Joan Shipers Memering Papers,   1969, 2006
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The collection is divided into the following series: Willard D. “Dean” Memering papers (.5 cubic ft., 1 box); and Joan Shipers Memering papers (5.5 cubic ft., 10 boxes, 1 folder).

Dean’s papers, 1971-2006 (Scattered), and undated, mainly document his teaching experience in the Department of English at CMU, and his Biographical Materials. Biographical Materials for both Memerings includes obituaries, resumes, photographs, and other relevant materials.

Joan’s papers are divided into the following series: Biographical Materials (1 folder); Cambodia Project Materials and Cambodia Related Materials, 1978-2003, and undated (approximately 5 cubic ft. in 9 boxes, 1 folder); CMU Materials, 1983-1992 (Scattered), and undated (.25 cubic ft. in 1 box); and Newspaper Articles, 1975-1995 (Scattered, copies (.25 cubic ft. in 1 box). At the end of the collection there is a folder about Polish refugees coming to Mount Pleasant that includes two newspaper articles (copies) and a photograph [1982].

Of prime interest to researchers are the Cambodia Project Materials, 1978-2003, and undated. These include: Joan’s notes, drafts of oral interviews she conducted with Cambodian refugees, the transcriptions of the taped interviews, some of the tapes, notecards, and drafts and outlines of chapters she wrote for her book, as well as notes on Cambodian vocabulary, family names, and history chronologies of Cambodia. The transcriptions and notes painfully and vividly document the horrors of Cambodia during the 1970s, the horrific suffering of its people, and the various traumas and challenges faced by the refugees. Cambodians who were interviewed by Joan included men [Train] Chit, Meng Leng [Phou], Heng Suy Keang, and a woman, Nay or Ing May. Photographs of the refugees and their families during the 1982-2003, and undated are also included although many are unidentified.

Also in this series is the only extant documentation of the Mid-Michigan Refugee Action Committee, Joan’s notebook with various loose attachments and correspondence includes a list of the churches in Mount Pleasant who sponsored refugees in 1979 and information about the refugees. The list was as follows: [Train] Chit and Family sponsored by St. Mary’s University Parish. A couple sponsored by the Millbrook United Methodist Church. The Heng Suy Keang family sponsored by the First Church of Christ. The Gau Cheng Sun Family sponsored by the First United Methodist Church. The Lim Chhun Fa Family sponsored by Sacred Heart Parish.

Another item of interest in the series is the English/Chinese/Khmer Translation Phrase Book, undated. It was designed for practical use in everyday communication for the new refugees. Also, there is material of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services program (1 folder), with which Immanuel Lutheran Church in Mount Pleasant was involved. They sponsored refugees before 1979.

The Cambodia Related Materials, 1969-2003 (Scattered) and undated, include Joan’s research notes and materials which she compiled from a variety of secondary sources on Indochina including the Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER), Indochina Issues, Indochina Newsletter, and the Phon Penh Post, maps of Southeast Asia, and various BBC Broadcasts re: Cambodia. Joan’s correspondence, to/from/or about Cambodian refugees and or about her book is also found here.

Also of interest in this series is a term paper entitled “My Father: the Refugee” by Michael Phou, son of Meng Leng Phou, with a CD and letter to his “Aunt Joan”, 2003. Michael visited Joan to find out more about his father’s life from her notes, transcriptions, and tapes. In his paper, Michael describes how the Memerings were considered family members by Meng Leng Phou’s extended family because of all that they had done to help his family come to and adjust to life in America. Meng Leng had eventually settled in California, but the bonds between the two families remained very strong. Michael’s paper clearly documents that prior to conducting his research about Meng Leng, he did not understand what his father had endured and was quite horrified and saddened to discover the truth while he was also very proud of his father’s ability to adapt to American culture and speak flawless English.

The Newspaper Articles Joan wrote, 1975-1995 (Scattered, copies), include some articles about Cambodian refugees, Vietnam, and many other diverse local topics. There are also some clippings she collected about Cambodia/ns and Vietnam/ese or Vietnam veterans that she did not write but obviously used for research purposes.

Processing Notes: The collection has a musty smell. While no signs of mold were found during processing, researchers with allergies or asthma should be careful while using the collections.Duplicates and materials of peripheral value were returned to the donor. Books written by Dean and about Cambodia in the collection were separately cataloged.

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