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September 21, 2011

My Neighbor Across The Hall

photo / Candance diCalvo / U of P  Almanac
Some years ago, while renting a studio apartment
on a lower floor, my neighbors across the hall were a
dignified elderly Chinese gentleman and his wife.

At first, we would nod to each other while waiting 
for elevators. Then one day the old Gentleman had a 
large envelope bearing big colorful foreign stamps. 
I asked if they were Chinese. He said they were Russian. 
I told him I had been to Russia some years before
and had family there. Next thing I knew, the Russian
stamps on their envelope had been slid under my door.
A gift from my new friend.

I learned from others, that the Gentleman was 
a renowned Emeritus Professor retired from the 
University of Pennsylvania. We all found out
just how renowned, when the President of
China at that time, who was in the US on a
state visit, arranged to stop in to see my special
neighbor and his wife. He was a former student
of the old Professor. That afternoon this building 
was cordoned off and crawling with Secret Service 
and Chinese security agents. Everyone had to
stay wherever they were, inside or outside for the

Before coming to America, I heard that the Professor 
had been an aide to General Chaing Kai Shek.
And once I asked him where he was when WWII
ended. He told me Shanghai. 

By now when we met in the hall by the elevator
or in the lobby, me going for mail, he reading his
Chinese newspaper, he would smile, sometimes 
wink and with a twinkle in his eye, tap his cheek 
for a peck.
I was always happy to comply.

In the end, the old couple's children moved them
out west, closer to their homes and families.

Today, thinking about him and his sweet quietly 
smiling wife.
Wondering if there might be a picture and further
information online, I discovered both. 
And that he had passed away at 99 in September 2002.

1 comment:

  1. As we in Palo Alto, along with the rest of world, mourn the loss of Steve Jobs, I now read about this remarkable innovator from China. Thank you for this touching story about your special relationship with this scholar.