Ear: Colleen

"Seventy years ago, Korea found itself in a war against communism," Astorian Bill Sutton wrote. "This year KBS Broadcasting is making a documentary to honor the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and the freedom they obtained as a result of that hard-fought war. American forces were incremental in achieving their freedom for them." Featured in the film is Bill's soul mate, Colleen O'Neill, who was born in Seoul during that war.

"Colleen's father was gunned down by a machine gun, and she lost her mother to starvation," Bill explained. "Before her mother died, she gave Colleen to a trusted neighbor, but he realized he, too, was going to die the same death, so he turned Colleen over to the Holt Orphanage in Seoul.

"As the war ended, an Army doctor and his wife, Mike and Mildred O'Neill, wanted to help. "They adopted a seriously malnourished little girl named Bok Soon Lee, and had her transported to a hospital in New York. It took two years to save her life.

"Later she would be learning English, but during the interim they found her singing Japanese lullabies, a result of the previous Japanese occupation of Korea. By the time she was safely at home in Issaquah, Washington, her new name was Colleen Theresa O'Neill.

"Earlier, KBS produced a documentary in search of any living relatives who might possess the mitochondrial line of Colleen and her highly famous violist son, Richard O'Neill (richard-oneill.com). … Because the first documentary went over with such success in Korea, they found it only fitting to continue Colleen's story in this documentary."

The camera crew (pictured) and Richard arrived in Astoria the last week of January, and spent four days interviewing Colleen, Richard and Bill, who is also a musician, as well as filming Bill and Richard performing Schubert and Bill's "Jeju," named for Jeju Island, South Korea's own "little Hawaii," Bill said.

Unfortunately, the documentary probably won't be seen on American TV, but it should be available on YouTube.

Elleda Wilson is an editorial assistant for The Astorian and author of the award-winning In One Ear community column. Contact her at 971-704-1718 or ewilson@dailyastorian.com.

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