I am writing this on Thanksgiving Day. Soon the Advent season will be upon us. It is a time to reflect on the many blessings we have been granted this past year. Health is high on our list along with the gift of so many wonderful friends and relatives. We are grateful to live in this peaceful Northwest comer of the U.S. We are sad that peace is so scarce in the rest of the world.
This was a year of travel. In January I had a wonderful vacation with friends of 50 years, Estelle and Shirley, in Green Valley, Arizona near Tucson. I was amazed at the beauty of the desert and the many varieties of cacti. We went on many excursions.
On Memorial Day weekend we flew to Las Vegas for the opening at the MGM Grand of George’s photo exhibit “GIs and the Kids – A Love Story.” Buzz Aldrin, Korean War Veteran and astronaut, was the main speaker. Jane Russell and Terry Moore were hostesses for the evening. They did a great job. Many old veterans wept as they met, for the first time in over 50 years, the children whose lives they saved during the Korean War. The exhibit had its first Korean showing in Seoul in August.
In June David, George and I drove in my new Toyota Prius on a trip back to the first Hassel family reunion in Wisconsin. We found the car comfortable and pleasant to drive for all that distance. It was especially good to see Jack Monahan and his new wife Marilyn and to find aunt Eleanore in such good health. David was delighted to meet so many of his cousins and other relatives since, except for Todd, Michelle and Cyle, we have no family here in the northwest. We stayed with my brother Herbert and his wife Sue. David just loved being spoiled by his Aunt Sue!
In August George went to Korea for several weeks to attend a gathering of Korean War veterans and then spent time on Cheju-do, an island to the south of Korea, and in Kwangju where he was consulting on the creation of a sculpture garden and museum.
Our major trip was to China. There were 5 in our group; three hyperactive guys from Bellingham, George being the oldest. Also was a spinning friend, Barbara. We got along very well as a group which caught the attention of one of our guides who said that she had never had a group that interacted so well other members of the group..
Our three-week trip took us from Beijing with its Forbidden City, wonderful restaurants and old neighborhoods loaded with antiques and art to the far western part of China where we visited the city of Kasghar on the old Silk Road near the border with Afghanistan and Pakistan. We went to Turpan in the center of the desert and Urumqi, the capitol of Xinjiang Province. We joined the tourist mobs to see the clay warriors in Xi’an and climb the Great Wall to the north of Beijing. In Beijing we were met by Jean Ge whom we knew in Bellingham almost 20 years ago. She and her husband Ge Guo, who was a former student of George’s, helped plan the trip for us and made all travel arrangements. They also hosted many fabulous meals and helped us get wonderful discounts on planes and hotels.
The day after we got back from China a traditional roof tile installer arrived from Korea to install the tiles on the roof of the Korean War Children’s Memorial pavilion. He did an incredible job so we now have a traditional work of art reflective of Korea’s artistic heritage in the park behind our house. With the completion of the pavilion George has met the goals for his Korean War Children’s Memorial project that he set for himself six years ago. Now he can focus on other things. If you have not seen his web site which has over 1,570 pages check it out. www.koreanchildren.org .
Basically we are in good health but age is taking its toll. The China trip convinced me that I should have done it years ago. We are both very glad we did most of our traveling while young.
With all the travel we did this year we got into the mountains here in our own backyard only once. We are truly blessed with a lovely home in a beautiful garden setting. This fall the color of the Japanese maples was absolutely incredible; reds, golds, yellows, copper, and many hues hard to describe. Already we can see snow on the tops of the nearby hills beyond the far end of Lake Whatcom. Winter is coming with its rain and cloudy skies but we hope to break up the lack of winter sun with our trip to Mexico.
Just the other evening Todd and Michele stopped by for a brief visit. We hadn’t seen them for a long time. They seem to be doing well. We plan to get together over the holidays.
Love to you all and best wishes for happy holidays and good health in the coming year. Pray for peace.
Mary Ann, George and David