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

My Rescue in China: Ping-ping awaits adoption

It’s early evening in Illinois but late morning in China.

This is the time when my phone begins dinging messages and videos from Wayne’s Pet World, the Luzhou pet shop and grooming center that currently is kenneling rescue foster kitty, Ping-ping.

“She is fine,” owner Liu Rongjie texts in Chinese. “Do not worry. Your child is well-cared for.”

Next comes a 15-second video clip of a beautiful gray 8-month old feline in her spacious, closet-sized, glassed-in enclosure.  Kitty toys, bedding, tidy litter box and a straw fish-shaped scratching board litter her plush kennel.  She is energetically gobbling up her breakfast of canned food, a luxury which she certainly never received in my home.  All my rescues ever get is generic dry food.

I re-read Rongjie’s note and watch the video a second time.

Her words of “well cared for” seem to be the understatement of the year.  This kitty is being treated like a royal princess!

Making Adjustments to Adoption Plans

What was only to be a 1-month stay at Wayne’s World, while I helped my mom move in America, is being extended to indefinitely.  I now wait anxiously to return to China which has temporarily canceled all visas of foreigners looking to re-enter the country from abroad.

The fear is that we overseas’ folk will bring the virus back to China in full force.  The country itself has managed a miraculous feat of containing the virus after strict lockdowns throughout the country, in particular Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.   In the past few months, cities have re-opened and life is returning to normal for a majority of the country.  However, a few cases are currently popping up here and there with two having been imported from outsiders, at a northern Russia-China border.

In other words, China is still very wary of overseas’ guests, thus the ban remains.  This I completely understand and am in full agreement with, although it saddens me to say so.

While my travel is put on hold, so is Ping-ping’s adoption.  This was to take place in February, after my return to Luzhou.  Unfortunately, due to the virus,  she will have to remain in the shop until I can be able to personally see to her receiving a forever home.

The Story of Ping-ping


In October, I received a knock at my 9th floor apartment door from Granny Zhang (Jah-ng) on the 3rd floor.  She had her 2-year-old grand-daughter in tow and wanted to borrow one of my collapsable pet cages.  These I have in abundance in numerous sizes, always ready for rescues or for loaning out to others.  I’ve had several in my building borrow these from time to time for rabbits, baby chicks, kittens and even (in one instance) frogs destined for the dinner table the next day.  Everyone on campus knows I am the one to come to for such animal containment help.

I asked why she needed a cage and received a  distraught, verbal gushing in Chinese.  It seems Granny Zhang’s daughter, a teacher on my campus, had picked up a tiny abandoned kitten which she found in the pouring rain on her way back from class.   Granny needed a cage to keep the little one in.  Because I wasn’t sure which size she needed, plus was curious as to the kitten’s state, I asked to come and take a look.

What I saw in her home nearly broke my heart.  The ragged, crying thing was very tiny, perhaps 3 weeks old, and was in need of more care than I felt Granny Zhang was capable of giving. The elderly woman, however, seemed eager to try so I set her up with cage, bedding, kitty food, bowls and a litter tray in the hopes that the kitten would somehow thrive.

I left feeling pleased with myself that I had been so helpful and  relieved that I wouldn’t end up being responsible for yet another stray.

Plea for Help


This tiny girl was not doing well under Granny Zhang’s care.

But after a week, it was apparent that Granny Zhang (despite all her good intentions) was in way over her head.  After asking her during that first week how the kitten was, her distressed, desperate reports caused me to become more and concerned:  “Very bad,” “The kitten has diarrhea.  It poops everywhere,” “It won’t eat,” “It cries all the time,” “It is getting weaker and weaker,” “I give it baths because it is so filthy.”

In other words, under her care, the kitten was in dire straights. It was obvious she wouldn’t survive with Granny Zhang in charge, who had her hands so full with a toddler she had little time to deal with an unweaned kitten.   She needed someone in-the-know how to care for a very young feline.

Who else would that be but the animal-loving foreigner who had the reputation of rescuing lost critters on campus and finding them good homes?

Taking in a lost soul

Thus gray kitten entered my home amidst my teaching duties, English Center activities, grading finals for my seniors (their courses ended a month before others), my Christmas open houses and the usual lesson planning.  We had every 4-hour feedings from a bottle which gave her the nutrition she needed.  Granny, not knowing better, had been feeding her raw meat which the starving thing couldn’t chew.  Nor was processed cow’s milk helping since feline newborns can’t digest it.

My little girl also had an anal infection which I was concerned about.  In a 1-day Saturday trip, leaving at 7 a.m. and returning at 8 p.m., I took her to the capital city of Chengdu for a consultation with my vet, Dr. Wang.  She was placed on oral antibiotics (which I happened to have in my emergency pet kit) and after 10 days, recovered wonderfully.

My emergency run to Chengdu, a bus trip of 8 hours there and back from Luzhou, prove successful. Dr. Wang examined our little girl and recommended antibiotics.

How Ping-ping’s name came about:  A Church in Georgia Gives Input

Throughout the gray kitten’s time in my home, I had been updating overseas’ American friends through emails about her predicament.  When her full recovery seemed a given, I put out a call for a name.  What should I name this little girl?

Bea Terrell, from Flowery Branch UMC in Flowery Branch, Georgia, took this to heart.  During a Thanksgiving Day potluck gathering of her church family, she announced my requests for naming my feline charge.  After discussions floated about among the tables as people ate, suggestions were made to somehow include the word “flower” or “branch” in the kitty’s name.

I added to this and came up with Peaceful Flower, Ping-An Hua (ping ahn hwah) or Ping-ping for short.   Her quiet disposition fit the name perfectly.

Continuing to look for a Home

Ping-ping today is still being cared for while waiting for a forever home. She completed her vaccinations in January and recently had her spay, which now puts her in a good place for adoption.  My kennel owner, Rongjie, and I have posted her picture and story among our combined WeChat groups.  We’ve asked others to pass along our  requests for a home.

Send lots of lucky thoughts her way for a family that will love and take good care of her.  While she is safe and pampered in her current dwelling place, it would be wonderful for her to get the kind of attention, affection and stability a permanent home would bring.

From Illinois, this is Connie wishing you, and Ping-ping, 平安 (ping ahn), “peace” for your Memorial Day weekend.








Posted in A Visit Home to Marshall, China, From Along the Yangtze, Luzhou Vocational and Technical College, Luzhou: Yangtze Rivertown, Luzhou: Yangtze Rivertown Stories, My animal rescue Stories in China, Overseas' pets, Tales of China, Travel | 1 Comment

Walk with Me: My mom’s weekly Column


Now that the days are getting a bit warmer, dog and I are walking earlier in the morning but getting home later. That is because of all the stop and talks. There seem to be more folks about at our earlier than usual hour. Also, now that more progress on my “new” house is taking place , I feel the need to stop by to note the improvement updates. Hopefully, some time this summer I can become the occupant of that much smaller dwelling. In the meanwhile, I am still weeding at the big house, taking care of perennials and trying to resist all those lovely annuals the garden shops are now offering.


We sidewalk walkers are enjoying the well kept yards and gardens around town. The weather hasn’t been too cooperative so far, but we have managed to get around despite all that wind and rain. The “we”are Bridget, my dog, and Connie, my daughter. Connie will be with us for some time as the visa that enables her to return to her teaching position in China has been suspended temporarily because of the virus. She is doing her teaching on line in cooperation with the Chinese teachers and may return there sometime in the fall.

Thanks to all who have asked about my house move and Connie’s return to China. It is good to know that people care about and are interested in what is going on in our lives. We all seem to value and enjoy smalltown ‘small talk.’  Besides, who among us doesn’t like a bit of local news that we can pass along?

Now, as to this week’s Yesterdish.  When I was in 7th grade Home Economics class in Holland, Michigan, one of our projects was cooking up a concoction called “Eggs Ala Goldenrod.”  The name itself seems to have foreign origins but the recipe meets the qualifications as a true American Yesterdish. As exotic as it sounds, it is really just creamed eggs on toast. What a let down. However as a 12-year-old novice cook, I thought that I had achieved some culinary status just by following the recipe, let alone mastering the tricky cream sauce!

Several basic cooking skills were taught during the making of Eggs Ala Goldenrod. They included boiling and peeling eggs, removing the yolks, chopping the whites, making a white cream sauce and grating the egg yolks. The finished product was plated by pouring the white sauce loaded with chopped egg whites over toast points and adding grated egg yolks on top as the final “goldenrod” touch. Quite fancy for a 7th grade Home Economics class, don’t you think? I wonder what Virginia Claypool or Vi Shaffner, our retired Home Economics’ teachers,  would have to say about that recipe.

eggs goldenrod

Eggs Ala Golden Rod

Eggs ala Goldenrod is an old school recipe that, as most culinary researchers note, first appeared in a Fanny Farmer’s Boston Cooking School recipe book in 1886. In the 1930’s and 40’s, this variation of creamed eggs on toast was taught in Home Economic classes all over our country. It even became a traditional Easter breakfast dish for many families. Not in my family however. The only time I recall becoming acquainted with it was in that long ago class. I never much cared for hard boiled eggs anyway, and the added the golden touch didn’t help make them any more appetizing.

However, despite my opinion, over the years this fancy creamed egg recipe has morphed into a way to use up leftovers, common additions being peas, chopped ham, chicken or whatever you have that you want to disguise to get the kids to eat. There are several other second generations of this dish also. Those who were in the service may recall, not so fondly, of chipped beef on toast. It often bears another name but this is a family column so you can figure that out.

Our beloved mid -west favorite of biscuits and gravy has its roots in the creamed egg dish. Another relative is the Welsh Rarebit that my mother often served.  It is a traditional offering featuring a sauce of melted cheese poured over crackers or toasted bread. The Swiss serve something similar as a hot pot with bread as dippers. I am sure you cooks who read this have a stash of your own creamy recipes that are family favorites. Be sure to pass these comfort foods recipes to the younger cooks in your orbit. All of us need all the comfort we can find right now.

“No one is born a great cook—one learns by doing.” — Julia Child


Posted in A Visit Home to America, A Visit Home to Marshall, Illinois, Smalltown American Life, Travel, Walk with Me: My mom's newspaper column | 1 Comment

A diligently recorded overseas’ life makes an appearance


After years in boxes, my overseas’ life emerged from hiding in the attic and has been unfolding before me.

Since my mom’s October, 2019 announcement of a newly purchased house several streets away, the dread of clearing out my things has been looming over me. Diaries, saved letters, pictures, slides,  published articles and sentimental items from Germany, Tunisia, Japan, Taiwan and China awaited re-discovery, then decisions on pitching or saving, keeping or giving away.

How does one begin with 40 years of  documented adventures and memories?

This blast from the past was to have lasted one month.  I had planned to catalog my journals and things by country and date during my Chinese New Year break as a college teacher with the Amity Foundation at Luzhou Vocational and Technical College.  What was to be a 4-week, madly rushed, whirlwind task has now morphed into 5 months and most likely a few more added to that.  Due to the virus, I am still blocked from returning to China until the Chinese government decides to re-activate visas and allow foreigners to return.

That has left me with plenty of time to get into high gear and finally deal with all those vividly recorded recollections from years ago to the present.

Inundated with Emails

The range of my life story is staggering.  I knew I had a lot but this much?!!

I have notebook upon notebook of handwritten journals, airmail letters sent to my parents which my mom squirreled away, published essays of numerous revealing overseas’ experiences, newspaper articles I wrote for local papers, correspondence from former students who wrote to me about their lives and hundreds of pictures either in tidy photo albums (some labeled, others not) or barely seen and still in their just-developed envelopes.

Quite a few of these my mom has on a thumb drive, along with her parents’ war letters, some of which I’ve shared on this website.  Thanks to my high school classmate, Pam, who spent hours upon hours, months upon months, of scanning a majority of those into my mom’s computer, we now have the ability to pull  up quite a few on a computer screen without the worry of well-worn pages shredding, getting soiled or destroyed as they are read or moved about.

Years of printed emails

Most impressive in this library of life, I would have to say, are the 3-ring binders which my mother kept of all my emails, printed out from 1997 – 2020.  These she hole-punched and labeled, beginning from my 3-month orientation with the United Methodist GBGM to my 3 years in Taiwan (1998-2001) to my 22 years in China Mainland with the Amity Foundation (1991-94, 2001- 2020).

The printed version of all these emails was done for my dad’s benefit.

After my mom bought her first computer, she taught herself how to use it.  But my dad became frustrated by the new technology.  Things would disappear for no reason.  Blinking cursors were hard for him to see.  The entire concept of clicking on icons was beyond him. The mouse was especially problematic.  He spent most of his time aggressively punching the mouse, as you would a type-writer key, instead of tapping on it gently.  The result was all sorts of strange things happening on the computer screen which only confused and annoyed him further.

My poor dad!  He completely gave up.

In order for my father to share my news with his wife, without the frustration of computer use, my mom printed out all my emails for  him to read.  After he finished, she hole-punched every page and placed them all into a 3-ring binder, in the order they had been received.

Little did she know her steadfast diligence in doing this on a daily basis, sometimes twice a day as I often sent morning and evening reports from China, would accumulate and span decades.   The result was 50+ 3-ring binders (which she cataloged chroneologically) continuing to take up shelf upon shelf space in the upstairs make-shift library room.  Even long after my father died, she continued her habit of email printing, hole-punching and inserting until this past January 9, which was my last electronic report sent from a Chongqing hotel room early morning before my departure to the States.

Time on My hands

My China updates, however,  have currently halted.  With the Covid-19 situation keeping me here in the States, there have been no emails to my mom, no more 3-ring binder additions, no more details of my life overseas.

The hiatus in entries has allowed me to get busy on compiling all those emails into labeled booklets to get rid of the cumbersome thick plastic binders.

It took me several days but I got them done, after which into the bins they went. . . .

and over to my mom’s new house, carried into the well-sealed garage, where they are now stacked neatly onto shelves.

I must say it’s a bit astounding to see my life, from grade school onward, lined up against a single wall. Wow.  All those years of sentimental things, treasured collections, nostalgic photos, and detailed written experiences of my childhood and adulthood, stuffed into 16 storage bins.  I expect no one will care much for all this long after I’m gone but, just the same, I’m keeping the entire kit and caboodle, at least until my next weeding out.

Still patiently hangin’ in there until my China return,

Connie in Illinois







Posted in A Visit Home to America, A Visit Home to Marshall, China, Illinois, Luzhou Vocational and Technical College, Travel, Wuhan coronavirus | 1 Comment

My Mom’s recent “Walk with me” column: Banana Bread takes the cake as COVID-19’s Yesterdish

By Priscilla Wieck

I came across an intriguing  article last week written by Jen Rose Smith, a CNN correspondent. Part of my interest in the Internet lies in the wealth of trivia I am able to access through its ever-amazing portals. Smith’s article helped add to my daily trivia count and gave me some food for thought–Banana Bread!

According to her article, there has recently been a 54% increase in Internet users looking for time-tested homey food recipes. Baking goodies seems to be a coping strategy for many who are sheltering in place. Banana bread recipes head the list. There are, Smith posits, mental health benefits to be gained by the process of making and baking banana bread. The joy and comfort gained by spending time in the kitchen help in managing stress, she writes. The repetitive movements of cracking eggs, adding flour, mashing bananas, mixing and baking are calming and soothing to our minds and bodies.

When I was growing up, baking banana bread was not a common activity in our household.  Pumpkin occasionally, and maybe a few other quick breads, made it onto our home goody menus but my mother’s main interest lay in the yeasty variety of breads and dinner rolls. I followed in her footsteps (or should I say floury hands) and have spent many a happy hour in my own kitchen kneading various bread recipes and cutting out cinnamon rolls.

Not all of my efforts were successful. Some of you may recall an article Connie wrote about the family cinnamon roll disaster that appeared in the Advocate when Joe Mc Cammon was owner and publisher. It offered quite a few laughs to readers and some embarrassment to my husband, Bill, and me. Most of the time, however, my baking efforts were fruitful. Looking back, I realize that working with yeast dough was a form of relaxation for me so I can relate to the banana bread bakers’ stress reduction choice.

For thousands of years, bakers had used yeasts to raise their breads. In early American baking, alkaline salts such as potash and pearash were used instead of yeast . This shortened the rising time somewhat.  But baking breads really changed when chemical leavening agents were developed, such as baking powder (think famous brandname Clabber Girl) and baking soda in the early 1900’s. Both of these cooking aids were widely distributed and sold to welcoming American housewives because they shortened preparation and baking times. The homemade goodies were named quick breads for obvious reasons and were truly an American invention.

But what about banana bread? Here’s what I found.

By the time the depression occurred in the 1930’s, bananas were widely available as a cheap and nutritious food. Many recipes were developed using them and thus banana bread was born. Its ingredients were available, it was nutritious, it was quick to make and was extremely filling for families on a depression diet. As I write, this I can still remember: the heavy, cloying texture of a piece of homemade banana bread. It fills us up today just as it did years ago .

I don’t have a banana bread recipe to recommend as I must confess, I have not made the concoction myself lately. However, there is a multitude of such recipes to be found in old and new cook books or on the Internet.

In her article about the bread, Smith wrote that Chrissy Teigan, the well-known fashion model, recently traded a loaf of her homemade banana bread for a bunch of romaine lettuce. The lettuce, it seems, was sold out at the stores so she baked the bread and advertised on Facebook for a trade. She got her lettuce and someone got a loaf of banana bread ala Chrissy Teigan. Her recipe? It was a basic foundation but with shredded coconut, chopped dark chocolate and vanilla pudding as add ins.

Hmmm.  How nutritious is that?

The word Yesterdish was coined for old recipes that we still use today. Banana bread is a Yesterdish.  Next week I am going to feature another Yesterdish so watch for it. In the meantime, if you go right now to your kitchen and whip up a loaf of banana bread, you will be keeping up with the celebs and thousands of others of us who are in need of comfort food in these unusual times.

P.S.   Yes, there is a National Banana Bread Day. We missed it. It was Feb. 23rd. Watch for it next year on the same date, 2021!

“The older you get the better you get, unless you’re a banana.” — Betty White



Posted in A Visit Home to America, A Visit Home to Marshall, Illinois, Walk with Me: My mom's newspaper column, Yesterdish | 1 Comment