Blanche Valerie Wong (née Travers), 86, of Springfield, Missouri, passed away September 25, 2019, at TRU Hospice Care Center in Longmont, Colorado due to complications associated with a long-term illness. Blanche’s rich and storied life is one that can only be written out of the tragedy of World War II Europe and the opportunities that followed for so many in Post-War America.
Born in 1933, in Belfort, France, to Armand Eugene Travers and Clara Lea Wehrli, Blanche grew up on her grandparent’s vineyard in the south of France and later moved to Grenoble with her mother and younger sister Marie-Hélène. After the Nazi’s invaded France in 1940, young Blanche and her family would be separated from each other and their home. Over the course of the war, they faced years of displacement and poverty. These experiences formed young Blanche, which she later detailed in a self-published autobiography entitled Letters to My Children.
After the war, Blanche and her family moved to Switzerland to be with her mother’s relatives and it was in Switzerland, a country “always close to her heart,” where she found stability, growth, and a love of art. She studied fashion design in Zurich and received her “Damen Schneiderin” certification, after which she moved to Lausanne, Switzerland to work for Alice Haute Couture. It was in Lausanne where she met and married her love and life partner Dr. George Wong, Jr., from Alamosa, Colorado, who was studying medicine at the University of Lausanne.
The love story between a beautiful, young French woman and a Chinese American war veteran, in Post-War Europe, seems improbable and is one that can only be an American story. Letters written in French between young Blanche and George after he moved back to the United States to start his medical residency, which now seem too personal to read, clearly had an impact on both. George and Blanche eloped and married in Montreux, Switzerland in 1958. Shortly after, Blanche immigrated to the United States to be with George and his parents in Los Angeles, California. They had a second and “proper” Chinese wedding ceremony in Los Angeles.
In the United States, Blanche found the home and family for which she so longed. After moving across several states in the West and Mid-West, Blanche and George eventually settled in Springfield, Missouri, where George started his Neurology practice and Blanche raised six children—George (Francois), Natalie, Jean-Marc, Jean-Paul, Mimi, and Gabby. She will be remembered by friends and the larger community of Springfield for her generosity, grace, beauty, and unyielding faith. She was an active member of Holy Trinity Catholic Church for over 50 years where she served as a eucharistic minister, a minister of the sick, and a member of the Daughters of St. Francis de Sales. Later in life, she rediscovered her passion for art and became active in a local painting and art guild.
But it is the impact on her children’s life that is more keenly felt, and the role of “maman” which she believed was her most important vocation. Her children will remember her self-cultivated love of history, geology and culture, the impact of the intellectual discussions she nurtured at the dinner table, the gentle balance she brought to George’s focus on discipline and school, her unexpected, playful wit, and her reminders to have the courage to think differently.
She is preceded in death by her parents and her husband. She is survived by all six of her children, 19 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren: Dr. George F. Wong, III, his wife Vicki Wong of Springfield, Missouri and their two children, Raymond Wong (wife Cecilia) of Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina and Alexandra Wong (son David) of New Orleans, Louisiana; Dr. Natalie Wong Calhoon, her husband Mike Calhoon of St. Louis, Missouri and their children, Nikki, Billy and Madi Berberich and Annie Calhoon of St. Louis, Missouri, and Allie Johnson (husband Josh) of Kansas City, Missouri; Dr. Jean-Marc C. Wong, his wife Vania Cordeiro DeSousa Wong, and their children Anabela and Valentin Wong of Boulder, Colorado and Jean-Marc’s daughter Kate Magrane (husband Robby and daughter Elise) of New York City; Jean-Paul Wong, his wife Heather Wong, and their three children, Travers, Isabelle, and Amelie Wong, of Prairie Village, Kansas; Dr. Mimi Wong, her wife Leesa Logan, and their children, Audrey Wong and Kyle and Kaysie Logan of Cherry Hills Village, Colorado; and Gabby Wong, her husband Glenn Johnson, and their children, Michael, Andrew, and Neve Johnson of Arlington, Virginia. As well, she is survived by her sister Marie-Hélène (Danielle) Wenk of Switzerland, her nieces and nephew, Marie-Jo Cobos, Thierry Wenk, and Christine Droux (all of Switzerland), and their families.
A Funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Friday, October 4, 2019 at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, 2818 E. Bennett Street in Springfield, under the care and direction of Herman H. Lohmeyer Funeral Home. Visitation will be held one hour prior to service time from 9-10 a.m. at the church. Burial will follow at Hazelwood Cemetery.
The family suggests contributions to the Hospice Foundation of The Ozarks, P.O. Box 9226, Springfield, Missouri 65801.
Permanent online condolences may be shared at www.hhlohmeyer.com.