Graduate student Anita Carrasco received $1,000 Riecker Grant to support her research in Hana, Maui. She went there the first week of August to conduct an oral history relevant to her dissertation.
After she returned she received an email from a local journalist (Emily Bott) who wanted to write an article about her visit to Jeannie Pechin who is very much appreciated by the people of Hana.
She wrote an article in a local Monthly paper called: "The Moon Over Haleakala". The Article will appear in the September 2010 issue and it can be found in the following webpage: www.mauimoonnews.com. The article follows:
STRANGER THAN FICTION?
By Emily Bott
Does Hana’s Jeannie Pechin attract coincidences? Why else did a Chilean graduate student from Arizona fly all the way to Maui to interview her?
Anita Carrasco, PhD candidate at the U. of Arizona, was studying the relationships between mining companies and indigenous communities in Chile, where the Anaconda Mining Company operated the largest open-pit copper mine in the world. She kept hearing stories from the elders about the American gringo engineer who stopped by to say hello and bring them clothing and canned goods. He also brought water, medicine, schools and roads to the people of the pueblos. “Unlike other white people, he remembered their names, asked them about their lives, and loved to take pictures,” e-mailed Carrasco. “It was not in his job description to do this humanitarian work, he did it because he chose to, because he had a big heart.”
She located the pictures in the American Geographical Society’s Library in Milwaukee, and here’s the first coincidence. The gringo engineer turned out to be William E. Rudolph, Jeannie Pechin’s father, and Pechin herself had recently written the library for help in identifying people in a photograph with her father. The librarian connected the dots and put the two women together. Carrasco wanted to know more about this man who was honored by the Chilean government with the Order of Bernardo O’Higgins, the highest medal given to foreign citizens.
The student got a grant to come to Hawaii, and recently spent a week chatting with Pechin, immersing herself in the letters and photographs that had been stored in a shed. “Only one packet had been visited by Hana’s rats. But I’ll take better care of them now,” assured Pechin.
The Mauian grew up in Bolivia and Chile, where her father was the chief engineer for Anaconda Copper. His job was to pipe water 250 miles from the Andes to the mine. Like sugar cane, copper requires a ton of water to produce a pound of the finished product. On weekends he would drive his family to the pueblos (towns) and bring needed supplies to the natives. “The Atacama desert. is so dry,” recalled Jeannie, “that parts of it haven’t seen rain in 400 years. We were always followed by a four-wheel drive vehicle in case we got stuck in the fine sand, which we always did.”
Pechin, a world traveler in her own right (“58 countries and still counting”) was shipped off to boarding school after stubborn bouts of ringworm and lice in the local school. All the way through college, she and her brother could only come home for summer vacation.
What was it like, growing up in the boonies? “it was a typical plantation town,” she reminisced. There was a movie theater and a club, where I went about four nights a week. The only concern my father had was that I was to leave before the fights started.”
Social life? There were few girls her age, but she has fond memories of one young man named Ramon. It broke her heart when her dad explained that she would have to give up her Yankee ways, live under the thumb of Ramon’s mother, never be allowed out of the house without a chaperone, and expect her husband to have a mistress. She returned to college instead.
Another coincidence influenced Jeannie to relocate to Maui. She and her late husband, Ed, wanted to retire “to paradise,” and wrote ten friends, asking for recommendations. One of them, Maui’s Maunaolu College president Cummins Speakman, had been Ed’s roommate at the University of Virginia. He insisted they at least visit Hana. They fell in love with the place, purchased land and moved here in 1972.
Carrasco is continuing her work towards her PhD, and Pechin is continuing her work in Hana. As the grad student summed it up, “After meeting Ms. Pechin and learning about all the wonderful social work she supports in the Hana Fund, I certainly know where she got the drive to help others: from her father. If half the people in the planet were as generous as Mr. Rudolph, the world would be a better place.” Amen.
Emily Bott can be reached at email@example.com