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Ladies of Mt. Carmel hear Pearl S. Buck’s Amerasian daughter


Amerasian Julie Henning, born in South Korea during the Korean War was the speaker at the September meeting of the Ladies of Mount Carmel.

Saved from a life of hardship and deprivation by Pearl S. Buck, she was brought to America at age 13 and raised as Buck’s daughter. Her “rags to riches story” played to a full house, captivated by the story of the animated entertainer for well over an hour.

Married to Doug Henning, Suni (her Korean name meaning sweet) is a retired schoolteacher from the Souderton School District, proud mother of two children and grandmother of five.

She is also an author. Her book, “A Rose in a Ditch, is due to be released in time for the November Craft Fair at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and will also be available on Amazon. Life is good now. But it wasn’t always that way.

Orphaned at age 13, Henning was an outcast during her life in Korea.

“Amerasian is a mixed race of Asian and American,” said Henning, facing her audience and meeting their eyes.

As her story unfolds, Henning reveals that her mother “escaped from North Korea and supported herself with a waitress job in a coffeehouse where she met my father.”

“They never married, but he supported us,” said Henning. “He was married and wanted to take me home to America.”

Her mother would never allow that. The two were all that each other had in this world. They washed clothes side by side in a stream in order to support themselves. Henning revealed that she was a master at catching grasshoppers and stringing them together so she could take them home to her mother who slid them one at a time from the string into a boiling pot of water.

“They tasted just like cashew nuts,” said Henning smiling proudly.

She also sold gum and shined shoes on the street for extra income. Collecting mushrooms was another form of delaying hunger. The memory of her sister’s dying at age two from malnutrition was a nagging fear that never left her.

When she came home crying from school, she and her mother sat and cried together in their tiny one-room house. Despised and unwanted, she was taunted by the other children who called her “yellow hair.” When the crying was over, her mother went out and bought a bottle of dye as a remedy for the problem.

“Fear produces prejudice,” was Henning’s summation of that dilemma.

In the sixth grade, her dress for school was often damp when she wore it. It was the only one she had. She was wearing it the day that the principal knocked on her classroom door with a telegram for her. That piece of correspondence informed Henning that her mother had passed away. She was taken to identify her and was provided with a helpmate to dig her mother’s grave and bury her – the only person who ever loved her.

She never gave up hope. Achieving the honor of being first in her class of 600 students, she insists, “I wasn’t smart, I was scared.” She worked hard, and when Pearl S. Buck was looking for an Amerasian daughter at the time, to take home to America, this was one of the reasons she was chosen.

Her education continued at Pennridge High School and she was driven by a chauffer daily though she wished that she could “ride in that yellow bus with all the cute boys.”

As a Korean she practiced Buddhism. As a firm believer in God she is a weekly student of Bible study. The interpretation of her scattered life and its constant interruptions is simple.

“God is good and will cause all things to be good,” said Henning.

Henning will speak at the Ladies’ Advance/Renew Women’s Conference on Sept. 20 in Johnson City, N.Y.