News of rescue kitty 平平 (Ping-Ping): A match made in heaven

The Recap from previous post

Last October, an abandoned newborn kitten was handed to me by a colleague who found her on our campus. Near death and in dire straights, she blossomed with a good dose of antibiotics and round-the-clock care. Her recovery prompted me to find her a name, given by a UMC church group in Flowery Branch, Georgia who had been following her story.  We called her Pingan Hua (Peaceful Flower), or Ping-ping for short.  Below, she is on the mend in December.

Here she is, 7 months later, at the kennel in Luzhou where she’s being housed.

And here I am, clear across the world and stuck in America due to Covid-19, trying desperately to find Ping-ping her forever home.

A long wait has prayers answered

My plea to find rescue Ping-ping a home has been ongoing.  I posted the following in my WeChat moments, hoping once again for someone to contact me.

大家好!我需要你的帮助。 我还在美国。由于感染了病毒,我无法返回中国。 我在沧州的救援需要一个家。 他在宠物店等。 她叫平平。 她是一只雌猫,1岁。 她被人搞砸了。 她是一只室内猫。 她不喜欢住在外面。 她不会损坏家具。 她喜欢其他的猫和狗。 请给平平一个充满爱的幸福家庭。 如果您有兴趣,请与我联系。 告诉你的朋友! 谢谢!!

“Hi, everyone! I need your help. I’m still in America. Due to the virus, I can not yet return to China. My rescue in Luzhou needs a home. She’s waiting at the kennel. Her name is Ping-ping. She is a female cat, 1 year old. She has been spayed. She is an indoor cat. She doesn’t like staying outside. She doesn’t damage furniture. She likes other cats and dogs. Please give Ping-ping a happy family full of love. If you are interested, please contact me. Tell your friends! Thank you!!”

The message, with pictures,  went out on June 26.

2 hours later came the reply: “你可以把它留给我 我会照顾你的猫 我会给她一个好家。”    Leave it to me.  I’ll take care of your cat. I will give her a good home.

From whom, of all people, did this message come?  None other than our former choir director at the Luzhou Protestant Church, Zeng Yujie.

The offer of a forever home

Yujie was very quick to announce in her note to me that she was not busy and wanted to pick up Ping-ping the next day.  She explained she had raised a cat before, calming my concern of a first-time pet owner.

From past experience, I know that Chinese don’t often understand the great responsibility of feline ownership, nor do they want to spend the extra money needed to take ownership seriously:  proper pet food (not their left-over, oily and spicy stir fries with dangerous fish bones), vaccinations (often Chinese don’t bother), store-bought kitty litter (a majority improvise with construction site discarded crumbled brick pieces), plastic litter container (cardboard boxes are used instead) and scratching boards (cats that scratch furniture are sometimes abandoned, thrown into the streets to fend for themselves.)

In China, animal rescuers such as myself have a stressful time placing our charges in good homes.

But Yujie put my fears to rest by immediately sending me a video of her lovely, home where Ping-ping would live, and assured me that the kitty would never be released outside.  She also  included in our WeChat message photos of how prepared she was.  Kitty litter and tray ready to go and one of the best cat food brands we have in China, Royal Canine, all waiting for Ping-ping’s arrival.

A Smooth Pick-up

My next task was to contact the kennel owner and staff to tell them that Ping-ping would be leaving them the next day.  I put the two in contact so they could co-ordinate pick-up times and then anxiously awaited news of kitty’s departure from her 7-month foster compartment at the shop.

Due to time differences, I had to wait an entire nail-biting day until nearly midnight before the “pings!” began on my phone of messages, videos and photos being received.

Yujie arrives, reaching inside to pet her new kitty. I fortuitously left Ping-ping’s carrier as an after-thought, not knowing my 1-month absence would stretch into 7 months. The staff,  in the above, are looking on.

I later received word from the kennel employees that they cried when Ping-ping left them.  She had really grown on them! (But obviously not enough for someone to step up and adopt her.  Hmmmm.)

An Easy Adjustment

At first, Ping-ping was worried and scared when she emerged from her carrier.

Yujie left her alone.

And then came the photos 2 hours later.

Ping-ping contentedly rolling on furniture.

Ping-ping gazing out the window onto the apartment complex below.

Ping-ping perched on top of the piano as Yujie plays hymns and sings.









Obviously,  Ping-ping had truly taken to her new home and loving caregiver.  No worries from my end  of her being tossed out into the cruel world.  This kitty was here to stay!

Blessings Abound

It has been 3 weeks since Ping-ping found her forever home.  Yujie has updated me weekly about her new family member’s silly habits and numerous feline activities.  Ping-ping loves her cat food and especially enjoys her evening bowl of goat’s milk, which is to be good for her pretty gray coat, according to her owner.

Being a devout Christian, Yujie gets up every morning at 5 a.m. to send out the scripture readings on her phone to those of us in the daily Bible reading class.  (I am also a member of that church group.). She prays and goes over her lessons as do many Chinese Christians at the Luzhou Protestant Church.  During that time, she shared with me that Ping-ping flops at her feet as she reads aloud Biblical passages for both to ponder over, contemplate and meditate on.

It gladdens my heart to know that Ping-ping’s Christian education is continuing onward. She was first introduced to my faith in my home, when all during December, my student Christmas parties  took place one after another after another.  While I did my best to share with little kitty the true meaning of this season, a very young Ping-ping cared more about batting at Christmas ornaments and playing with sparkly tinsel roping than she did about hearing of Christ’s birth. Good to know that, under Yujie’s faithful tutelage, she might very well become a Christian yet!

Thank you, Yujie,  for giving Ping-ping the perfect home, the perfect life and the perfect  human companion, yourself.  I think I can honestly say this was in every way a match made in heaven.

Posted in A Visit Home to America, China, Chinese Christians reach out, coronavirus, coronavirus, Luzhou Vocational and Technical College, My Rescue Animals in China, Tales from The Yangtze River, Tales of China, Travel | 1 Comment

My mom’s last newspaper column for the summer

Walk with Me by Priscilla Wieck

Summer is my usual time to take a break so this is my last column until September. Hopefully in July, I will be moving to 710 Mulberry Street, just a few blocks from the big white house on the corner where I have resided for the last 40 years. It will be different but I am looking forward to a much smaller space to care for and a new flower garden to tend.

Downsizing: From this 1917 home …..


to this 1970’s “granny house.”

If this virus situation ever gets resolved, I plan to have an open house so all of you curious readers can see what has been taking place. Right now, it doesn’t appear that much visiting will happen for quite a while so I have plenty of time to get settled in before the big reveal.

Traveling through Books

I haven’t been doing much book reading these past few months since Connie has been here. We have been spending our late summer evenings with Netflix and Amazon Prime and not much time is left for books. In the process of packing up for the move, I found a reference book that I had written about a couple of years ago, Book Lust To Go . “Read Your Way Around the World with Nancy Pearl” is the subtitle. Hundreds of books from many different countries are listed as “recommended reading for travelers, vagabonds and dreamers.”

Ms. Pearl is an armchair traveler, librarian, book lover and a compulsive reader. She must be all of these as she boasts that she has read every book she recommends. Since many of us have now decided to limit our travels because of potential virus exposure, now is a good time to arm chair travel. For my personal reading, I gravitate toward a book series. If you stay with a series, you don’t have to keep finding the next book to read.  Another lies ahead, already selected for you. Guess I am a lazy reader.

Suspense and Intrigue

Dorothy Gilman, an espionage writer has created a heroine who belongs not only to the CIA but to the local garden club. In the first novel (1966), “The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax”,Gilman introduces us to Emily Pollifax ,a 60-ish bored New Jersey widow who offers her services to the CIA to find adventure. Through the 14 book series, readers travel to Turkey, Mexico, Thailand, China, Sicily and elsewhere. This series is one of Pearl’s top picks and I am looking forward to joining Emily on her journeys.

Mysteries Galore

If you are a mystery fan, Colin Dexter has penned 13 intriguing novels(1975-1999) set in and around Oxford , England. The novels feature Inspector Endeavor Morse, an ill tempered but lovable Brit , and his partner, Robbie Lewis. Begin reading with Last Bus to Woodstock and you will be hooked. This detective series has been made for British TV and episodes are still shown occasionally on America’s PBS. The novels feature good story lines as well as journeys around the island nation.

Walk for Life

As a walker, I became intrigued with Pearl’s recommendation of “A Walk Across France” by Miles Morland. At the age of 45 ,Moreland left his job as a broker in England and took a hike with his wife, Guislaine across France from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. Both he and his wife were in poor physical condition but they committed to walking 20 miles a day. Their journey strengthened not only their health but their marriage according to the Pearl . I am ordering this book from our great library system soon. You can do the same for any of these titles you have interest in.

I agree with Pearl when she recommends Peter Jenkin’s fascinating “A Walk Across America.” Jenkins began his journey with his dog,Cooper, in 1973 in New York and continued to New Orleans where he met the woman who would become his wife. He ended his trek in Florence ,Oregon in 1979, a six year journey. Great reading! Jenkins retired from walking in 2012 and instead made a 2 year drive across America in a 1957 Chevy. That story also makes a good read.

Gearing up for cozy winter reads

I am making a list of other books from Pearl’s listings for my winter reading. The evenings will be longer then and Netflix and Amazon Prime may have lost their attraction. Winter flu and virus restrictions will most likely still be around so we all need something to look forward to. Arm chair traveling through books sounds like a good way to spend a long winter’s night,  doesn’t it?

“The more that you read,

The more things you will know.

The more that you learn,

The more places you’ll go.”–Dr. Suess

Until September, Peace

Posted in Illinois, Travel, Visit To The States, Walk with Me: My mom's newspaper column | 1 Comment

“John Dana, Where are you?”: One mystery somewhat resolved

Recap from June 14th Post, “Dear Chaplain,”

If you haven’t kept up on my entries, I came across hundreds of war letters sent back and forth from my grandmother, Connie Maris, and her husband, Army Chaplain, Captain Marvin Maris, who was serving in New Guinea and the Philippines from 1942-45.

      In those many piles, I found a letter from a mother who wrote to Marvin on July 12, 1945.  Mrs D. B. Dana (Olga H. Dana)  of Kewaunee, Wisconsin,  inquired about her son, John Haney Dana,  whom she hadn’t heard from in 5 months.  She wrote a 2-page, type-written letter describing her situation as a widow, (her husband was a physician)  and her worries concerning John, who had always been an avid writer although a bit of a rebel.  His silence was unusual and was causing great concern.  She had 2 other sons as well, one who was discharged from the Navy due to illness and the other, Mike Dana, who was on a destroyer. 

        I didn’t find any information about my grandfather’s reply to her, which left John’s absence a mystery.  What had become of Olga’s beloved son, John?  POW (Prisoner of War)? Killed in Action?  AWOL (military acronym meaning “absent without leave”)?  Court marshaled and dismissed? In the brig (abbreviation for brigade, with the meaning being imprisoned in a military jail/prison)?  Just plain lazy, too embarrassed with a demotion or too ashamed to confess bad behavior to his poor, worried mamma?

This left me doing some digging.  I didn’t have much  help through the National Archives for WW 2 servicemen so I went to the website of Kewaunee, Wisconsin, where Olga had lived.  There I found a city hall contact email.  I sent out a brief explanation of myself and included a summary of Olga’s July 12, 1945, letter to my grandfather.  Off it went, with me  waiting for a reply.

A Rapid Response

Within just 2 hours, this reply came to my inbox, complete with photos.

Hi Ms. Wieck,

I’m Joe Mills, a Kewaunee city councilman. The clerk forwarded your email to me as I’ve been working on updating our cemetery records.  The photos I’m sending are what I’ve found so far.  Since John’s headstone states he died in 1971 I’m assuming he survived WWII!  

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There are no military plaques for either him nor his brother Byron.  I can’t find anything on Mike Dana, yet.  There is no mention of relatives/offspring of John, Byron, Mike or their parents.  I will research any obituary records I can find to see if there is anybody still alive connected to the family. 

Please feel free to email me with any other thoughts on this that you might have.

A friend of mine is the clerk at Community Congregational Church so I will be checking with her to see if we can expand this search a bit.

Sincerely, Joe Mills

Closure of Sorts

With Joe’s above photos and information, I was able to piece together a bit more  than I’d had before.

  1.  John obviously survived the war, dying at the age of 53 in 1971.  When Olga wrote her letter, he was 27 years old.
  2. Byron passed away in 1975 at the age of 54.  My guess is he is the one whom Olga mentioned as having been discharged from the Navy and living in Santa Fe, NM, when she wrote.
  3. No tombstone for Mike, the youngest of the brothers at age 18 in 1945, as Olga had mentioned.
  4. Olga herself outlived at least two of her sons, having left this world in 1975 at age 83.  She was 54 years old at the time the letter was written.

I did contact Joe, sending him the full letter and I hoped he could find some extended family around the area who could provide more but I never heard back.  I am very grateful, however, for the photos and the knowledge that John must have come home at some point, maybe even taking care of or living with his aging mother until he himself died in 1971.

What a shame that both sons lived only into their 50s while their mom carried on into her 80s.  With no remaining relatives to ask, I find myself still wondering about the family.  What was John’s excuse for not writing?  What did he do after the war?  Whatever happened to youngest son, Mike?  Did Byron return from Santa Fe to be near to his mom?  Did any son marry and have children, although no cemetery marker hints at this?

Despite clearing up one small piece of the puzzle, there seems to be so many more that remain.  I guess I’ll just have to content myself with having one question answered  while a hundred more are left simmering away in this one family’s history of mysteries.

Posted in a Veteran, A Visit Home to Marshall, A WW 2 Chaplain's Duties, Travel, Visit To The States, World War 2 Letters | Leave a comment

It’s Father’s Day! (My mom’s weekly column)

Walk with Me, By Priscilla Wieck

The recent breezy cool mornings have made our early walks pleasant again this week. I have been trying to remember to check out the interesting outdoor sit places that are attached to some of the older homes in town. Several look so inviting, it makes me want to try them out. Lots of work and imagination have gone into these little nooks and crannies.

Adapting an older house for modern living can be challenging but rewarding. Many families in our town have found creative ways to include not only sitting places but outdoor cooking areas as well. (Below:  Our hostas’ haven provides a sheltered cubbyhole for our backyard rabbit families and the back deck was a favorite of husband Bill for his cookouts.)

Father’s Day is Upon Us

In case it slipped up on you, this Sunday, June 21st, is Father’s Day. All forms of advertising media have tried to help readers find gifts for the big day. I have noticed that many of these suggestions are geared to be helpful for outdoor grilling. We know that most men want their steaks or burgers grilled to their own liking so being “king of the grill” ensures that. Bill received his share of Chief Cook aprons and long-handled barbecue tools over his many fatherhood years. He presided at countless cookouts while making sure his steaks were medium red and his burgers juicy.

The Gift List

CNN decided to take a different look at available gifts for fathers this year. Yesterday, they posted on line a list of 19 gadget gifts for the big day. Some of these suggestions have universal appeal as they are not just grill related. In case you are a late gift purchaser, they will still be available on line after Sunday and your “gift is coming” cards are available to download now.

The first item that caught my interest is called Fit Track. It is advertised as letting you see inside your body. Using your smart phone and the accompanying smart scale , you can take a free physical exam at home, monitoring 17 key health insights including body fat, muscle and bone mass and hydration levels. Maybe some things are better unknown?

I might actually send for this next gadget:  Peeps Carbon Technology, NASA’s solution for dirty eye glasses (now available to the public).  Peeps utilizes soft carbon microfiber pads to eliminate oil and fingerprints instead of those cloths and sprays that end up just smearing lenses and making them worse. At least that’s my experience. If it’s astronaut endorsed it has to work, doesn’t it? Glasses’ wearers rejoice!

FIXD is a gadget that both mothers and fathers who commute to work would appreciate. It tells you why your check engine light is on, how severe it is and how much the repair should cost. The company claims that it easily plugs into any gas, diesel or hybrid car from 1996 onwards. It also adds that FIXD can alert the car owner to 17,000 potential mechanical issues in real time. Scam mechanics beware!

For outdoor family time , BUZZB-GONE’s company advertises that its product is “the ultimate protection from mosquitoes.”  It is a small, round light devise that uses UV light to attract insects and a 360 degree suction fan to capture them. It is said to be safe for children and pets, kills without using chemicals, and is perfect for camping and outdoor gatherings.  It can also can be used indoors. Might help with those June arrivals of buffalo gnats maybe?

Another gift for Father that might benefit family members is the DODOW,  touted as being “the best night’s sleep you’ll ever have.”  It is a small, metronome light that is scientifically designed to block out overactive thought patterns and lull you into a deep peaceful sleep. Users claim that they fall asleep before the 8-minute sound mode ends and after a few months, their brain is trained to fall asleep without using it. It combines yoga, meditation and behavioral therapy. Fathers who get a good night’s sleep are happy fathers, aren’t they?

There are many other suggestions for Father’s Day gift gadgets on the CNN website. Prices aren’t listed, so beware.

Missing our Fathers

For those of us whose fathers are no longer living, Sunday will be a day of remembrance. It will be a time to tell the family stories of “Remember when Dad ….?”  It will be bittersweet for some and painful for others but there will be memories of love and happy times scattered in between.  So to all fathers everywhere—Happy Father’s Day! And thank you for being great Dads.

“A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society.” —-Billy Graham


Husband and Father Bill, years ago, taking care of manly duties mowing the lawn. To all fathers everywhere, put up your feet and enjoy the love of your family on this special day.

Posted in A Visit Home to America, A Visit Home to Marshall, Father's Day, Illinois, Smalltown American Life | 2 Comments

Dear Chaplain

Chaplain Marvin E. Maris, during his wartime years.

In the previous entry, I mentioned my grandfather’s role as an Army Chaplain overseas had him wearing many hats.  Not only was he tasked with the spiritual morale of the troops but also officiating over funerals, where it became his duty to write words of condolence to grieving family members.  (See previous post)

A Request for Peace of Mind

Tucked in Chaplain Maris’ letters to his wife I found yet another letter from a soldier’s mother.  It was such a fascinating read, and one which truly endeared me to its writer, Mrs. D.B. Dana, whose given name was Olga.

Olga’s cordial plea to my grandfather was so eloquently and thoughtfully written, with such an easy, newsy, humorous air about it, that I couldn’t resist including it here.  Olga must have been quite a woman:  married to a doctor, 3 sons in the war, a student at the Chicago Institute of Art, educated and well-learned, as well as a giving person who wished to serve others in any way she could.

As you read her letter, you’ll discover why she has found a special place in my heart.  In fact, I felt so connected to this woman that I did some digging concerning John Dana.   That mystery I’ll share with you in the next entry.

In the meantime, let me introduce you to Mrs. D.B. Dana (Olga), a woman whose words must have touched my grandfather just as much as they did me or he wouldn’t have kept her letter.

July 12, 1945

From Mrs. D.B. Dana 205 Rose Street Kewaunee, WI

Chaplain of Btry. A 101st. AAA     A.P.O. 322 c/o P. M. San Francisco California

Dear Chaplain:

Would you kindly look up my son, John Haney Dana (36 -817-515) or find out for me what has become of him.  The address above is the one he gave me in his last letter which was written on January 24th and reached me on February 15th.  In that letter, John said I should add “Air Transportable” to the address whenever I wrote.

I have been worried about my boy but I have hesitated to ask the Red Cross or to write a command officer because in the past, John has had one or two spells of not writing for months while he was away from home working in Idaho and Panama.  Two years ago, my husband died and my three sons were all in the service, and John began to write to me faithfully, three or four times a week.  His last letter was most affectionate and he said he hoped for a furlough.

This long silence since makes me wonder what happened.  It could be that he thinks it is not necessary to write because his brother has been given a discharge from the Navy because he is ill, but I am still alone as the boy is out in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  John has earned his own way since he was nineteen and been very independent but whenever we have been together, we have had wonderful times and his humor and his spirit have been my delight.  I try to understand such a boy and, no matter what may have happened, I’d stick with my son.  One thing makes me think that something may be wrong — the last two bonds came marked “Pvt. John H. Dana” instead of Sgt.

The bonds were both dated May 9, 1945 but were of March and Feb. issue dates.  The number 108866 was on both.

The fact that John’s allotment of $55.00 was discontinued as of the 28th of February gives me more reason to wonder.  I set small store by rank and if John had done something to call for being demoted, I would regret it but the thing would not floor me.  Life with a wonderful country doctor husband has taught me much about the weakness of people and I appreciate the strain and the weariness of long periods of service in the tropics, especially to high-spirited young men who were snatched out of interesting work to take up distasteful war activities.  My little eighteen-year-old Mike is with the Halsey task forces on a destroyer and has had a year of the real fighting!

I have great admiration for the work of you chaplains and I do not want to add to your burdens, but I hope you can find time to inquire about my boy.  He is 6 ‘ 11″, heavy, broad-shouldered, blond,blue-eyed and he has a nice smile, if that is still working.  He neglects attendance at church, I suspect, but he has a background of church-going and singing in a choir.  We are Congregationalists.  I know it would do no good to scold John as he is touchy and would resent it. I just want to know what has happened to him and, of course, I long to hear from him.  I certainly miss the bolstering of his entertaining and lovely letters. I hope he has not started drinking or become irresponsible.  Before going into the army, John had a very fine job representing the Kewaunee Manufacturing Company in New York State and he had headquarters in Syracuse, New York.  He did a big piece of work on two large hospital installations of laboratory furniture in Canal Zone hospitals just before he was drafted.  The companies anxious to have John back and they are worried, too, over no word from John.  Not one person I know has heard from John since February.  If the boy is in wrong, I do not wish to add to his trouble and that is why I am writing you because I am sure a good chaplain has an understanding heart.

If there is something I could send you to help a little, I would be overjoyed to do so.  Do you need books?  My sons seemed to like cartoon books, art books et cheer.  John had just had his Christmas mail when he last wrote.

Sincerely yours, Olga H Dana (Mrs. D.B.)

I have kept on writing to John all this time and I shall do so.  If John has not had word from me, tell him I am now at home and shall be here from now on.  I studied at the Art Institute of Chicago all winter but came back at Eater.  I lived at the Palmer House in Chicago and they forward mail that comes for me there so I doubt that any letters were lost.  Doctor Dana used to say, when people were in trouble, “This is today, we start from here to do better.  No vain regrets!”  I want John to remember that philosophy if he sees it.

(Handwritten afterthought)

If some boy in your outfit never gets mail, I’d be glad to send him things, especially a sick boy.  If John has been demoted, I do not want a report on it, just to get started being in touch again.

(Mystery of John’s disappearance solved?  To Be continued!)

Posted in A Message of Faith, a Veteran, A Visit Home to America, Michigan in 1945, Travel, Visit To The States, World War 2 Letters | 1 Comment

A Chaplain’s wartime duties: My grandfather’s service to his men

It’s been a very long time since I’ve been in the States for patriotic holidays.  The 3 that most recently come to mind are  Memorial Day (May 25), Flag Day (June 14), and our upcoming Independence Day (July 4).  These days come and go in China without much fanfare as I am so involved in my teaching and finishing up the school year, which usually ends the second week in July.

This year is a bit different.  Being in the States, I am aware of these celebrations as they are right at my doorstep.  Then, too,  it’s been a different sort of remembrance of our veterans due to more personal touches.

Continuing with my grandparents’ WW 2 correspondence letters

Sunk deep in my grandmother’s armchair in the upstairs bedroom, I’ve had my present-day clock rewind to the 1940’s.  Here I sit and read, finding myself inundated in  World War 2  news between my grandmother, Connie Maris in Holland, Michigan, and her husband, Army Chaplain Marvin Maris who was serving in the Pacific (New Guinea and the Philippines).

In national archives across the country, I expect similar war letters between servicemen and their families are kept and preserved for posterity’s sake. But there is a noticeable difference in the letters I am reading, and that has to do with the Christian component involved.

Through my grandfather, I am discovering that a chaplain’s duties in wartime require a much wider range of skill sets than the average soldier or even high-ranking officer.  The amount of work involved for a chaplain is astounding.  His accounts of pastoral service to the men demand such emotional, physical, professional and spiritual strength that I can truly feel his connection to God in all that he undertakes.  It is truly inspiring.

Difficult Responsibilities 

Among the many heart-wrenching tasks must have been to officiate over a funeral, then compose the follow-up letter to the family. Those letters I have never been privy to.  My grandfather didn’t keep copies.  I sometimes wonder if they are within someone else’s pile of treasured correspondence, my grandfather’s words neatly penned in ink or clicked out on his portable typewriter.

I imagine him giving condolences and reassurances of a swift death,  even if it wasn’t, along with spiritual guidance and his well-placed words of a brave, honorable son, father or husband. This obligation was a sad,  yet necessary and sacred one.  He did his best to give solace to the receiver, which in turn gave solace to him knowing, as a man called to God and country, his life was given meaning.

I see this in so many of my grandparents’ letters, especially from  my grandmother.  She is often reassuring Marvin that the role he plays is vital to the men, even when he feels defeated that so  few attend Sunday chapel services, engage in his Bible studies or choir practices, rarely ask for a one-on-one ministry session or are straying from a Christian lifestyle by swearing, smoking, drinking or attending local brothels.  Although Marvin is a practical man, and doesn’t too harshly condemn soldiers for partaking in such behavior which was accepted in 1940’s wartime, he still questioned if he was doing any good.

Even we steadfast Christians have our doubts.

Chaplain Maris, first row on the far right, organized the men to build the first chapel in the jungles of New Guinea, where he watched over the men’s spiritual needs during the war. Sunday service attendance was sometimes quite low.


One of his better attended services:  Marvin, seated at the portable pump organ, leads the men in hymns in the New Guinea jungle chapel.

A sister writes:  “Dear Sir”

Tossed among the many correspondence letters in the bins, I found a few written to Marvin from soldiers’ family members. I’m uncertain why he kept some and not others but the ones he did preserve are telling.

I share this one with you here.  It must have been a hard time for the family, especially as it was mailed on August 13, 1945, right after the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan and a few days before the  surrender.  So many soldiers, such as the below-mentioned Emmet, almost made it home, but not quite.  I hope my grandfather felt he had helped the family with his condolence letter.  It seems to me, from what was said, he gave them all the best he had to give as a fellow soldier and a man of God.


Dear Sir.

I am writing in answer to the letter my mother, Mrs. Nonie E Graves, received with the picture of my brother, PVT Emmett K. Graves.

We were very happy to get it and we also thank you a lot for sending it and also thank his buddies for giving it to you to send.  I am writing to you for my mother.  It just seems like she can’t get our Emmett’s death. We all miss him so much.  If you can get in touch with any of his buddies, will you please ask them to write to me.  I would love to hear from some of them.  I miss writing to Emmett so much.  I feel like Emmett would want me to write to some of his buddies.  Thank a lot for what you have done.

Sincerely yours,

Mrs. S.L. Rohme. RFD #3. Fredericksburg, VA


Posted in A Visit Home to America, A Visit Home to Marshall, Illinois, Travel, Visit To The States, World War 2 Letters | 2 Comments

Re-cap and Updates From Me about China Return

I’ve recently received some emails saying, “Hi, Connie!  Just wanted to know how you are.  Are you still in China?”

I’m guessing those individuals haven’t been checking out or my Facebook page, so let me review, with a few updates.

Why Am I Still in America?

If you didn’t know:   I am Connie (Cornelia) Wieck, a Marshall, Illinois native who has been with the United Methodists for nearly 30 years as a college English language teacher, a majority of those years being in Asia. I am single and currently a teacher through the Amity Foundation, a social service organization founded in 1985 by Chinese Christians.  Amity’s headquarters are in Nanjing with a majority of the Amity sponsored projects helping rural Chinese people.   There are also Amity poverty alleviation projects in other countries as well.  (See for a full overview of all Amity does.)

On January 9th, I returned to America for my Chinese New Year holidays.  My mother was moving and I planned to spend a month helping her with this venture before returning to my college in February to begin a new school year.

Those plans suddenly changed as Covid-19 began its journey around the world. Our U.S. airlines discontinued overseas’ travel in late January.  I planned to itinerate in Illinois, sharing my time in China with so many of you, but that, too, ended as wise decisions of caution canceled our church gatherings.  China then blocked entry of non-essential overseas’  visitors into the country in order to contain the virus.   This has me sheltering in place with my mom in our small Illinois town.

News from my Chinese College

Although China now seems to have the situation under control, with most schools, businesses and in-country travel now resuming, the temporary ban on visa holders such as myself is still in place.

The 10,000 students at my school, Luzhou Vocational and Technical College in Sichuan Province, were required in May to return to the campus to complete mandatory summer courses.  My freshmen English language majors (250) are currently being taught by two of my Chinese colleagues with my assistance.  I’ve been sending short educational videos of my hometown life, including practical phrases to use and discussion questions.  My lessons are being shared in my oral conversation course.  Of course, I would much rather be in the classroom with them but this is the best way to continue to stay in touch, complete my teaching duties and still feel needed and useful.  There is talk that the ban might be lifted in August for a limited few weeks.  That would allow me to return to start up the Fall semester.

Visa Concerns

My visa and resident permit to stay in China: I need to be back in the country at least a 6 weeks before expiring, especially with mandatory 2-week quarantines in place.

My greatest concern is my visa, which expires September 30 and is renewed yearly.  Renewing a visa must be done in person, in China, with my college’s many stamped and officially signed documents in place.  It is always a lengthy process, taking at least 2 months,  but renewal is certainly much easier than starting from scratch.

Once a visa expires, however, the entire application must be done as if it’s the first time.  This process can take up to 3-4 months.  It must be done outside of China, not in China.  That means an even longer delay in my return to teach while all the paperwork is sorted out by the Chinese Embassy in the U.S., a lot of back-and-forths between me, the Amity Foundation and my school, plus a substantial amount of money ($550) being spent to re-register and re-apply.

Obviously, I am not too keen on having to do that but I may not have a choice.

Limited Flights to and From China: The current Situation and what is required of arriving passengers

As a few foreigners begin to return to China, there is the limited airplane situation to deal with.  All flights were canceled for some time until February, when China Eastern Airlines was allowed to have one flight a week to and from America.  No US Airlines were in service to China or other parts of the world.

As of today, June 6, an agreement was reached to allow only 1 flight a week from Delta, United and American Airlines.   Passengers who arrive into the first port of entry will be ushered off the plane, giving a virus test, placed for 24 hours in a holding area, tested again and (if negative) will have a 2-week quarantine in an airport hotel which they will pay for.  Daily temperature checks will be given and health monitored for those 2 weeks by health officials.  No one is allowed to leave the room.  Meals will be brought.

If after 2 weeks, the individual still tests negative, he/she will receive a color code of status:  Green means safe and no more quarantines; yellow means traveling onward to other cities and another quarantine might be required; red means you have the virus and will remain in a hospital, or quarantine, until you test negative.

According to the China Aviation guidelines, if a US carrier has passengers that test negative for 3 weeks, 2 flights a week will be allowed by that carrier.  Another 3 weeks of negative tests from passengers will allow 3 flights a week and so on until the pre-Covid 19 schedules can be resumed.

If any passenger tests positive during any of those 3-week flights, the initial 1 flight a week will be either revoked or continued without increases.  These cautious regulations were put into effect just recently when a flight from Egypt brought into  Beijing 9 positive virus cases.  After successfully controlling the sickness, only to have it re-enter the country from overseas, China is now being very, very careful

Naturally, this caution creates a  limited number of flights and seats, which will make it difficult for those of us abroad to even purchase a ticket as most flights will be full.

All of this is a mute point, of course, because China still has not lifted the ban on people such as myself.  New visa holders, however, essential international business personnel and diplomats, can enter China without any problems. …. if they can get a flight!

News from my Chinese Church Family

My Chinese church is still continuing with online services. This photo of our men’s quartet was taken last year, during our Christmas performance. The choir members are praying to return to practices and worshiping together in song.

While a majority of China is opening up, large gatherings of people are still on hold.  This includes religious centers (temples, churches and mosques), movie theaters, large trade shows and business conferences.  Like in America, Chinese churches have moved to online services which most watch on their smart phones through a special worship App. (A vast majority of Chinese have smart phones, including the elderly, and all are quite adept at using them.).  Our 4 pastors at the Luzhou Protestant Church take turns giving the Sunday message.  Recorded hymns and praise songs are included.  Scripture readings are likewise posted for everyone to follow along.  It is uncertain when churches will open their doors but for now, rest assured that Chinese Christians still have the ability to virtually worship and join with others to praise the Lord.  The Luzhou choir family, of which I am a part,  is anxious to begin rehearsals and once again sing together in the 1913 sanctuary.  In our choir WeChat group (comparable to Facebook), we are given suggestions on how to keep our voices in shape at home. I also post the daily English prayer for those in our group who want to challenge their language abilities. Despite being apart, we can still connect in this special way and it is a true godsend.

Connecting with Me

Still waiting to return to my school. This photo was taken last year for my Mother’s Day lesson. We created cards, took photos and sent to our mothers. Lots of stickers were used so thanks so much for those who sent them.

As I wait to return to China, here are a few ways you might consider connecting with me.

1). Email, post or call:  Send me a note!;   Connie Wieck, 503 North Michigan  Marshall, IL. 62441.  Tel:  271-826-5161

2) Website: will inform you of my activities.

3). Newsletter:  If you are not on my newsletter list, contact me and I will add you.

4). Facebook: I have started actively engaging my Facebook page, Connie Wieck.

5). See my morning worship service on June 14!  I will be doing an online service at my home church.  It will be posted on  Facebook, Marshall Illinois First United Methodist Church.

5). Zoom Meetings: If you are interested in setting up a Zoom meeting and inviting me to attend, please let me know.

6)  Upcoming Webinar: June 18, 9 a.m. EDT (That’s 8 a.m. for Illinois folk!) Our Methodist Atlanta Ministries staff have set up webinars (Zoom meetings). During that time, I will share briefly about my work in China, update everyone about the China situation and hopefully have time for a few questions.   How can you sign up for this?   You must register and choose me as your meeting room speaker.

To register right now, go to:

Please share with friends, congregation members and others in your area. If you have an difficulties, please email ( or call (217-826-5161).   I will help you!

Closing Off

I haven’t been in the States this long in 25 years! My mom, Priscilla, and I are managing well together. We sang for our online services at the First United Methodist Church, pictured here before our duet on May 24.

I continue to help my mom with her move to a new house, keep in touch with my Chinese friends, students, school and church,  and make sure I stay connected with all of you who have been following me (recently or for many years).

I leave you with my English prayer for today, posted for my Chinese Christian family in Luzhou:

Today’s Prayer: Dear Lord, Speak to me and I will listen. Lead me and I will follow. Urge me and I will take action. Your guiding hand strengthens me and makes me whole. In your name I pray, Amen.

Posted in A Message of Faith, A Visit Home to America, A Visit Home to Marshall, China, coronavirus, Coronovirus Situation, Current Situation for Foreign Teachers returning to China, Illinois, Luzhou Vocational and Technical College, The Chinese Church, Travel | 1 Comment

My mom’s newspaper article: Graduation Memories

Walk with Me  (Priscilla Wieck)

The past week, Connie and I have been entertaining ourselves on our evening walks by looking up to find  tulip poplar trees in town. I say looking up because the small  green/yellow/ orange blossoms that distinguish the trees in the late spring are easy to miss because the trees are dense and huge. I am a little embarrassed to admit that I have lived across the street from a majestic specimen for years and am just now discovering it. The early residents of Marshall must have valued these trees as there are so many mature ones around town. Some must be 100 to 200 years old. I hope future city mothers and fathers will continue to preserve them—they deserve our admiration for their endurance and longevity.They also provide much needed shade in the summer. Go poplars!

American tulip poplar trees often grow to the height of 70-100 feet and have a dense spreading branch structure featuring 4 lobed leaves. Blossoms do not develop until the tree is 15 to 20 years old and bloom only on branch tips where the sun reaches. Since the trees are so tall maybe that is why it is easy to miss their yearly spring flowering. Their fine grained wood is used often for veneers over other hard woods in furniture making. Indians named it canoe wood as their massive trunks were used for –what else—canoes! The season for their flowers is almost over so don’t forget to look up!

Graduation Memories

I have been thinking lately about high school graduates and the ceremonies and celebrations that have changed or been postponed because of the onset of the virus.  We can all remember what an exciting time our graduations were. For this years’ seniors, many of the expected events are not able to be held .  The Marshall High School seniors I have talked to  appear to be handling these changes well but it must be a disappointing time for them.  If there is a silver lining in all of these virus constraints it is that they will have plenty of stories to tell to their children and grandchildren. They have become  members of a very special Class of 2020; one like no other before and, hopefully, never after.  What tales they can tell at those class reunions yet to come!

As a teacher, I have attended a multitude of Marshall High School graduations.  The ones that stand out in my memory have to do with the weather.  In the mid 1960’s, there was a record breaking cold spell in late May.  What a sight we teachers must have been sitting behind the graduates  clad in our wool dresses and winter coats.  I especially remember that business teacher Mildred Hutchen’s final touch to her fashionable ensemble was a little fur pillbox hat.  Those were the days!

The ever variable late May weather gifted us with a rain and hail storm on the night of Paul’s (my son)  graduation in 1974.   None of us could leave the gymnasium so almost 300 of us  crowded into the gym lobby to await the end of the storm. Then the electricity failed. After a half hour or so, it became a little hot and sticky and just a tad  scary in that crowded space.  Many of us  drove home through flooded  streets to find our basements in the same condition.   Lots of after graduation events  were postponed that night.

My most personal high school graduation memory its that of my own in 1951. My small class of young women was the final all girls’ graduating class at Francis Shimer Academy in Mt. Carroll in northern Illinois. The school was in the process of  transitioning into a co-ed college from a women’s academy. Our class was the last to follow the 100-year-old tradition of standing on the library steps in cap and gown to sing the school song. I still remember the feeling of pride and unity we all shared at that moment. The words to that song are still with me. It begins:  “Remember the times you had here, Remember when you’re away” and ends with “And don’t forget to come back someday.”

The last graduating class of women from Shimer Academy in 1951. Can you find me, Priscilla? (Hint:  Second row, to the right.)

Honoring the Class of 2020

Those words sung  by high school seniors so long ago still have meaning for the graduates of today.  They will surely remember this most unusual time of their graduation, and when they hold their class reunions, they will recount to each other over and over stories of  the “year of the virus”; stories that will become sweeter with each retelling.

They are and will always be members of a very special class, the Class of 2020. I hope they are feeling that same sense of pride and unity that I felt those many years ago.  May the years to come be good to them as they begin new adventures in life.

Here’s some words of advice: “If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in the dark with a mosquito.”–Betty Reese


Posted in A Visit Home to America, A Visit Home to Marshall, Class of 2020, Illinois, Smalltown American Life | 1 Comment

Last Weekend’s Activities: Memorial Day

Last weekend’s Memorial Day had many of us doing numerous activities in my small town, including decorating our yards with flags to commemorate those who have served the country in some special way.  My home was the same.

With the 3-day weekend, many were out-and-about: shopping at the Walmart, ordering take-out at local restaurants, walking about our recently-opened state park or having family cook-outs in back yards .  Others were deep in thought, remembering loved ones who have left us or visiting local cemeteries to place military service flags and  mementoes near gravestones of those we hold dear.

My mother and I managed our own little trips which included several of the  ones mentioned above.

We began with a drive to Rural King to load up on birdseed, squirrel corn, and a few flowers.

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Aside from the dog and bird supply aisles, we cruised by the garden decor items.  There we found numerous patriotic lawn ornaments, including a red-white-and-blue metal star which we purchased as a reminder of my dad, who served as a US Marine.

Tribute to a US Marine, My Dad

Most in my hometown community know of Bill Wieck, my dad, as a beloved high school US History and Civics teacher. He began his teaching career in 1961 at Marshall High School

In1961, the new teachers at Marshall High School were featured in the local newspaper. My dad is the handsome one in the back row, second from the left.

He taught for nearly 35 years before retiring.

My father and mom, also a teacher, often attended the high school prom every year as chaperones. Here they are in the early 1970s

His military service was recognized when he became an active member of our local American Legion Post 90.    In fact, it was my father who was often asked to give the message every year for the American Legion’s Memorial Day commemoration service.  And in later years, he was given a lifetime membership to the American Legion by the Post #90 members in Marshall.

One of my dad’s earliest speeches, given at the high school gymnasium for Memorial Day

My Dad’s Military Service:  A story of  Strength and Spirit

My father, William (Bill) Wieck, joined the Marines straight out of high school.  His many learning difficulties led to very low grades in school, including his poor reading skills.  However, his athleticism was one to be in awe of.  He excelled at high school football and was an excellent swimmer.  Such a strong, fit young man was just what the Marines were looking for. He never considered himself destined for further education and the military  seemed a good option, especially as his father had served in the army during WW 1.  So in 1953, right after his high school graduation, he enlisted in the US Marine Corps and was sent to San Diego for boot camp.

His outstanding swimming ability and marksmanship put him  on track to be in special forces.  I still remember him telling me how proud he was to have made the cut.   While others in his unit were immediately sent off to the Korean War, my dad began his journey as one of the chosen elite.  He continued onward for special training in the Honor Platoon.

A Sudden Fatigue 

The rigorous training for those in special forces was grueling.  My father remembers being exhausted, along with everyone else, but didn’t think it was anything to be concerned about.  He remembers fighting through his fatigue, day after day, of strenuous physical exercise, marching, honor guard rifle-throwing routines, carrying heavy loads of gear during war tactic drills, attending marksmanship practice, early morning risings and everything else Marine training entailed.  He began losing weight in a hurry, but didn’t think much of it due to his hectic daily military schedule.

He remembers one particularly difficult day that he wasn’t at his best.  Nevertheless, he forced himself to attend rifle practice that morning.  It was then that he remembered he couldn’t lift his arm.  It was so heavy and sluggish that it wouldn’t work properly hold up his rifle.

He went to his sergeant and reported he wasn’t feeling well.

“Are you trying to get out of duty, soldier?” the sergeant snapped with annoyance.

“No, sir!” my dad replied. “I just don’t feel well.”

There seemed to be a reluctance to relieve him of his training commitments but he was finally dismissed to go to the base infirmary.

That is the last thing my father remembers, walking on the wide roadway between the barracks, before everything went black.  He was later told he had suddenly collapsed, falling unconscious.  This immediately sent the medics to his side.

Coming out of a coma

When my dad awoke, he was in the military hospital.  His father was by his side, having come from Illinois to California after being told his son was in a coma and may not live.  The cause?  Diabetes.

My dad’s mother was a juvenile diabetic, having just been diagnosed at the time when insulin had been developed.  My father, here at age 19, had inherited this same disease right at the point of his promising career as a soldier.

The military doctors and nurses seemed not too updated about diabetes.   My dad was tersely given instructions on how to sterilize his syringes, shown once or twice how to inject himself with insulin (how much was not an art form at that time — “just figure it out” was what he was instructed to do) and then he was discharged from the military.  Mostly, he had to learn on his own about this disease by reading as much as he could on the subject.

His careful research into diabetes, and experimentation on food intake plus insulin injections, paid off.  Through trial and error, he was able to return to a somewhat normal lifestyle.  On the GI Bill, he attended Western Illinois University, majoring in history, and even played on the university football team for a year.  After marrying my mom in 1956, he was well on his way to completing his degree after my brother was born.

My dad, Bill, and mom, Priscilla, on their wedding day in February, 1956.

But once again, health issues arose when he was diagnosed with TB.  This was most likely contracted while he was in the Marines, during his short time on a submarine, we think.  The infection had remained undetected for several years, with my dad unaware that what he considered normal aches, pains and coughs he  were anything but normal.

Treatments for TB at that time were horrific and often times experimental.  My dad remained isolated  in a hospital sanatorium for a total period of 3 years with other TB patients, many of whom didn’t survive. He experienced several  near-death experiences but managed to pull through out of a shear will to live for his young son and wife.

He eventually was able to finish his university studies and went on to a career as a high school teacher.  His retirement years were full of golf and driving around in his vintage car, a 1960’s Oldsmobile

My dad with his prized car, which he drove with my mom to attend numerous car shows around.

Honoring my Dad

So many flags honored veterans in our Marshall Cemetery

This past Memorial Day had my mom and me visiting our local cemetery to honor my dad, who died in February, 2014.  So many flags had been placed near the tombstones of veterans. This included my dad, of course. We added our metal star and thought of him on this special day, Memorial Day 2020.  We miss you!  You were the absolute best Dad and a committed Marine.  You will always be remembered.

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Posted in a Veteran, Illinois, Travel, Visit To The States | 1 Comment

Walk with Me: My mom Gives Advice on Paying Attention to Surroundings and Keeping Calm

Walk with Me

By Priscilla Wieck

At the end of our morning walk, dog and I usually go by our “new” house to check on the progress being made. We also are getting acquainted with our soon-to-be new neighborhood. Since the houses on both sides of mine are now empty, there are no adjacent neighbors to meet but last week I did have a nice chat with Priscilla Wallace who lives nearby . When I spotted her, she was standing on the corner looking upward.  I thought maybe she was watching squirrels at play.

Not so, however, as Priscilla pointed out that she was observing the large tulip popular tree in bloom that was on the corner next to my house.

This tulip poplar is across the street from us. The blossoms are in the upper branches.

She told me that she had lived in that area for 40 years and never paid special attention to the tree or its flowering until someone told her about it this year. I am glad she told me or I too might have not noticed the small olive green,yellow and orange cup shaped blossoms.

My mom and I managed to snatch a blossom from the tulip popular on our block.

Made me reflect on how much we miss by keeping our eyes looking down and forgetting to look up. There is a Sunday sermon in there somewhere!

Priscilla is a name not often heard in these parts so we engaged in an interesting discussion about the many mis-spellings of our name that we have endured over the years. We parted our ways with promises to meet again for a back yard chat when I get settled in. I now am searching for more blooming tulip popular trees around town thanks to a new friend and soon to be neighbor.

Every media source including newspapers, magazines,Internet and television is featuring items about ways to relieve anxiety. There is so much uncertainty in our lives today that the pressures of just being able to cope with these constant changes is a challenge.

Most of us have heard of meditation methods that are said to help rid us of anxious thoughts and feelings by focusing on deep ,slow breathing and letting the mind ‘float’. Some people who have tried this mindfulness method have reported that trying to ‘float’ their minds has resulted in an increase instead of a decrease in their anxiety level.Trying not to think about what stressed them gave them more stress .Mindfulness does not work for everyone.

I have been reading lately about a mind game method for treating anxiety called the ‘5-4-3-2-1- calming technique. It does start with meditation’s deep breathing , the in for 5 seconds ,hold for 5 and out for 5 method. After the deep breathing, the 5-4-3-2-1- method instructs us to engage our 5 senses to keep us in the present . If you have not had success with the mindfulness meditation technique, perhaps this game will help. You can practice it anywhere—lying or sitting down, walking , doing yard work , housework or just doing nothing.

5– Start with the number 5. Mentally name and see FIVE things around you, a bird, a pencil,a curtain,etc.

4—Mentally list FOUR things you can touch that are around you ,such as your hands, hair,etc.

3—Listen for THREE things you hear around you, a clock, a car, a mower etc.

2—Focus on TWO things you can smell, depending on where you are, a flower, dinner cooking,etc.

1—Think of ONE thing you can taste,gum, lunch,etc.

This mind game is being promoted as a way to bring attention to our senses and keep us in the present . It is used to direct our thoughts away from our problems. By counting different items psychologists think we interrupt the out of control spinning of our thoughts that cause stress. I have tried it at bedtime and it sure put me to sleep in a hurry. I think it would also be a fun game for the kids too. Don’t forget that our young people are facing just as much anxiety as we adults.

You can invent several variations of this game such as increasing the number of items or you can use the old alphabet circle game ,naming different items according to the order of letters in the alphabet . If this doesn’t de-stress you, it might at least help your brain work some. Give it a try! Can’t hurt. Might help. And don’t forget to look up once in a while! Remember the tulip populars!

“When I hear somebody sigh and say, ‘Life is so hard’, I am always tempted to ask—compared to what?”——Sidney Harris


Posted in A Visit Home to America, A Visit Home to Marshall, Illinois, Smalltown American Life, Springtime in small town Marshall, Travel | 1 Comment