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A life full of firsts

"A life full of firsts" Continued...

When Helen Lee Ahn, Susan’s mother, first heard about them dating, she jumped on a train and dashed cross-country from California to Virginia to stop the romance. It was too late; Susan had already married Francis. They wedded quietly at the Navy Building in Washington, D.C., because Virginia, their state-of-residence, banned interracial marriages.

For five years, Helen refused to speak to Susan. It was Susan’s sweet-mannered daughter Christine who melted the mother-and-daughter chill. Her first words to Helen, “Hello, halmoni!”—Korean for “grandmother”— broke down any barrier Helen had about having a half-white grandchild. Susan’s son Flip was Grandma’s favorite. When his uncles chased after him for his latest mischief, his halmoni shielded him behind her skirt. No one dared discipline him when halmoni was around.

Today, Flip takes care of his 100-year-old mother. A former professional surfer over 6 feet tall with mixed-Irish looks, Flip is often mistaken as Susan’s bodyguard. And in a way, he is the Ahn legacy bulldog—guarding the family’s historical accuracy with 30 years of research, and sniffing out “crooked” individuals trying to “use the Dosan name to gain fame and money.”

Sophia Lee
Sophia Lee

Sophia is a features reporter for WORLD Magazine. She graduated from the University of Southern California with degrees in print journalism and East Asian language and culture. She lives in Los Angeles with her cat, Shalom. Follow Sophia on Twitter @SophiaLeeHyun.


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