Woman’s Club honors member, hears of Korea

Staff Writer

ELKINS – The GFWC Woman’s Club recently honored one of their members for 50 years of service.

Elkins resident Margaret “Peg” Rector received a plaque commemorating her membership along with a cake and German chocolate cupcakes baked by Joan Tacy.

President Cindy Stemple said the group was honoring Rector because she was unable to attend the GFWC Woman’s Club Convention.

“You are our guest of honor tonight,” Stemple said. “We are so happy you could be with us tonight. What a special accomplishment to be a 50-year member of our club.”

Member Diana Kerr said Rector has been her neighbor ever since she and her family moved to Elkins.

“Peg adds a bit of spice to our neighborhood,” Kerr said. “She would often have picnics at her home. Behind her home is a lot that belonged to her family. It was the gathering place for folks playing volleyball during the summer.

“To me, Peg epitomizes the lady of Woman’s Club,” Kerr said. “She is always so impeccably dressed. Sometimes she bemoans the fact that with the changes in her body, she cannot always wear some of the beautiful clothes she has. She told me when she worked at the old high school, she would go home at lunchtime to redo her makeup.”

“I enjoy Woman’s Club and I guess I have been here 50 years – which is funny because I am not even that old,” Rector said jokingly. “You are a wonderful group and I love you all. Thank you for this honor.”

Also during the meeting, Lucy Swecker, a 2007 Tygarts Valley High School graduate and 2011 graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College, shared her experiences as a Fulbright Grant recipient, serving as an English teaching assistant at Kyungpook National University’s Attached Elementary School in Daegu, Korea.

“My home in Korea was on the fifth floor of a high-rise apartment building in downtown Daegu,” Swecker said. “My Korean family was the Parks, a generous, loving and welcoming Korean family. At first, I was nervous about the possible communication problems caused by a novice Korean speaker living in a Korean-speaking household, but I was put at ease when my host mother, a translator, spoke to me in perfect English.”

Swecker said her host family brothers were in second and fourth grade at her school, and they often helped her by serving as interpreters. She said eating meals, celebrating holidays and experiencing daily life with a family provided a true taste of Korean culture.

“I quickly became a real member of the family,” Swecker said. “My ‘brothers’ nicknamed my nationality Komerican and regularly introduced me as their older sister.”

Swecker was introduced to many Korean delicacies. Kimchi, a fermented cabbage, is Korea’s most famous dish, and it is served at each meal. Home meals feature fish, rice, kimchi and soup. School meals include kimchi, fruit, soup, meat and rice.

Along with teaching third to sixth grade in the elementary school, Swecker volunteered to tutor North Korean defectors. More than 900 defectors live in Daegu.

Swecker said she enjoyed working with the Korean students.

“I had 500 students in third through sixth grade,” Swecker said. “Schools were much like in America, where the students attend third through 12th grade before college. Koreans are quite enthusiastic about education, especially English education. Many elementary students attend hagwon (after-school learning activities) until 9 p.m. each night, and high school students study as late as 11 p.m. Education is considered essential for one’s success, and college entrance is fiercely competitive.”

During the meeting, Swecker donned a traditional Korean Hanbok, which was given to her by her host family.

Currently, Swecker teaches third grade at Union Elementary School in Buckhannon.

“I enjoy sharing my experiences with my students and teaching them Korean phrases,” Swecker said. “They enjoy studying Korean culture and writing letters to Korean elementary school students. It has provided them with valuable exposure to another culture, while helping them understand the importance of mutual understanding among peoples at an early age.

“My current students beg to visit Korea for our field trip and come to me speaking Korean words they have learned on their own,” she said.

“Daegu is a really amazing city and I recommend you go there if you get the chance,” Swecker said.