Doctor WenChao Wen is a retired surgeon, husband, father, grandfather and lives in Xizhi City (Sijhih City) a suburb of Taipei, Taiwan. He has been a member of the Lion’s Club International and always enjoyed learning new things. He is also the most unforgettable character I have ever met.
“The Most Unforgettable Character I Ever Met” was a regular feature of Reader’s Digest for many years. I remember that was one article that I always read, because it was nice to hear about good unselfish people who made an impact on those around them. I had met just such a person, Dr. Wen, while on duty with the US Navy in the early ‘60’s at Taipei, Taiwan.
I was so impressed with this man that for years after leaving Taiwan I wanted to write about my memories and his character. In honor of this very positive person I will try to tell you about him and our times together.
Dr. Wen’s wife was one of my wife’s cousins. I had met her before along with a lot of her family. At one of our meetings Kuang-Chi asked us to come visit at her home some evening. We agreed and set up a time and date. She said that her husband wanted to ask me to do something. I asked what could I do? She said he would tell me and that it had something to do with helping him practice his English. I thought to myself that I’m not the guy for this because I have had no training and English was not my best subject in school. I said I would come and see just what I could do to help him.
Dr. Wen’s three story hospital was in front of his residence and that is where I met him for the first time. Someone asked me to wait and she would get the doctor for us. He saw us outside the treatment room where he was working on a patient. He motioned us in and told us to have a seat and he would be done soon. When he finished we greeted one another and he asked us to follow him out the back to his apartment.
Behind the hospital and the 3 story apartment building there was a courtyard that contained chickens, ducks and I asked him if he raised them. He answered no they are payment for services to patients that had no other means of paying. I asked was that a common practice and he said yes. We entered the building and went to the second or third floor to his apartment. I asked why he wouldn’t live on the ground floor since he owned the building. The answer was a clue to this man’s nature. He said the lower floors are for the older people of his family. I came to find out that very few people paid rent as they were mostly family.
In his apartment I greeted his wife and some other family members including his brother Wen-Xiong.We talked for a long time and as I listened Dr. Wen gave me an idea of what he wanted. First he wanted to be a friend and considered me family. He really enjoyed talking about the United States. Slang words were of interest and how the same sounds had different meanings. I had always liked synonyms, homonyms and the like. I had books on them and also a book on idioms that I would bring to the next meeting.
About a week later I showed up at the Doctor’s apartment. He was certainly prepared for me. There in the front room was a blackboard with chalk and an eraser. I was a little intimidated at what I was getting into. I wasn’t a trained teacher. Doc put me at ease telling me it was for both of us to use and it may help us get our ideas across. Well eventually I was glad to have the blackboard and it did really help us. Of course there was one more item “for the teacher” and that was a big bottle of Taiwan beer. That helped too. The set up was the same every time I came to his house.
It was always a fun time of conversation and even though I knew Dr. Wen had a lot on his mind it never showed. He always gave you his undivided attention. This made you feel so good and it made you feel special. This was the man and how he was with people. He hung on every word you said as if he was digesting it. We would be talking and comparing cultures, etc., and someone would come in and tell the Doctor that he was needed in the Emergency Room. He would just excuse himself and say he would be back soon, if possible. If he was going to be a long time he would send word. One evening he was called down for surgery and asked me if I want to join him and watch. I was pretty young then, maybe 23 years old, and a little squeamish about such things. I think back now and had wished I would’ve said yes.
The doctor loved his work and loved people. His pleasures in life seem to be treating patients and doing for others. His demeanor was calm, joyful while still being am intense person. He helped many people I am sure and maybe this story will bring some comments from people who know him. He gave me more than just his friendship, he gave me confidence that I had things to offer others. His gift to me was that unwavering direction that he had and great thirst for knowledge. I’ve been told that after he retired he keep busy by reading the whole English Dictonary and putting it to memory
One of those evenings when the doctor was called down for an emergency. I was left alone with his brother and we began a conversation. He noted that I was in the Navy and said he was also in the Navy during WII. I was of course thinking Chinese Navy, then he told me the his ship was sunk off Kaushung by the American Navy. I was startled; how could this be? Maybe he meant he was in the Merchant Marines or something like that. I told him I was confused and he picked up on it and said “Oh I was in the Japanese Navy!This really made me feel funny, but of course that would have been natural since the Japanese ruled Taiwan for 50 years and they put all young men into the service. Twenty years after WII and I’m sitting and talking to a gentleman that was on the other side during the war. Things change thank goodness. By the way the doctor’s brother became a good friend and took my wife and me fishing, then cooked the fish for us. He was studying to become a chef.
Those were great times that I still cherish today and wish I would have spent more time with the good doctor and his family. Anyone that spent time with this gentleman knows how special he is. He was an open book and his door was always open to anyone. If you ever have the chance to spend time with some special person please do so. It’s by giving that you really receive. Fond memories of conversations, Taiwan beer and the good ol’ blackboard.
Recently I reconnected with Dr. Wen’s sister-in-law Ching Yuann Hung at grandmother’s funeral in the MD suburbs. Ching lives in D. C. And has been my friend since my days in Taiwan. She is a cousin to my first wife Ray-Fong Shieh. Ching is supplying me with more information on family names and recent pictures of Dr. Wen and his wife and other relative. Ching is the daughter of the people in the background of the photo I submitted for the family and memories posting.
http://navy-photo.blogspot.com/2011/02/families-and-memories.html#links They are the couple behind me holding a baby. Theirs is another story I would like to share with everyone. One more thing about Ching and her husband they were both architects and they designed the hospital for Dr. Wen. It was one of their first contracts after graduating from college.
Ching Yuann has stayed in contact with the family. Recently she told me that my son Willy had told her that he thought that her parents were his grandparents. They did visit us everytime they came to the States. So my kids saw them more often. Once their grandmother came over they then realized that she was the grandma. Ching sent photos of Dr. Wen and his wife and some family members. Thanks Ching for your help.
ChingYuann in ,probably the summer of 1970, with my three olderst children. Laura, Richard and Willy.
A very special thanks to ChingYuann for helping me with this story.
The location of the Dr. Wen’s hosptial #27 Ji-Long Rd. Section 1. The hospital is no long there and in it’s place is a high rise condo building #25.
In closing I simply want to say “ I love you and your family and will never forget you and what you gave to me. Great Memories !
My hopes for publishing this rememberence is to honor the Doctor. I also hope for others that know the Dr. Wen will read this and make their own comments about him.
Sarj W. Bloom. Taiepi, Taiwan September 1961 – September 1963