Death of former missionary Isabel Hemingway

Death of former missionary Isabel Hemingway

Isabel Hemingway served as a teacher in China, Turkey and Rhodesia (Zimbabwe).

It is with deep sadness that Global Ministries/Division of Overseas Ministries(DOM) of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and Global Ministries/Wider Church Ministries of the United Church of Christ, announce the passing of one of our beloved former missionaries, Isabel Hemingway on Wednesday, February 1, 2009, in Pleasant Hill, Tennessee.  Obituary follows:

Isabel Hemingway (1908-2009)

Isabel Hemingway died on February 1, 2009, at the age of 101 in Pleasant Hill, Tennessee.  Her parents, Dr. Willoughby Hemingway and Mary Williams Hemingway, were UCC missionaries in Taigu, Shansi Province, North China, where she was born in January 1908.  Her father had founded a hospital in Taigu and her mother led Christian Education classes and raised their four children: Isabel, Adelaide, Stephen, and Winifred.  Isabel’s maternal grandparents and great-grandparents also served as missionaries.  She graduated from Oberlin College (Ohio) with a bachelor’s degree in history in 1930 and from Philadelphia School of Nursing in 1932.

Returning to China after graduation, Isabel worked as a nurse in the Taigu hospital from 1934 until 1941. She then returned to the US in 1943 to attend Maternity Center Association (MCA) in New York to become a nurse midwife.  She returned to China before World War II but was forcibly repatriated after the Japanese invasion when she and her sister, Winifred, were exchanged for Japanese diplomats.  She returned once again to China in 1946 with UNRAA (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Association) and was assigned to the hospital in Taiyuan, Shansi Province, very close to where she grew up.  She was the head nurse of three obstetrical wards, attending some deliveries.  Even during the civil war she was able to greatly improve the functioning of the hospital because she spoke the local dialect of Chinese and her family was well respected in the community.

In 1949 Isabel and an MCA midwife classmate, Edith Galt, were asked by UNICEF to coordinate a training program for nurse midwives in Beijing in conjunction with the People’s Republic of China.  Along with Dr. Leo Eloesser, they compiled a technical manual for midwifery in Chinese for their students.  It was published in English by UNICEF as Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn – A Manual for Rural Midwives and was subsequently translated into English, Korean, Spanish, and Portuguese.  Although Isabel left China in 1951, the midwifery program continued for another 20 years.

Isabel went to Talas, Turkey, in 1952 with the UCC Mission Board to work in a village clinic, where she worked for five years as a nurse in the clinic as well as attending some.  She was then asked to work at the Mission hospital in Gaziantep, Turkey, to coordinate the nurse’s aide program.  After Gaziantep, Isabel returned to Talas to work in the clinic for five more years.

In 1973 Isabel retired and returned to the US to care for her 98-year-old mother.  She lived in Washington, DC for a few years, where she hosted a Vietnamese refugee family in her home.  In 1978 she moved to the Uplands Retirement Community in Pleasant Hill, Tennessee.  In retirement, she dedicated many hours telling stories of China and Turkey to children at the Pleasant Hill Community School and knitting hundreds of small sweaters.

A memorial service will be held at the Adshead Hall in Pleasant Hill, Tennessee, on Thursday 26 February at 4 p.m.  A second service will take place for friends and family Saturday 8 August 2009 at 1 p.m. at the Community House in Pleasant Hill, Tennessee.  In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in her memory to Treasurer, Global Ministries, 700 Prospect Avenue East, Cleveland, Ohio   44115-1131.

Obituary from Philadelphia Daily News