Family time and touring with adult siblings

30 05 2016

The third leg of the trip “abroad” was a visit to Pennsylvania where DH Pete’s sister lives and his brother works.

(For the first and second legs, please head back to for my travelogue.)

The siblings were born four years apart. Their parents planned it that way for the purpose of affording college tuition. The one other time they toured together as adults was in 2004, after both parents died in Winter 2003. We arrived to spread Dad’s remaining ashes on Memorial Day and went back to the geographical middle of the state and found the family farm of yore.

So last week’s reunion was a special occasion. Penny and Paul took time off from work, and Paul drove in from New Jersey. We were honored.

I am not going to bore you with the family dynamics because every family has them. Suffice it to say that everyone was on their best behavior, and we didn’t discuss religion or politics! 😉

We had fun touring several visitor attractions in the area. Here are the pictures.

The Wharton Escherick Studio in Malvern, PA, work place of the late artist, is open as a small museum showing his architecture, wood furniture, sculpture, and two-dimensional creations. Escherick was a master of free form design.

Stone, wood, and stucco comprise three sections of the artist's studio built in increments as they were needed.

Stone, wood, and stucco comprise three sections of the artist’s studio built in increments as they were needed.



Color was mixed into the stucco for the tower. The fresco design represents sky, trees, and tree trunks. A free form deck emerges in the back and to the right.



Workshop painted the color of the workers blue jeans, left, and the garage at right.

The boys were in heaven at the C. F. Martin & Co., Inc., factory in Nazareth, PA, where 250 new guitars are made every day. The fabrication, assembly, and finishing is done by human hands as well as by robots. But how does a Martin guitar sound? Visitors get a chance to play them.

Paul and Pete, two boys in a candy store, try out the Martins.

Paul and Pete, two boys in a candy store, try out the Martins.





Winterthur is the mansion of the late Henry Francis du Pont. There he founded the premier museum of American decorative arts. Du Pont collected whole room interiors of period design and re-installed them in his own home. One time we visited at Yuletide, and the rooms were decorated as they would have been during the particular period. Very pretty! Only some floors are open for tours. There is just too much, impossible to see all of it. My favorite room was the Chinese Parlor where the wall covering was paper, hand painted in China.


Longwood Gardens is the must-see for everyone, and particularly appreciated by horticulturists, landscape architects, and lay plant lovers. Beautiful! Everything at their prime. Like Winterthur, it’s impossible to see all the acreage. DH wanted to see the Italian water fountains, and I enjoyed the views of blooming rhododendrons along the way through Peirce’s Woods, named after the family who owned the land prior to Pierre du Pont, who maintained the designed of the “rooms,” as he called the gardens within a garden.

Plein air painters enjoy lots of subject matter

Plein air painters enjoy lots of subject matter.



Italian Water Fountains



Peirce’s Woods in bloom


Brother Paul treated us to a private tour of Philly Shipyard where he works. It is perhaps the largest builder of new commercial ships (like Matson container ships vs. military ships) in the US. Small pieces of steel are welded to larger pieces that are welded to even larger pieces, etc., until the vessel is finished and launched. They are humongous.


I have to give a special shout out to Richard, Penny’s fiancé, who allowed us to ride with him in his pick-up to the Saturday-morning garage sales in Phoenixville and Collegeville. The hunt is his passion. Although the pickings were slim Memorial Day weekend, he found me a pair of brand-new Eddie Bauer shorts for a dollar. Just in time as Spring had turned to Summer in just a couple of days with temps reaching 90 degrees F.!

In between the visitor attractions we spent quality time catching up about our respective families (kids and grandkids) as well as seeing old and new friends. Hoagies, Thai food, and delicious home-cooked meals by Penny and Paul with ingredients from the fabulous Wegmans megastore…I have to mention those.


Pete, Penny, and Paul

Pete, Penny, and Paul

Thanks Penny and Paul for your hospitality. We had a great time. Now I’m back in Kaaawa, Oahu. It’s great, too.

New book, new millennium

20 08 2012

Click to zoom into coverJust released! In time for my family reunion: The Chong Family in A New Millennium, by James H. Kim On Chong-Gossard and edited by yours truly (Chong Hee Books, 2012). This is the project that kept me busy in the studio for the past several months!

Author Chong-Gossard is my first cousin once removed and the family genealogist, the keeper of the family tree. He wrote the main text that tells the family story beginning with my maternal grandparents emigrating from China to Kohala on Hawai‘i island and how they reared 15 children. Other articles, anecdotes, essays, family photos, genealogy charts, and a memorial section round out the story to bring the reader up to the present day.

I’d like to share the book with you. To read an electronic version, head over to The printed book is available at


A family reunion and another book seemed right for 2012, Jim Chong-Gossard and I agreed. We would plan both for the 20th anniversary of The Chong Family History that he authored and that launched Chong Hee Books in 1992. (Chong Hee means long-winded in Chinese. ;-))

Cousin Jim was and still is the most literate person in publishing I’ve had the pleasure to work with in my career. We simply speak the same “language,” and he can read my mind or even answer my next question before I ask it. I don’t have to blue-pencil his manuscripts much.

We started by discussing what we wanted our book to accomplish. I had some concepts and visions swirling in my mind that Jim was able to merge with his own insights, giving them focus. As author he’s quick to grasp the ideas and articulate them. We spent two long weekend evenings during Jim’s faculty leave, separated by about six weeks, working together at the studio to set up the direction of the book. We had lunch with a few other relatives to test our method.

I was looking for a story that was fresh, candid, current, spontaneous and loving. Then Jim went back to Australia to teach at the University of Melbourne, and I began to scour my cousins’ Facebook albums for images and postings that told a story.

The technology of Facebook and have changed publishing, and The Chong Family in A New Millennium is an example of how. I wanted to try an e-book as well as the usual ink-on-paper. I did enough research to decide the book did not have to be an e-book per se; I just wanted readers to have access to it from the internet. If I could create Rebekah’s Studio using, then I could use the same free blog service and software — something I was already familiar with — for the new book.

I created the genealogy charts on Excel with the data Jim collected from family. No need for fancier software. To have a family tree appear as a chart on the screen and not a link that viewers would have to click on and then leave the site, I converted it to a pdf and then used — a tip from the wonderful volunteer techie on the Forum (quick help when you need it).

I picked a simple theme (layout) for the electronic version because I wanted the text and photos to translate easily to print. Somewhere I had read about “blog to book” and I began to research the possibilities. I settled on the book service of, mainly because blurb has been around for awhile, and the description of the service was comparatively easy to understand.

I read the entire site before taking a leap of faith and downloading the free software application called BookSmart, one of several to choose from. The software one picks depends on the original format that the book is in. In my case, it was a blog that BookSmart would “slurp” (new vocabulary word) into a layout template that I chose.

The advantage of going this route and not supporting my local printer was the time I saved, especially as I had a hard deadline. I wanted the books available at our family reunion. Once I thought every page was perfect, I clicked the Order button for one single copy—you can order one or more than one—and the book immediately was on the printing press and delivered in about 10 days. This is called “print on demand” for small runs. The single copy served as my proof copy that I gave to my detail-oriented friend Rosemary to read before I made final corrections and placed a larger order.

Understand that there is a learning curve. BookSmart is just an editing and publishing tool, after all, and I was fortunate to be from the old school of cut and paste with rubber cement. But what a tool! The technology is exciting! If the resolution of a photo is not correct, for example, it will suggest that you fix it. Just click on the Fix button and voilà! If it is totally unusable, it will say so as well. The application allows you to drag and drop into your layout, and you can even edit the layout (though I did not take the time to learn how to do that; the choices of existing layouts worked fine for my needs). I am very happy with the results.

Here’s the best part. has an online bookstore and will take care of everything, right down to depositing money into your PayPal account. Now, how cool is that?!

Copyright 2012 Rebekah Luke

Happy new year! What’s on your plate for 2012?

1 01 2012

♥ LOVE, Love, love! ♥ We made it! A happy and loving new year to all. Muah! It’s gonna be a good one!

What’s new on your plate for 2012? Here’s what’s on mine: 1 lotus petal, 2 reunions, 2 books, 50 lei, and plenty of Skype.

This month I’m getting ready to teach my first formal course in Painting, to be launched in February at my studio in Kaaawa. Our kids and grand kids will be moving to Italy for their work around that time, and with a crib and other childrens’ things gone from our place, I’ll be rearranging the furniture to make room for a few students and floor easels. I can envision another petal of my lotus opening. Exciting!

As we have all noticed, I’m sure, this is a time of great change in our lives and on our planet. I look at these changes as part of the circle of life and events to be celebrated.

Of course, having one’s family move half way around the world is a big change, and we are helping each other adjust emotionally as well. My darling husband (DH), who was Miss Marvelous’s primary caregiver in her first year when her parents worked outside the home, and I will miss the two toddlers especially. It’s so much fun watching them develop.

Thank goodness for Skype. Thank goodness for a great reason to travel to Europe—I’m projecting in 2013—and thank goodness they will be back here in three years.

In June I’m partying and reminiscing with my Punahou Class of ’67 classmates for our 45th high school reunion. Yes, indeed, it’s been that long. Nearly everything is set for the six-day event, and I hope many will attend. We’ll have such a great time reconnecting.

In July I’m committed to welcoming the yachts of the Pacific Cup race to Hawaii, and my crew of lei makers will be on call once again.

Come August it’s a biggie. I’ll have published a new book and e-book about my relatives in time for a gathering. My cousins of my mom’s side and I are going to North Kohala on Hawaii island for a family reunion. Kohala is where my grandparents and their 15 children lived until June 1925 when they moved to Honolulu.

In 2011 I made two scouting trips there to find the old house (it had been moved, and I found it!) and to gather information for the trip. Our family is so fortunate that we can literally walk the land of our ancestors and experience the place of their birth.

And that’s it. Pretty full, huh? I’m sure yours is too. It’s meant to be. I wish you love during the transition. There still may be some bumps in the road, so take it easy. Thank you so very much for visiting, and check back often during the year. Reiki blessings to all. ~ Love, Rebekah

Copyright 2012 Rebekah Luke

Before and after the party

10 05 2010

Granddaughter’s birthday, Mother’s Day, visits from grandparents, aunties, and friends from across the ocean.

Hawaiian tradition calls for a celebration when a child turns one because, in olden times, many children did not survive the first year of life.  Thankfully, our family’s littlest one is healthy and thriving! Hauoli la hanau!

While the rest of the family opened the imu (underground oven) to take out the kalua (baked) pork, turkeys, and uala (sweet potatoes) for the luau celebrating her first birthday,

Opening the imu. It's hot!

Miss Marvelous and her Papa went for a morning walk along the beach.

Miss Marvelous and Papa

Let me! I'm one now!

Next day was Mother’s Day, and we took a relaxing drive to Mokuleia on the North Shore to see the polo matches. White team won 4-3.

Beach at Mokuleia

White team won 4-3

Copyright 2010 Rebekah Luke

From national park to national park

28 09 2009

Watching Ken Burns’s “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” on PBS last night reminded me of two great trips we took in 2004 across parts of the continental U.S. where some of the parks are located.

Lower Falls at Yellowstone

Lower Falls at Yellowstone

This excellent PBS-TV program about the national parks continues every night this week through Friday, 8 to 10 p.m. HST, and repeats at 10 p.m.  I highly recommend watching/taping it.

That year, 2004, we decided to meet and enjoy some of our family on Moku Honu (North America, Hawaiian for Turtle Island as Native Americans call it)—an idea inspired by the fact that my father, my hanai (adopted) father, and darling husband’s mother and father all passed over in 2003.

I used the internet and telephone to make all the travel arrangements myself.

The first trip was in May. We had a date with DH’s brother and sister on Memorial Day to spread their father Walter’s ashes at Mount Nittany on the Penn State campus per his request. We started to entertain the idea of driving ‘cross  country, but which route?

We also wanted to call on uncles and aunts and their families who DH seldom saw and who I had never met. Walter had two brothers, Uncle Lee in Texas and Uncle Ron in Virginia. Let’s go visit!

We got out the road atlas. I plotted the towns and thought of who else we could call on between Texas and Pennsylvania. I thought of Cousin Eddy in Memphis, Tennessee, of my mom’s side of the family, and my brother-in-law Paul in his new house in North Carolina.

Upon further examination of the map, I could see that we could plan a route and visit a couple of national parks and other visitor attractions too. We agreed we would drive short distances, maybe four or five hours at a time, not all day, then stop and stay no more than three days at each place. We didn’t want to wear out our welcome.

Here is the route and the itinerary, in case you’ll be in the vicinity and want some ideas:

Fly from Honolulu to Dallas. Visit Uncle Lee and family in Plano and Tyler, Texas.

Pick up a rental car in Tyler, drive to Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas, then to Memphis. Turn in the car.

Tour Memphis with expert tour guide Cousin Eddy. (I have to mention the famous Memphis barbecue, Graceland, Sun Studio, Stax Museum, National Civil Rights Museum, Beale Street (rockabilly music by the Dempskys), soul food, Memphis in May festival, plus a drive to Ripley, Mississippi, to visit Eddy’s aunt and eat pie!)

In Memphis, buy a lot of music CDs. Go pick up the next rental car. (Would we mind driving a van that needs to be delivered to Philadelphia for the same rate? As long as it has a CD player, no problem!)

Listening to our music, drive the length of Tennessee to Nashville, attend the Grand Ol’ Oprey.

Enjoy the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from Gatlinburg, TN, and over the border to Cherokee, North Carolina. Drive slow along the very scenic Blueridge Parkway from Cherokee to Blowing Rock, NC. Stay at Chetola Lodge for the Celtic Music Festival.

Turn right (east) to visit Paul and family in Summerfield, NC,  head up to Virginia to visit Uncle Ron and Aunt Marge, and then on to Sister Penny’s in Collegeville, PA.

At the end of week no. 3, after spreading Walter’s ashes, we were in the Nittany Valley in the exact center of Pennsylvania. We located DH’s grandmother’s old farmhouse of his childhood, and we ran into his other cousins, all still farmers, of a family who has remained in the area since their ancestors arrived from the old country. This trip to the Nittany Valley was the first time DH, his brother and his sister traveled together as adults. I’m sure they will always remember it.

The second road trip was in September. We enjoyed the May experience of driving so much that we decided to meet the Luke relatives before meeting up with two of the Sinclair sisters on their annual pilgrimage to Yellowstone National Park.

Steamy landscape at Yellowstone

Steamy landscape at Yellowstone

I wanted to visit Aunty Julia, my father’s last surviving sister who lived with her daughter Loris’s family in Stockton, California. We started in San Francisco and met Cousin Laureen and family. Together we drove to Stockton to see Julia and Loris. Another cousin Lorene, not to be confused with Laureen, and her husband drove from Sacramento bringing dim sum for lunch. Throughout the afternoon Loris’s several kids stopped in with their kids, and we had a really nice reunion.

Loris has a sister, Bee, who lives in South Fork, Colorado. So next morning we flew from Oakland to Albuquerque and drove to Santa Fe, New Mexico. (In Santa Fe I can recommend El Paradero B&B, El Farol restaurant, and the Georgia O’Keeffe museum and café.) From there we went to Mesa Verde National Park, then to Durango where we rode the narrow gauge railroad to Silverton and back. We continued to South Fork (of the Rio Grande) to visit Bee and her husband.

Birch and evergreen

Aspens and conifers

To get to Yellowstone National Park, we drove the highway that runs along the top of the Colorado Rocky Mountains from south to north. We had dinner with Bee’s son Bret in Steamboat Springs. Next morning we entered Wyoming. There’s a lot of Wyoming before you get to the park’s north entrance. Ruth and Kathy came in from Idaho.

We thoroughly enjoyed our rendezvous, the beauty of the park, its geological features, and all the wildlife.

Pronghorn antelope

Pronghorn antelope

As it is adjacent to Yellowstone, we also visited Grand Teton National Park in Jackson, WY.

Thus ends my post of our 2004 tour of the national parks by way of some quality time with our families.

Some reflections:

When I was in the third grade at Schofield Post Elementary School, our lessons included listening to the Standard School Broadcast radio program about the national parks, featuring a different one each week. That’s how I first learned about these places that were wisely set aside for our benefit and enjoyment. I imagine the Ken Burns films will provide additional education today.

Why did we wait until our parents died to call on our uncles, aunts, and cousins? Because our parents didn’t want to. Now I think, that’s silly. Lee, Ron and Julia have since left the earthy plane as well. I am so glad we visited them in 2004. Now for both DH and myself, our generation is the oldest in our respective families. Gratefully, we still have our cousins, siblings, daughter, nieces and nephews.

Three weeks is long enough to be away from home; three and a half weeks is too long.

When time and finances permit, we ought to do a trip like this again—family and the national parks. Perhaps sooner than later.

Copyright 2009 Rebekah Luke

What is family, island style

13 09 2009

Today might be a good day to talk about my family, or shall I say families. I’ll at least start. I am an only child, and my bloodline ends with me. Sometimes people feel sorry for me because of that, until they discover, “Oh, you have Family!”

Today might be good day to talk about family because we’re having Sunday dinner with my hanai family at our house, and I’m cooking. It’s our turn, and it will be a coming out party for 4-month-old Ayla (see my post “Miss Marvelous discovers her toes”), who is the daughter of my step-daughter.

My hanai (adopted) family came into my life about the time I transitioned from high school to college, well, earlier when I met Margy the first day I was a 9th grader. We remained best friends through Punahou. During my parents’ divorce when I was 17, Margy’s  parents—a doctor and his wife with six children—welcomed me into their home where I roomed until I landed my first job at The Honolulu Advertiser as a general assignment reporter. With that job I earned enough money to pay for my own apartment on Lanihuli Drive and moved out.

Family dinner is usually at Mom’s house. This is typical everywhere, as long as the matriarch is living, isn’t it? After that, the family sort of breaks up and the next generation of matriarchs takes over.

We’ll see who shows up: My nephew might have a flag football game. I’m told he is one of the better players. His dad who followed his father’s footsteps and became a physician—stay with me, now—might be on call. My sister, who competes in dressage, is showing her horse for the first time in a two-day event this weekend and hopes she will have the energy afterward to drive out to Kaaawa from Waimanalo. And ditto about the energy for a brother and his family who have a lunch party to attend at Bellows beach.

Some of my hanai family in the summer of 2008 in Washington, D. C., the year our mom Ivalee received the Jefferson Award.

Mom, who doesn’t drive anymore, will be catching a ride with Becky. Becky and I were each others’ first roommates in the Lanihuli apartment, and she’s family too. In any case, I’m making food for 15. Everyone wants to see and meet the baby.

Today might be a good day to talk about family because on Reiki Friday I saw a client from glee club who read my post “Sweet memories and coming home, part 1” and asked if I was related to Uncle Harry and Aunty Edna.

It is a growing fashion these days where I live to address anyone older than you, if even by a couple of years, as Uncle and Aunty whether you are related by blood or not. I’m sure it is done out of respect, but some people use the names almost as if they are punctuation marks in a way that, in my opinion, dilutes the title. I tend to agree with an authority on Hawaiian naming at Kamehameha Schools who prefers not to be called Uncle unless he is your real uncle. That’s okay, you can call me Aunty, but I prefer Aunty Rebekah.

So when my client asked if I was related to Uncle Harry and Aunty Edna, I thought to myself, yes, that’s why they are Uncle and Aunty, but I understood why she asked. Then I saw her resemblance to Harry. It turns out that Harry and Edna were her uncle and aunty too, and we’re related!—by marriage.

“We used to drive to Wahiawa to get lychee every year,” she said.  As they say, small world. Through family ties that extend all the way back to Kohala and the Basel Mission in China’s Kwangtung province, she explained how she knew many of my first cousins on my mother’s side of the family. My mother was the youngest of 15 Chongs. But that is another story, a story told in The Chong Family History by J. H. Kim On Chong-Gossard.* I sent my client off with a copy. “You’ll enjoy this because you know all of the people in it,” I said.

We are One.

My maternal grandparents and 13 of their 15 children in Kohala. My mother, seated front row and center, ws the baby of the family.

These are my ancestors: my maternal grandparents and 13 of their 15 children in Kohala in 1920. My mother, seated front row and center, was three years old and the baby of the family. Edna is the tall, darker complected girl on the right in the back row.

Copyright 2009 Rebekah Luke

* The Chong Family History by J. H. Kim On Chong-Gossard (Kaaawa: Chong Hee Books, 1992, ISBN 0-9634186-0-2, soft cover, 172 pages) is a five-generation family biography, or Jia Pu, of Chong How Kong and Pan Siu Chin and their descendants. Copies sell for $35 and are available from the publisher Chong Hee Books, P. O. Box 574, Kaaawa, HI 96730.

For information on Reiki Friday, click REIKI HEALING BY OELEN in the menu bar.

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