TODAY marks the 75th anniversary of  the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.  Grandma Gwen (Dean’s mother) was born on Maui and was raised there by her grandmother.  December 7, 1941 was called “a date which will live in infamy” by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  A few years ago, Grandma Gwen sent us the following remembrance about her experience on that day:

“I was about 7-years-old when this harbor was bombed by the Japanese.  I had just reached the chapel in Kihei when the (LDS church) district leader Bro. Pia Cockett announced the bombing had taken place.  I did not understand bombs.  We were told to watch the sky for blue parachutes and report it to authorities.  I was terribly frightened but I did not know why I was to be frightened.  I did not understand.  He dropped me off in front of grandma’s home and I went in and told her we had to keep our windows blackened and no lights were to be exposed.  How frightened I was as grandma explained war and what it means.  We listened to the radio to get information and learned so many of our service men were killed in the raid on Oahu.  These men were preparing for war and they were killed because there was no alarm given of the planes which flew under radar into the islands.”


Gwen, ChildThis is Gwendolyn Kuulei Felisa Arce, my mother-in-law!  She was born on 20 May 1934 in Kihei, Maui.  Her father, Esteban Arce, and her mother, Helen Kang, divorced soon afterwards.  Mom ended up being raised along with several cousins on Maui by her maternal grandmother, Julia Saffery.  They were poor, but mom has recounted stories of her grandmother to us.  Grandma Saffery often fished and/ or harvested seaweed in the ocean to provide for her family.

In 2007, Mom and Dad sponsored a family reunion in Hawaii for all their children/ grandchildren.  During that special trip, mom acted as a tour guide telling us about her childhood in Hawaii.  Most memorable for me were her stories as a 7-yr-old girl trying to understand the bombing of Pearl Harbor and later, the way her life was changed when a teacher took notice of her and helped her earn a scholarship to Mid-Pacific Institute on Oahu.  Education changed her life.  Here are the memories she emailed to us in preparation for that family reunion.

Gwen, NurseMom studied nursing and finished her education in St. Louis, Missouri.  I think about her life as a small child on Maui… not the most auspicious of beginnings.  The confusing family situation with cousins and there were step-brothers/ sisters on other islands.  God took notice of her and blessed her with opportunities; she took advantage of those opportunities to work hard and succeed, despite her fears.  I admire her courage and fierce desire to follow Christ; she considered becoming a nun, but her studies instead led her to grow stronger in her original faith.

Gwen met Fred in St. Louis.  Their love developed slowly; likely because she was cautious and may not have felt she could trust in the arm of flesh as much as she trusted in God.  When it seemed that it would not work out, that is when he called for her to join him in Germany.  Imagine the trust it took for her to join him then!  The long trip on the ship… disembarking to see him waiting… theirs is a true love story.

I love you mom!!  Thanks for your example of courage and trust in God despite any stumbling blocks.  May you be blessed with the energy you desire to continue caring for the man you love.  May you be confident in the love of your children and their knowledge of your many sacrifices.  Merry Christmas!


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