Harrison City daughter, mother to speak about Korean War

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While the Korean War is often referred to as the “forgotten” war, Katie Schell and her mother are doing their part to change that.

Ms. Schell, of Harrison City, published a book last year of her mother’s memoirs, titled “Love Beyond Measure — Memoirs of a Korean War Bride.”

She and her mother, Ock Soon Lee-Pega Crimbchin, will talk about the book and the war Sept. 8 at the South Hills Women’s Club meeting and Sept. 30 at the Bridgeville Volunteer Fire Department. Both talks are open to the public. 

“After reading some reviews of her mother’s amazing journey of survival through the Korean War that left her near starvation and even death, and to have the hope, strength and courage that brought her to America would certainly be of interest to women everywhere,” said Mary Jane Rosile, program chairwoman for the South Hills Women’s Club.

“Most of us were very young during the Korean War and we may not have realized the impact a war has on so many people,” Ms. Rosile said. “Ock Soon Lee will be there in person, a witness to the atrocities and to her survival. What a story.”

Ms. Crimbchin, 81, was an orphan and survived abuse, slavery and the war. She shares her story by traveling to speak about her daughter’s book to groups all over the region.

Although the Korean War is not as prominent in some people’s minds as other wars, Ms. Schell said, “it is not forgotten by the people who lived there or who fought and survived.”

Ms. Crimbchin married an American soldier, Frank Crimbchin, and had seven children, including Ms. Schell. The coupled lived in Moon and were married for 58 years. Mr. Crimbchin died in 2012. Ms. Crimbchin now lives in Cabot, Butler County, and has 20 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

“My mother was one of the first Korean War brides to come to the United States,” Ms. Schell, 59, said. During the conflict, it was against the law for American men to marry Korean women. Ms. Schell said her father had to come back to the United States for nearly a year, waiting for the law to change so he could marry his wife and bring her home.

“My father was just a stubborn person. He just never gave up” trying to get his wife out of Korea, she said.

During one battle, Ms. Schell said, her mother narrowly avoided being shot, and during another battle, her mother walked 100 miles in the snow and ice to avoid the conflict.

“Somehow she survived,” Ms. Schell said.

Ms. Schell knew she had to write her mother’s memoir when, a few months after her father died, her mother came across a wooden box. When her mother opened the box and saw that the contents included letters from her late husband, “she screamed,” Ms. Schell said. The box also contained letters her father had written to the government and to his friends about his journey to bring his wife home.

“My father’s love for her was unmeasurable,” Ms. Schell said, which led to the title of her book.

In addition to talking about the book at the South Hills Women’s Club, Ms. Schell and Ms. Crimbchin will present a slideshow of photos from the Korean War and give a brief history of the conflict. Copies of the book will be available for purchase.

A portion of the proceeds from book sales are donated to Women of the Wells, a nonprofit that drills wells in water-impoverished countries.

Ms. Schell said her mother wanted to help drill wells “because she was a peasant who had to carry water for miles.”

So far, proceeds from the book have helped to drill five wells in places such as Nigeria and Cambodia.

The monthly meeting of the South Hills Women’s Club will be held at 8 p.m. Sept. 8 at Vanadium Woods, 50 Vanadium Road, Scott. To make reservations: 412-221-5863.

Ms. Schell and Ms. Crimbchin also will speak at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 30 to the Bridgeville Historical Society in the Chartiers Room of the Bridgeville Volunteer Fire Department at Carol Avenue and Bower Hill Road.

“Love Beyond Measure” is available on amazon.com or www.katieschell.org.

Deana Carpenter, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

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