I am very sorry to report that Dr. Mary Jane Vance recently passed away. The following obituary appeared on the Herald Banner website:
Dr. Mary Jane Hodges Vance, May 22, 1934 – January 4, 2021
The long-time Greenville educator, consultant, author and speaker joined the choir of angels peacefully at home on January 4th, 2021. Born in Manila, Philippines on May 22, 1934, to American and Spanish parents, Jesse A. and Mary Gamero Hodges, Mary Jane lived an extraordinary life and left an indelible impact on many.
She survived Japan’s Occupation during WWII and sailed enemy waters on the USS Uruguay as the first atom bombs dropped. As a repatriated American citizen, she and the surviving members of her family arrived in San Francisco on August 13, 1945 only to experience the worst riot ever in that city on V-J Day. Her long family journey to the U.S. finally ended in Hunt County, the birthplace of her father.
She and her siblings had been without the ability to attend school for 3 years during the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines during WWII. Eager to enroll in school here in her new country, she quickly caught up on her missed schooling and even skipped a few grades to complete her high school diploma from Quinlan High School (Quinlan, TX). She excelled academically and graduated with honors for her undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate degrees from East Texas State University (now Texas A&M-Commerce). During her college years she became a member of many organizations including the national honor society Phi Beta Kappa and then sorority Tooanoowee, which later became Gamma Phi Beta.
The tragedy that befell a non-interned Spanish family is detailed a recent El País article titled Anna Maria: The Spaniard who survived 16 bayonet wounds during the Battle of Manila.
The 28 August 2020 article, by José Manuel Abad Liñán, begins:
“Anna Maria’s first life began in Cebu City in the Philippines on August 23, 1938. That was the day she was brought into the world by her mother Aurora, the daughter of two Catalans from Cerdanyola del Vallès who had immigrated to the Philippines to work in copra, the dried kernel of the coconut which is used in soaps and oils. Her father, Plácido Antonio, had left Onda in the Spanish province of Castellón to work for the prosperous General Tobacco Company of the Philippines (CdF), the first Spanish multinational. In the end, the family moved to Cavite, south of the capital Manila, where speaking Spanish did not clash so much with chabacano, the creole language spoken by the local population.”
Anna Maria Aguilella arriving in Barcelona in 1946
At points, it is a very difficult story for me to read, because it echos what happened to my family during the Battle of Manila. In that instance, my mother and grandmother, together with their neighbors, were taken out of their homes in Manila by the Japanese to be shot. Luckily for them, and me, that didn’t happen. However, the outcome for Anna Maria’s family was far more tragic. I think that it is important to read for those who were inside, and outside of, the camps, showing the trauma that far outlasts the experience.
Link to the full article in El País.