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 is middle row right. Mary is back row right, just above Mom.
Update: Mary’s beautiful obituary can be found here. Thank you to her family for the notification.
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