The Chinese Wife

My mother told me that Dad, Eugene Nason Doherty, married a woman when he lived in China.  Her father sold her to him, and he married her in a “Chinese ceremony.”  She was about 13 or 14.  Dad was stationed near Peiping, (Beijing) China in 1945-1946. He left the young woman in China when he was shipped backed to the United States.  He went home to his wife, Helen Anderson Doherty, who he married a month before he was drafted by the Marines.

I don’t know the truth to this story.  I never asked Dad about it; and he never said anything to me. Mom dragged out the “Chinese wife” story whenever she needed extra indignities and hurts to fuel a night of drinking.

The woman could not live in a Marine barracks, so he must have put her up in a hotel.  She may also have lived in a brothel.  Marines had accesses to them via helpful rickshaw men and maps their units provided. Some Chinese families displaced or impoverished by war sold daughters into prostitution. Dad’s “wife” was one of those girls.

I have thought about her over the years and wondered what became of her after he left.  She lived through a gigantic transformation of China—the Communist victory, the Cultural Revolution, all the Great Leaps Forward into famine—did she survive?

Towards the very end of his life, I asked Dad if he had any other children.  He laughed, said it was “just like me” to ask.  He replied, “No, none that I am aware of.”

On June 14, 2019 my sister, Sharon, and I buried our parent’s ashes in Rose Hill Cemetery in Linden, NJ.  On the drive back to the house after the internment, Sharon and I exchanged stories. They are now immortalized under “Dad told you WHAT!?”

My sister said that Dad told her he had one possibly two sons in China. I don’t know if they were both with his “wife” or not.  Is it true?  Dad chose his words carefully with me but was clear with Sharon that he fathered children during the war.

The Chinese wife, if she is still alive, should be 88 or 89 now.  His boys or son would be in their early 70s. Could we have an older half-brother in China, nieces, and nephews? Time has lost and scattered everyone Dad knew. I remember saying to my son, when he visited Beijing, “If you see someone who looks like me, we’re probably related.” That was before I heard my sister’s story.

We wouldn’t be too surprised if we ever see a Chinese surname show up on our list of DNA relations.












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By Karen