Easter Sunday to baptize new believers into the Christian faith (usually 40 or more at the Luzhou church) and to have our first communion together as a church family. Afterwards, as we leave, we are presented with sweet bread buns and hard-boiled eggs as our Easter surprise. I’m not sure if this custom is followed in other churches but in Luzhou, it is one of the highlights of our festivities and one I’m looking forward to. Those bread buns are fantastic!

A Holiday Spirit Throughout China: Tomb Sweeping Festival is Upon Us!

It doesn’t happen often but this Easter,  not only will the Chinese Christians be in high spirits but all of China as well.  This Easter weekend corresponds with a well-known Chinese holiday, Tomb Sweeping Festival (Qing Ming Jie).

April 6 is the time when families return home to tend the graves of their loved ones. They tidy up the gravesites, which are often far into the countryside, burn paper money for the dead to buy what they’d like in heaven and leave offerings of fruit, cigarettes, beer or cola for the deceased being honored.

This is a national holiday so all schools are closed on Monday, giving everyone a 3-day weekend, including our college.  Many of my students have gone home so the campus is fairly quiet aside from a those who live too far away to be able to reunite with loved ones.

For myself, it’s time to catch up on items left unattended, including this website entry. After returning to China over a month ago, I’ve been trying to complete make-up classes in the evenings (the ones I missed due to my late arrival) as well as tackle my usual teaching schedule, not to mention pool swims and emailing.

Our roasting temperatures, skyrocketing into the 90s, have left students and staff a bit tired and sleepy during the daytime hours. This sort of weather usually starts toward the end of April, not the beginning, so it’s been somewhat of a surprise for many of us to be suffering through hot, sticky classrooms this early in the semester. It’s probably one of the reasons this 3-day weekend is so welcomed. Being at home or enjoying nature under shady trees sure beats the heat of a stuffy school building, although students hanging around are taking advantage of the great weather to wash clothes.  That includes laying out their bedding to air out.

On a sunny day, outside college dormitories all across China you'll see students airing out their musty bedding in the bright sunshine.

On a sunny day, outside college dormitories all across China you’ll see students airing out their musty bedding in the bright sunshine.

Students wash clothes and sheets by hand in small basins.  There are no dryers in China so  our 90 degree weather, while miserably hot, does have a plus side -- makes for a quick dry!

Students wash clothes and sheets by hand in small basins. There are no dryers in China so our 90 degree weather, while miserably hot, does have a plus side — makes for a quick dry!

Yet even if some of us are doing housekeeping chores, we are still definitely enjoying our days off.

Until next report, here’s wishing you all Happy Easter, Happy Spring and Ping An (Peace) for your day.

In my home, it's "Happy Easter!  Happy Spring!"

In my home, it’s “Happy Easter! Happy Spring!”

 

Posted in From Along the Yangtze, Luzhou, Luzhou Vocational and Technical College, Luzhou: Yangtze Rivertown, Tales of China, Travel | 3 Comments

Last Notes from Illinois Before Taking Off

The Big Snow of Last Weekend

The Wieck House, covered in last week's March 1st snowfall

The Wieck House, covered in last week’s March 1st snowfall

With the prediction of snow last weekend, Saturday had our local Walmart teaming with people loading up on supplies.  Then it was a matter of waiting for the flakes to fall, which started at around 8 p.m. that evening.

By 9 p.m., the inches were accumulating to the point where I pulled out the shovel to make a pathway over the deck, down to the yard stepping stones and out to the dog’s favorite tree. Lao-lao gingerly hopped down the back steps and swaggered along his cleared-off trail, a happy camper,  until 11:30 p.m. when one last toilet run was needed before bed.  Yet another shovel clearing by me proceeded with the packed banks on either side being higher than the dog.

Sunday Morning: A March 1st Surprise

By 7 a.m., the snow had stopped and left our entire town with about 6-8 inches on the ground.

Sure, it was a great morning to sleep in but my mom and I have been attending choir practice at our church.  We knew that Paula, our director, would be in need of voices for our introit and anthem.  And since we live in town, about a 10-minute walk from our church, we didn’t even bother digging the car out from under all the snow.  Donning high boots, we trudged along the snow-plowed streets to get to church.

Walking along our snowy Marshall streets was a wintry  fairyland experience.

Walking to church along our town roads was a fairyland experience.

DSCN3881

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My mom, approaching the Marshall UMC on the left.

My mom, approaching the Marshall UMC on the left.

Our church men, out early to plow out car-parking for those who dared drive to worship.

Our church men, out early to plow out car-parking for those who dared drive to worship.

Our choir had 8 of us present, about half the usual number, with around 40 in attendance in the pews.  Many of the country churches in our area closed because no one could get to worship.  Everyone was snowed in.

15 minutes before service, this was our congregation.  A total of 42, including the choir, came in time for our 9 a.m. service.

15 minutes before service, this was our congregation. A total of 42, including the choir, came in time for our 9 a.m. service.

Despite the slim numbers, our choir’s anthem sounded quite good.  Everyone stepped up to cover the parts that stronger singers (not present) usually take over.

The early birds has a practice in the choir room before church.  My mom, Priscilla, is on the right and I'm next to her.

The early birds had a practice in the choir room before church. My mom, Priscilla, is on the right and I’m next to her.

Thank the Lord our organist made it!  We're very proud of our 1911 organ, and in awe of anyone who can play it.

Thank the Lord our organist made it! We’re very proud of our 1911 organ, and in awe of anyone who can play it.

Melting Down; Heading Off

It was nice to have a bit of snow toward the end of to my time in Illinois. Now the Midwest is sliding higher into what my temperatures are in China, 50s – 60s. Slush has overtaken our Marshall sidewalks and roads, causing Lao-lao to sidestep muddy puddles on our afternoon walks. Looks like all my new spring outfits I recently purchased will be making their debute next week when I’m back in the classroom again.  Can’t wait!

If you’re interested in my upcoming flight plan:

Monday, I’ll be flying out of Indianapolis to Detroit, changing planes to continue  onward to Shanghai.  An overnight in Shanghai at my favorite airport hotel will next have me on a morning flight bound directly to Luzhou and our small airport there.

After disembarking into a hazy 60-something predicted forecast, a 20-minute, $10 taxi ride will have me whizzing along dusty country roads that skirt the Yangtze before crossing the river bridge that leads into the city.  From there, it’s a 5-minute steep climb up Wa Yao Ba Road, through the entrance of my school and a drop-off in front of my apartment building.

I imagine being gleefully greeted by SP (Stairwell Puppy), who is an abandoned stray still with the community after the holiday break.  I’ve already been told via emails from Peace Corp folk Angela and Geoff that she is now the neighborhood pet, being fed leftovers by concerned individuals worried she’s hungry and too thin. (Don’t think that will ever be a problem.)

I have been emailed my schedule already so I know which classes I’ll be teaching on Monday, March 16, when I finally return to the classroom.  I’ll  be arranging make-up classes during the weekends and evenings for the 2 weeks I’ve missed.  This is normal in China for teachers who haven’t been in the classroom due to sickness, work-related or personal family absences.  No substitutes.  You just put in the hours needed by coordinating with the students what’s a good time to do so.

As you can see, I’m eager to get back to work and catch up on the latest gossip from colleagues and friends. Be checking out stories and news of my Spring semester in a few weeks.

In closing, here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your day and a very Happy Spring!

Farewell, Illinois!  (None of this weather in sight where I'm goin', thank goodness!)

Farewell, Illinois! (None of this weather in sight where I’m goin’, thank goodness!)

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Out-of-Town Treks Before the Snow: Theater and a Goodwill Drop-off

DSCN3875

Anyone following America’s Midwest news will know that our weather on this end, at least for the past week, has been something!   Snow, sleet, rain and then flooding due to the melting snow.  Seems we’re having 3 seasons (Fall, Winter, Spring) packed all-in-one into the opening days of March.

My mother and I listened carefully to the weather reports all week, slipping in our out-of-town treks at just the right time.

We managed to take in the Taming of the Shrew at St. Mary-of-the-Woods College, 20 minutes on the outskirts of West Terre Haute, IN.  The production was not well attended with only 35 in the audience of the college’s 1911, 750-seat theater.  Guess everyone else was anticipating a bad weather evening, although the snow didn’t arrive until the next day.

We were also able to take two entire carloads of my dad’s clothes and our own closet clean-outs to the Goodwill in Terre Haute on Thursday.

What’s  Goodwill?

For those who are not familiar with Goodwill, this is a charity organization where people can drop off used or new things they no longer want or need.  Clothes, electronic equipment, furniture, household appliances, toys and games are just a few items that Goodwill accepts.  These are then gone over by volunteer staff or paid workers who stock the Goodwill store with the things donated.  The contributions are then sold in the adjacent store building for a very cheap price to those who come, usually families at the poverty level or others in need.

There are over 2,900 Goodwill stores in America, with the one nearest us in Terre Haute.

Anyone is welcome to shop at Goodwill, not just the poor. I do know a few people who tromp through stores looking for treasures (antiques, gently used or new items) which they then sell on their own, sometimes on e-Bay or to consignment stores, but to be honest, a majority of patrons who shop at Goodwill are struggling to get by.

The Goodwill website, www.goodwill.org, has even more information about all the services provided but here are the basics:

“Goodwill was founded in 1902 in Boston by Rev. Edgar J. Helms, a Methodist minister and early social innovator. Helms collected used household goods and clothing in wealthier areas of the city, then trained and hired those who were poor to mend and repair the used goods. The goods were then resold or were given to the people who repaired them. The system worked, and the Goodwill philosophy of “a hand up, not a hand out” was born.”

“Dr. Rev. Helms’ vision set an early course for what today has become a $4 billion nonprofit organization. Helms described Goodwill Industries as an “industrial program as well as a social service enterprise…a provider of employment, training and rehabilitation for people of limited employability, and a source of temporary assistance for individuals whose resources were depleted.”

Regarding that last point, when dropping off items, I’ve often noticed that those helping to unload and stack the things from our car into the warehouse are, indeed, people who might not be so employable in other work situations. Some are mentally or physically challenged; others of a lower educational background or obviously struggling in our U.S. economy to make ends meet.  Here, they find respect, good work and an environment in which they can thrive despite their unfortunate situations.

Faith-based Giving Connections

When I think of the Christian-founded Amity Foundation, of which I am a part, I see that same giving spirit of helping the disenfranchised, not in America but in China. So many Amity projects give the Chinese poor or handicapped the ability to rise above their conditions and live a quality, productive and happy life.

As Rev. Helms, Goodwill founder, stated: “We have courage and are unafraid . . . We will press on till the curse of poverty and exploitation is banished from mankind.”

I consider that “we” to incorporate all non-governmental and charity organizations around the world, Amity definitely included.

With just a few more days before my return to China,  here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your day.

Posted in A Visit Home to America, Smalltown American Life, Travel, Visit To The States | 2 Comments

All for the Love of Birds: A Rural King Shopping Venture

Our record subzero temperatures in the Midwest had my mom and me staying indoors as much as possible during the past few days.

The way mom and I spend our indoor winters -- jigsaw puzzles

The way mom and I spend our indoor winters — jigsaw puzzles!

Even Lao-lao (Old-old), our China Chi rescue, hunkered down in his doggie bed, hoping we’d forget about him and not throw him out into the cold to do his business.

Lao-lao hides in his bed in hopes he'll go un-noticed

Lao-lao hides in his bed in hopes he’ll go un-noticed

But yesterday, my mom and I braved the polar vortex chill for the love of birds.

Yes, on Friday, the last of the birdseed stored in the garage was dumped into the feeder on the back deck. The squirrels, sparrows, blue jays, cardinals, woodpeckers, doves and even the grackles (which we despise) tugged on our heartstrings as they clustered in overhanging tree branches, waiting anxiously for their daily meal.

A delay in relieving their hunger was not an option.

The impending snow and ice storm, predicted for Friday night, had me and my mom taking Route 1 for a road trip to Paris, IL, 20 minutes away, where our favorite wildlife food center is located:  Rural King.

Rural King: A Rural Mid-westerner’s Dreamhouse

For my Chinese readers, Rural King is a supply store that mostly caters to rural folk, i.e. farmers.  It actually began quite near Marshall in Mattoon, IL (45 minutes away) in 1960.  In fact, the corporate office, distribution and flagship store are still located there.  Now it has 70 stores in a nine state area that includes Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Florida.

The website touts “an outstanding product mix” of agricultural parts, farm equipment, workwear, housewares, pet supplies, automative items, clothing, outdoor living gear and tools.   That includes a huge supply of wildlife food for woodsy critters. Rural King also offers free freshly-made popcorn and coffee for patrons wandering the various sections.

Free anything is always a big sell for me and my mom.

Not only that, but the store is pet friendly.  On trips to Rural King, it’s not unusual to see someone’s leashed hound following along behind his owner or a smaller breed riding contentedly along in a shopping cart.

On our trip to Rural King yesterday, we debated bringing Lao-lao along to accompany our cruising of the warehouse but decided against it.  While the store itself is heated, the wind chill was at -10.  Not exactly pleasant for a short-haired Chihuahua to be carried through the parking lot in that kind of weather, nor suffer in the freezing temps while waiting for the car’s heater to kick in.

Lao-lao was left behind, a desertion that honestly suited him just fine.

Our Rural King Adventure

A visit to Rural King for us “city” folk is always a rather exotic undertaking.  That initial blast of warehouse smells, whiffs of new vehicle tires, leather items and recently unpacked overalls and jeans, is one that we never experience in the Walmart.  Viewing the wide expanse of products we don’t deal with on a daily basis is another.  Hardy work clothes, farm animal gear and feed, curious-looking tools, hefty big-men furniture, unique gardening figurines and countryside food staples keep us in a constant state of interest.  Every turn down an aisle presents a new surprise, making this trip to Rural King a little more than just a quick shop-and-grab for birdseed.

No, it’s an event!

Creating a Spectacle

Before meandering, we set our minds to completing the task at hand– our bird mission.

Planting herself in the fowl wildlife section, my mom pointed to what she wanted and it was my job to lift the loads into the cart:  two 40-pounders of all-purpose birdseed, 40 pounds of black oil sunflower seeds (a cardinal favorite), a 12-count box of suet (grackles and woodpeckers), 5 pounds of loose peanuts (blue jays), container of cracked corn (doves) and 12 pounds of classic dried ear corn treats (squirrels).

The higher our stack grew, the more attention we drew from those passing by.

“Looks like you’re feeding the entire Illinois bird population,” one of the male employees joked.

Another spectator, a gruff-looking farmer looking down at his one measly 20-pound bag of birdseed, remarked, “Guess I’m not quite as generous as I thought.”

We parked our overburdened cart near the cashier before beginning our strolling tour of the store.  No sense in pushing 200 pounds around if we didn’t have to.  After another hour of leisurely shopping, we called it quits, paid for our items at check-out and came home, my mom being $89 poorer than when she arrived.

Our 200 pounds worth of bird nourishment from Rural King sits in  the garage and awaits to be doled out in the weeks to come.

Our 200 pounds worth of bird nourishment from Rural King sits in
the garage and awaits to be doled out in the weeks to come.

The Big Snow: No Starving Birds Here!

Last evening, my mom and I watched the growing excitement of our local TV weathermen as they followed by radar the swath of snow soon to hit us.

Watching the storm blow in on the computer's weather map

Watching the storm blow in on the computer’s weather map

Snow greets us on Saturday morning.

Snow greets us on Saturday morning.

Snow plows were out all night.

The Marshall City workers spent a busy night and morning clearing the streets.

The Marshall City workers spent a busy night and morning clearing the streets.

And this morning, we had to shovel a pathway for the dog so he could get to his favorite pee tree.

Lao-lao gets his path cleared to his favorite pee tree.

Lao-lao gets a snowy path cleared to his favorite tree.

Finished!  Let me back in.

“Finished! Now let me back in.  It’s cold out here!”

As for the birds, they’ve had the time of their lives.

We’ve filled up the feeder twice already, including putting extra corn ears out for our 3 sassy squirrels.

New ear corn awaits our squirrels' arrival.

New ear corn awaits our squirrels’ arrival.

The suet has attracted a ladder-back woodpecker and the sunflower seeds given our cardinals something to cheer about.  The sweet, puffed-up doves are enjoying the cracked corn.

Bird feeder full, it's time for feasting!

Bird feeder full, it’s time for feasting!

For our winged woodland creatures, this Saturday’s been a feast fit for a king, or rather, I guess we could say, a feast fit for Rural King.

From snowy Illinois, here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your weekend!

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Honoring My Dad: A Worthy Send-off

Today is President’s Day, quite an appropriate time to address last week’s send-off for my father, a politically-minded individual and strong advocate of the American right to vote.

As the only Civics teacher in our  high school, who taught a class that was mandatory for graduation, he made sure that every student who was turning 18 was signed up for the next election.  He would bring the County Clerk to the school, have those eligible line up, fill out the forms and register to vote.  Didn’t matter what political party you belonged to, your viewpoints on government or even if you touted you didn’t care: My dad nailed home that the vote was an honor and privilege of our country. Everyone needed to have that privilege, thus the in-school voting registration.

Getting to Know My Dad: A Story Worth Retelling

Group photo,  immediate and extended family members after the service.  Most of us were present for the visitation to hear Mr. Wieck stories.

Group photo, immediate and extended family members after the service. Most of us were present for the visitation to hear Mr. Wieck stories.

During the funeral visitation last week, my family greeted 150 neighbors and friends from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

At the funeral home, my niece (brother’s daughter, Meredith) and I had put together a display of both photos and then a memorial table for my dad.  (He was cremated.  No body or urn was present.) We included his Marine veteran baseball cap, his stuffed animal Marine bulldog mascot, retired teacher’s apple award and a Democratic donkey from his collection.

Meredith Wieck, my niece who flew in from London for the funeral, and me put together the display for my dad

Meredith Wieck, my niece who flew in from London for the funeral, and me put together the display for my dad

At the funeral home, notice our flowers were minimal, as requested by us.  Donations were instead made to many of Bill's most favored organizations.

At the funeral home, notice our flowers were minimal, as requested by us. Donations were instead made to many of Bill’s most favored organizations.

My father's remembrance table:  teacher, Marine and Democrat

My father’s remembrance table: teacher, Marine and Democrat

Those who came sat to chat or fondly looked over the displays, as Meredith and I had hoped they would, but by far, the most meaningful contact with our visitors came with the stories they told of my dad.

His former students, Veterans of Foreign Wars members (his favorite hang-out in retirement years being the VFW), former colleagues, golf buddies and friends gave me a humorous, unique picture of my dad that I hadn’t known before.

One of my favorite stories was a bet he made with Garnet Evola, one of  the English teachers at Marshall High School.

Every year, Garnet took on the task of being sponsor for the Senior Prom, a dance organized by high school juniors for the graduating senior class.   This was Garnet’s baby, so to speak.  She would spend practically the entire year, working with the junior class student volunteers to pick prom themes, make decorations, order refreshments, prepare  programs, and help with fund-raising ventures.

Garnet’s all-consuming interest in prom became a topic of teasing by the male teachers, which included my father.

When Garnet announced that orchids were being ordered from Hawaii for one particular prom, my father was dubious.

“You’re ordering orchids from Hawaii?!” my dad asked in astonishment.  “There’s no way you’re going to get orchids from Hawaii in time for a prom in small town Marshall.”

Garnet most assuredly intoned that they would.

“You think so?” my dad continued. “O.K., Garnet.  I tell you what.  If those orchids arrive before the prom, I’ll wear a grass skirt and do the hula.”

“You’ve got a deal!” Garnet replied with a grin.

Thus the bet was on.

During the following months leading up to the prom, both teachers were fairly confident they’d win.

Every day, my dad would corner Garnet in the teachers’ lounge and ask, “So, Garnet, those flowers arrived yet?”

“Not yet, but they’ll be here soon,” Garnet answered with certainty.

Sure enough, right before the senior prom, the orchids were delivered.

And my dad, not to shirk on his betting duties, made sure that his grass-skirt hula was done in full Bill Wieck style.

He researched how to do the Hawaiian male hula, practiced his moves at home with appropriate hand motions, arrived at school for his appointed dance time and gave it his all in a serious, distinguished manner befitting any muscular, big-boned, manly guy.

Cheers and claps from faculty and students followed his dignified performance.

I also was told that he swayed his way toward a triumphant Garnet, standing to the side of the room, where he blew her several kisses of congratulations before making his exit.

Yeah, that’s my dad!

Touching Moments

The memorial service on Wednesday morning was attended by about 50 along with immediate and extended family members.

During this time, my brother spoke about our father in a remembrance piece, Pastor Richard Lewis of Marshall First UMC presented a message entitled “Thinking Outside the Box” (my dad’s approach to life) and my dad’s younger brother, Chuck, gave very moving, heartfelt words about his big brother whom he loved and looked up to for many years.

My brother, Attorney Paul Wieck (left) and Uncle Chuck (right), retired physics teacher at Lakeland College, talk after the service.

My brother, Attorney Paul Wieck (left) and Uncle Chuck (right), retired physics teacher at Lakeland College, talk after the service.

“Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.”

Members of my dad's honor guard gather in the outer room before my dad's memorial service

Members of my dad’s honor guard gather in the outer room before my dad’s memorial service

My mom and I were doing fine emotion-wise until it came to the military rites portion of the memorial.  Then the tissues came out.

One by one, the American Legion Post #90 and VFW Post # 5975 honor guard members (some of whom were US Marines) slowly, majestically saluted my dad’s photo as the US Marine Hymn played.

One by one, each of the honor guard saluted my dad my dad.

One by one, each of the honor guard saluted my dad.

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Later, we were ushered outside where Marshall’s American Legion commander, John Yeley, presented my seated mother with the folded American flag.  As he knelt before her, he gazed directly into her eyes.  With moving intensity, in a clear, strong voice, he thanked my mom for her husband’s service to his country.

Commander Yeley takes the flag to present to my mom.

Commander Yeley takes the flag to present to my mom.

I watched  this solemn scene unfold with growing admiration for our young Commander Yeley.  You could tell it was a struggle but he never once waivered in keeping his emotions in check.  He carried out this most reverent duty, one U.S. Marine giving tribute to another, with the poise, grace and stateliness it required.

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The honor guard immediately followed with a volley of synchronized rifle shots after which taps was played.

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Words can’t describe how deeply proud I was of my dad or how touched I felt for the honor fellow soldiers had given to one of their own.  Such powerful sentiment I have never experienced before, and most likely, never will again.

With Profound Gratitude to All Readers

As I close off this entry for my dad, I’d like to thank those  who sent condolence emails (even clear from China) and others who showered me and my mom with food,  fifty-plus cards, donations to my dad’s favorite organizations (over $600), flowers, and sympathy hugs in the Walmart, church and local Marshall restaurants we’ve been patronizing.

Such loving support and concern for me and my family make being in America at this time all the more meaningful.

From Marshall, Illinois, here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your week as Chinese New Year (Feb. 19) approaches.

April Lee, a good friend from Hawaii, sent these tropical flowers from Kailua.  The flower farm she ordered from is owned and run by a U.S. Marine and his family.

April Lee, a good friend from Hawaii, sent these tropical flowers from Kailua. The flower farm she ordered from is owned and run by a U.S. Marine and his family.

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Mr. Wieck, My Dad

Me and my Dad, Valentine's Day, 2013 while I was in Marshall for my Chinese New Year vacation

Me and my Dad, Valentine’s Day, 2013 while I was in Marshall for my Chinese New Year vacation

After my last post, there have been a few days of silence on my end.

My father died on Friday morning in the hospital as my mom, brother and I were driving over to meet with the discharge planner about options.  The day before, we had visited an end-of-life facility in our area, not exactly a perfect choice because my father was suffering.  “End-of-life” is more like intensive hospital care where all medicines continue to be given.  Hospice allows someone to be monitored and made comfortable with medication while family are around until the person passes away. That is more of what we wanted.

The dread of our final decision as we drove over was lifted when the call came on my mom’s cellphone:  My dad was no longer with us.

He had just died, 20 minutes before our arrival.  My brother, mom and I were able to spend time with him in his room without all the hook-ups and machines pumping away.

It was very quiet, peaceful and comforting in the hospital room now, something we had not experienced since my dad’s admittance 10 days before.

For about a week, he was almost continually on the by-pap (a full-face mask that pumps oxygen into the lungs) because he couldn’t breath except for about 45 minutes when it was taken off for him to eat.   The nurse told us they’d taken off the by-pap,  he’d had his breakfast, they’d given him a sponge bath, turned on the TV for him to watch and were returning for his inhaler treatment when he passed away.

It was a great blessing, for all of us.

A Beloved, Respected Teacher and Community Figure

Because my father taught at Marshall High School for 30 years as a history and civics teacher,  he was very well-known in the surrounding community.  In the hospital, we had 3 nurses who’d had him as a teacher before he retired.  Even if they weren’t assigned to my dad, they came by to see how he was doing, talk to him and tell humorous stories about his classes.

And my dad was humorous!  He was quick-witted and had the best one-liners of anyone I know.

Because he  had struggled in high school due to learning difficulties, he understood students who were not considered the best or the brightest.  Civics and U.S. History were courses that all had to pass in order to graduate from high school.  Those were the subjects my father taught and he made sure to give extra help to anyone who needed it.  He’d stay after school, coach at-risk students so they’d be able to pass his tests and patiently explain concepts that were difficult or new.  That extra help gave him the respect and admiration of everyone, including parents worried their kids wouldn’t get a high school diploma.

Within the community, he was very active and always rooted for the underdog.  One of the greatest achievements in life for both my mom and dad was organizing and leading a local activist group called Concerned Citizens of Clark County.  This group was specifically formed to voice their concerns and adamant opinions against  having a nuclear waste facility put in our county.  This was a 10-year battle against the State of Illinois, the government itself which sent down all their lawyers, researchers and experts to tell our community that this was a wonderful thing for our area.

It was not!

Concerned Citizens of Clark County, with my dad as the chairman, eventually won the battle to protect our land from becoming a nuclear waste dump.  This accomplishment was an amazing feat, one which my mom and dad were so pleased to have been a part of.

Visit the Funeral Home Website To Really Know My Dad

If you would like to know what a truly wonderful father I’ve had, please go to our local funeral home’s website to read his obituary and all the touching stories people have been sending in about Mr. Wieck.  Pearcefuneralservices.com

Just click on “William Y. Wieck” under obituaries and “View all” under the daily posted condolences.

I will add a note that the date of birth and death “Feb. 7, 2015 – Feb. 6, 2015” is wrong (duh!) unless it’s been corrected by the time you log on.    Just one more thing for my dad to get a huge kick out of if he were alive.

One thing that would really please my dad is that he will have a military send-off after the memorial service on Wed. morning.  He will have his color guard, his gun salute,  taps played and the folded American flag which will be presented to my mom.

His service to his country as a US Marine was very dear to his heart.  It will be a fitting way for all of us to to say “goodbye.”

From Marshall, here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your day and ours here in the Wieck family.

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