71. Marrying Ray Schwartz

71. Marrying Ray Schwartz

The news received today (6/25/09) from Tom Lawton that Ray Schwartz, long retired from his position as the Freer Gallery’s photographer and suffering in late years from Alzheimer’s disease, died two weeks ago prompts me to write out, for posting here and for Freer records, the real story of how Ray met his wife Jannie and how they were able to marry, with lots of help from friends. Marrying her was the great event of his life, it would seem. Tom writes:

“Fortunately, Ray and Jannie were extremely happy together. Perhaps Ray's most memorable expression of the depth of his feelings for Jannie was included in his remarks at the Freer Gallery during his retirement party. Ray spoke about his trip to Taiwan in the early 1960s as a participant in the international project to photograph Chinese paintings in the National Palace Museum. As you know, it was during his stay in Taiwan that Ray met and married Jannie. He described that meeting as an event that changed his life--a change for which he would always be grateful. As I recall, Ray paused for a moment and then went on to say that being married to Jannie had made him the happiest man in the world.”

So, everyone who was involved in helping Ray to court and marry her, quite a few others besides myself, can be happy that we made a big difference in the life of someone we all liked very much and respected for his integrity and his dedication to his work, but also just as a person.

When the time approached for Ray and me to travel to Japan and later Taiwan to photograph Chinese paintings—at the Tokyo National Museum (where a great Ming-Qing painting exhibition had just been held) in Japan and at the National Palace Museum collection, then kept in storage at a place some miles outside Taichung, in Taiwan—I was charged with an additional assignment by the women at the Freer: to find a bride for Ray. He was pushing forty at that time (as I remember) and was unmarried, without even a serious girlfriend; his strongly Catholic mother had earlier blocked his marriage with a woman he loved, because she was (if my memory is correct) a non-Catholic, and he had never entirely recovered. He was shy and not socially outgoing, and spent a lot of his time playing tennis was it? The women at the Freer—Mrs. Usilton and Mrs. Westlake in the Library, others in the office—made me promise to make every effort to help Ray find and woo an Asian woman, and bring her back as his bride.  

In Japan, where we spent a relatively short time carrying out our mission, a date was arranged for Ray with a Japanese woman, a school-teacher—I think she was introduced by Takashi Sugiura, the Freer’s scroll-mounter, who happened to be on leave in Japan then. But neither Ray nor the teacher was inclined to want to continue the relationship, and the date came to nothing.

In Taichung we were to spend a longer time—about three months—photographing paintings in the National Palace Museum collection (for an account of that project, see CLP 117, “The Place of the National Palace Museum in My Scholarly Career,” on my website, jamescahill.info). Ray had a rented house of his own and was in principle in a great position to take on a girlfriend. Lots of good-looking and sexy young women were available for dates and sex, but they were not of the sort one would want as a wife. (They reportedly made pretty good marriages with farmers and others after retiring as entertainers.) Young women of good family and good reputations, on the other hand, could not be seen in public dating foreign men, because the assumption was always that they were involved in short-time, for-profit relationships. Time passed, the project was being accomplished (with great success, but that is another story), and Ray was no closer to finding a potential bride. Our small community of colleagues and their families (the opportunity opened by so many paintings emerging from storage and being viewable during the photographing had attracted quite a group of specialists, including Dick Edwards and his family, C. C. Wang, others) talked among ourselves about how we could help. I remember thinking at the time that this project was operating on two levels, profane and sacred:: the men, who wanted to be sure that Ray at least had a good time before he left Taichung, and the women, who were dedicated to finding him a “nice girl” for possible marriage. Vee Edwards, Dick’s wife, was making inquiries about a Catholic girl’s school. Ray, meanwhile, was enjoying the attentions of young women who had heard about his quest and wanted to present themselves for consideration. Ling-ling, the buxom and sexy daughter of the proprietor of the snack-stand out at the Palace Museum compound, and someone Ray had shyly wished he could take home, turned out (when we investigated) to be working nights in a “tea-room” in Taichung, where the girls were available for sex. She was more than approachable, then, but no prospect for marriage. Ray even told about a pedicab with a pretty young lady pulling up at the gate of his house in late evening, and her telling him, in poor English, that she had heard about his quest and wanted to offer herself as candidate.. . .or at least to be his friend . . .

Ray was more than a little bewildered and embarrassed by all this, but It was he himself who eventually made the move toward finding just the right person. He and I went out most evenings to the U.S. Army’s Taichung Officer’s Club, located some distance outside Taichung, to cash checks—we were buying a lot of foreign commodities at the PX to give to the Palace Museum staff who were devoting a lot of extra time and effort to our project—this at the suggestion of George Yeh, whom I had come to know when he was Chinese Ambassador in D.C., and who was now my principal Chinese advisor on the project. (Again, see the account on my website.) Behind the window where we cashed checks was an attractive young woman who spoke good English: this was Jannie. By talking with the bartender I got an introduction to her for us, and Ray and I spoke with her at the end of one evening there. She was not unwilling, but very concerned about her good reputation. She and Ray had a “date,” seeing a movie together, but it had to be in a nearby town, not in Taichung. Ray was uncertain how best to proceed.

Now our foreign community, with a real prospect in view, went into action. Vee Edwards, who had been born and brought up on the Fujian coast opposite Taiwan and so could speak understandable Taiwanese, visited Jannie’s family and with long talks convinced them finally that
Ray’s intentions were honorable, he wasn’t after a quick affair but a real and lasting marriage, and that he didn’t (as they suspected) already have a wife back in the U.S. My then-wife Dorothy and I invited Ray and Jannie along on escorted outings, with our children Nick and Sarah. The crucial outing was a trip by car to a place some distance outside Taichung where there were canyons and a suspension bridge, of the kind that induces the woman of a couple to clutch the man in fright when they are partway across and it sways as if dangerously. And Ray took Jannie into a private, secluded canyon, to emerge after a while and tell us shyly that he had popped the question, and she had consented.

With her family in agreement, Ray and Jannie traveled to Taipei and to the U.S. consulate, where they were officially married so that she could get an entry visa. Then to the office of George Yeh, who was arranging for her to get an exit permit from the Chinese government—this also much speeded-up, he managing to push through quickly something that usually took months. As they were leaving his office, George asked Ray where they were spending the night. Jannie is staying with her relatives, Ray told him, and he himself at the YMCA. George, who loved to tell this story afterwards, was shocked: he had naturally assumed they would be spending their wedding night together. What was wrong? He didn’t know that for Ray, a good Catholic, this consulate civil ceremony was meaningless—only a marriage before the altar of a Catholic church, which they would go through next day, really mattered.

Happy ending to story. Jannie later arranged to bring her mother? and other members of her family? I don’t remember exactly—to stay with them in their house in Washington D.C. They never had children, but enjoyed what seems to have been a good marriage. And I could face the Freer women with a sense of mission accomplished--a very good feeling.

Latest Work

  • Conclusion Conclusion
    VI Conclusion It is time to draw back and look, if not at the whole Hyakusen, at as much of him as we have managed to illuminate in this study. Dark areas remain, and doubtless many distortions, but...

Latest Blog Posts

  • Bedridden Blog
    Bedridden Blog   I am now pretty much confined to bed, and have to recognize this as my future.  It is difficult even to get me out of bed, as happened this morning when they needed to...