Missionary settled in Montgomery County
Wednesday, June 05, 2013 10:00 PM
Although Rosemary Overpeck now enjoys a simple life gardening and working on the binky patrol, her past has been anything but easy.
Rosemary was born at home in Bellmore, Indiana to Clay and Floy Overpeck. One of her father's jobs was a magazine salesman and the family would move from town to town where they might stay for a few weeks, possibly renting a place but at times staying in their car. During WWII, Clay helped his father on their farm. Not long after, Clay purchased a farm near Alamo and Rosemary has been a Montgomery Countian since - well, sort of - and as Paul Harvey always said, "Here's the rest of the story!"
Rosemary received her bachelor's in nursing from IU. After working at Riley for four years, she decided she was called to become a missionary. Their church was very missionary-minded and one of her friends, also named Rosemary had parent missionaries in Hong Kong. Both families began to call the Rosemary not theirs the "other Rosemary," so Rosemary and the "other Rosemary" went across the world for missionary work. Staying with relatives of the other Rosemary's, the trip was wonderful beginning in New York to England, on to Israel then next to Iran to see a brother of the other Rosemary's husband (who had drowned while in a class). Finally, in November of 1964, Rosemary landed where she would stay for 20 years. At no time did she ever get homesick because, "There was nothing in Hong Kong to remind me of home."
For instance, there was no church. Here our churches are often used for other things, but there other buildings are used for churches. In fact, their church met in the clinic where Rosemary spent so many years working as a nurse for nothing or a pittance. She said, "Many months, a nice lady in my Indianapolis church would put an envelope in the collection with my name and $10." The people of Hong Kong thought I was really rich.
Many of the doctors at her clinic (four floors, the first with a nursery; second the clinic; third for the doctors' quarters and fourth was where Rosemary and other nurses lived) were volunteers. To have a space to live at all in Hong Kong was amazing and Rosemary had a bedroom all to herself in her nurses' flat of three bedrooms and a kitchenette. Living there meant a family of eight in one room. There had to be eight; if one died the family would quickly try to replace the person with a cousin or grandparent or they'd have been kicked-out. Water was in each room and a little balcony where clothes were hung. After WWII there were 250,000 people living in Hong Kong but so many from China escaped into the city that when Rosemary was there the total was over 5 million. Shops were on the bottom of the large buildings of the 8-people rooms holding 30,000 people in each flat.
Rosemary came home after four years (she had saved up her month vacations for a long extended stay back in the US) stopping in Hawaii, LA, San Francisco. In Indianapolis, she got to see the new Riley hospital. Here's the problem. All this time, Rosemary was carrying Hepatitis. Her grandmother asked Rosemary if she needed medicine and Rosemary answered, "No, just rest but you have to get a shot!" Rosemary spent her whole five months in bed recuperating at the family home, then back to Hong Kong.
Although Rosemary tried to learn Cantonese she really never caught-on, thus she stayed away from answering the phone. When she returned to the states, she took care of her parents, spent winters in Florida and worked two weeks at the old hospital and more than 20 years at the new one in the Skilled Care unit. She stated that the hospital was wonderful to her.
Rosemary still hears from many of her young church folks and some have even come over to visit. When I asked her to sum-up her feelings about her missionary years in Hong Kong she said, "I loved the people, but hated the place - it was just too hot, humid and crowded!" Although Dominoes is a gambling game and bad for Christians in Hong Kong, Rosemary enjoys playing with friend Juanita Hunt and loves life to its fullest. Truly, me of words, just can't put what Rosemary shared in such a little space, but believe me when I say she's an amazing woman. Thanks so much Rosemary for sharing this interesting story with my readers of "Around the County!"