OMG, Mary Tan Hai is Found – 52 Ancestors #275

Late last night, the son of my mother’s dance partner, Mary Tan Hai, reached out to me after googling his mother’s name during the time she danced in Chicago and found my 52 ancestors article about Mary and mother dancing together during WWII.

Except, her name really wasn’t Mary Tan Hai. It was changed from something I never knew until last night to protect her from being sent to a concentration camp during the war.

If you recall, I wrote about my mother’s professional ballet and tap dancing career during WWII, here. Mother’s dance troupe partner and good friend, Mary, was Japanese. Her family was interred in the Japanese Detention Camps here in the US. Mary couldn’t communicate with them or her Japanese identity would be discovered and she would be sent away too.

In order to protect Mary, they changed her name and the dancers protected her within the troupe. Mary “became” Chinese. There was no record in the troupe of her Japanese origins, just in case. I don’t know if mother ever knew Mary’s true name.

My mother was born in 1922. After Mom’s fiancé was killed in action, she left the troupe and eventually lost track of Mary, but never forgot her best friend and roommate. She talked about Mary and wondered what happened to her. I presumed when I wrote the article about Mom’s dancing career that Mary had long-ago passed. I searched, but I couldn’t find anything about Mary Tan Hai anyplace. Now I know that’s because that wasn’t her real name.

I was wrong. Mary wasn’t deceased.

Mary’s family is “gathered round her”, her son wrote me last night, as she prepares to pass over. Mary and Mom will reunite soon. Oh, the stories they’ll have to tell. The hugs they’ll share!

Even though I’m at RootsTech today, I quickly found a table on the Expo Hall floor, downloaded the photos from my own blog to my laptop, colorized the photos at MyHeritage, downloaded them and mailed the newly-alive colorized photos to Mary’s son.

A few hour later, I receive a lovely gift in return that I never imagined. Mary, as it turned out, had a photo album with pictures of mother I had never seen. I am forever grateful. After I sort through what I received, I’ll be publishing that information soon.

I’m so glad to know that Mary married, to a serviceman it turned out, had a family and a long, wonderful life. Perhaps Mary can still enjoy these photos, and if not, I know, based on the thank you note that her family is.

Thank you so much MyHeritage for providing this AMAZING tool to allow us to connect and share and remember. For everyone who is interested in colorizing photos, the first 10 are free for people without a MyHeritage subscription, and unlimited free colorization of photos if you do have a subscription. I’ve provided instructions here.

Now, take a look at these beautiful colorized photos!

Mother, Mary Tan Hai and troope

Mother is middle row right. Mary is back row right, just above Mom.

Mother, Mary Tan Hai and troope colorized

Mother and Mary Tan Hai

Mother and Mary Tan Hai colorized

Mary Tan Hai

Mary Tan Hai colorized

Mary Tan Hai gazebo

Mary Tan Hai gazebo colorized

Mother, Mary Tan Hai lawn

Mother, Mary Tan Hai lawn colorized

Mary Tan Hai well

Mary Tan Hai well colorized

Mom, Mary Tan Hai peeking

Mom, Mary Tan Hai peeking colorized

Update: Mary’s beautiful obituary can be found here. Thank you to her family for the notification.



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33 thoughts on “OMG, Mary Tan Hai is Found – 52 Ancestors #275

  1. This is so wonderful it makes my heart smile! The photos are amazing and I’m happy your family and Mary’s are able to share such memories with each other.

  2. Okay I officially cried this time. What an amazing thing to do for a family. I heard you tell this story at the wiki booth and held back the 😭

  3. Your Mom was the “prettiest of the pretty” and looks so happy!

    I know she still lives within you with all of your precious memories of her.

  4. What a chance virtual encounter!

    And brand new photos of your mother too!

    The same for Mary and her family, I hope it will brighten her days.

  5. That is amazing, so happy for you! The photo with your mother and Mary on the beach, your mother has her head tilted back with a big smile. I did a double take on that photo. I saw you in her, like you look when you take selfies.

  6. Roberta, I wanted to let you know that I’m a genealogy buff, but I appreciate much your pics of your mother’s history, quilts, etc.

  7. Beautiful pictures and wonderful story! Did you happen to notice that your mom’s note with the last picture says Mary is Japanese? Could that have been a clue that the name Hai was wrong?

  8. Wow what a wonderful find for you. Are there some setting in the Colorize program to to further bring out the colors?

  9. I’m glad for your good news, Roberta.
    Genealogy and genetic research has a way of paying back all our efforts a hundredfold!

  10. How wonderful that your mother & her colleagues gathered round & protected Mary against the hateful laws of the time, just because they were decent people.
    Hopefully many stories of similar quiet resistance to the current official bigotry & hatred will come out later when this current regime is no longer ruling the USA…

  11. Thanks for sharing Roberta. Just wonderful for Mary’s family at this sad time. My extended family are really enjoying seeing the colorised photos I’m sharing…everyone seems to come alive!

  12. Great story. Glad that the two families connected again after all that time even though the circumstances could be better.

    Wartime is always horrible anywhere, but I’m glad you eventually made the distinction between widely held meanings of interment and concentration camps. Neither acceptable, but in this case one certainly with a larger and more horrific outcome than the other.

  13. Thank you Roberta! The colorized photos took our breath away. I emailed you some more that I found.


  14. Pingback: MyHeritage New Photo Enhancer – Seeing Family Faces for the First Time | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

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