The headlne above is the subtitle to a remarkable book.
Its author made two signings of her book, titled “The Best For Last.”
If you missed it at the two Barnes & Noble bookstores in McAllen this month, they still have copies there. It costs just
$14.99. That is a great bargain for her frank and unique life, much of it lived in the Rio Grande Valley.
Author Paulette Camnetar Meeks once made national newspapers and totally was surprised while she was teaching
in Weslaco. She was driving a Yamaha motorcycle to her classes at a public school. Other teachers called her “The Flying Nun”.
“They couldnít believe a nun would ever ride a motorcyle,” she wrote. “I told them I wasnít really a nun. I was a sister. Nuns lived in
convents. I lived with other women who were committed to serve the poor.
“We renewed our commitment each year. We never took vows for life. We were always free to leave if we felt this call was no longer
Her frankness, wonderful stories of many schools and other remarkable stories make this a book I could not stop reading. I finished
it in two days. Nearly everyone who reads it, of any faith (or none) can learn from it.
Her work in Mexico and her retirement in 2000 as a teacher with bilingual language and other skllls are just a sample of her many contributions to helping thousands of students.
She was a teacher for 44 years, “and 28 of these wonderful years were as a Daughter of Charity.”
“My students knew me then as Sister Paulette. When I left the community of sisters, I was known by my students as Miss Camnetar.”
“I hope the kindergarten students I had in Weslaco, Donna, La Feria and Progreso will see your story,” she said after her two-hour book-signing and answering questions at the bookstore at Nolana and North Tenth Street in McAllen.
“In May of 2000, I officially retired and began to volunteer as a visitor in Knapp Hospital in Weslaco.
“In early October, I went to Mexico again to serve wherever I could. While there, I felt this God who had led me this far wanted to lead me farther.
“This time I was to find a companion, a husband. Never had this thought ever entered my mind or heart before.
“At 60 years of age, I put my web pages out there, telling about myself and of my search for a ĎChristian widowerí who could prove he loved his wife, his family.
“I was ready to quit my search when in November of 2000 I received a one-liner and it was from the companion I was meant to f ind. The rest is history in my book.
“Some of my students met my husband when we returned to the Valley to visit. Most will not know him and since they are treasures who have touched my life, I would be glad to share this man, the greatest treasure ever to touch my life on this earth, with them.”
The surprising second half of the book suddenly finds her with a new name and a husband. As noted above, she was not a nun and free to marry after retiring from 28 years as a sister.
Anyone who was taught by her in all those years in the Valley and many years elsewhere, would enjoy that book, along with others who will be surprised and pleased at her many years of service as a sister and teacher.
Japanese in an American World
Cutlines: Junko with her Kota, the Japanese instrument.
Students practice their symbols at the Japanese Supplementary School of McAllen.
By Roda Grubb
McAllen and the Valley are becoming quite the international hub. Of course the rest of the states donít know it quite yet, but it is so. We have communities of non-Americans such as Taiwanese, Filipinos, Canadians, Koreans, Indians and Japanese.
Junko Terada, Japanese mother of two American born children, is active in the Japanese community in McAllen. Taking the circuitous route in getting here, Junko started out in a little town in Japan called Kanazawa. Meeting her husband while she was living with an American family and attending high school in Connecticut, he was a Japanese in the states as an American Field Exchange Student.
Moving around the U.S. for 23 years, including five years in Monterrey, Mexico, Junko and her family lived from California ó where her two children were born ó to Kentucky, Illinois, Michigan and now Texas.
“It hasnít been easy, but itís been fun,” Junko said, jovially.
Though she has been learning about life in America ó discovering a love for quilting ó one of the Japanese traditions she has kept near to her heart is the art of Origami.
“Itís a traditional craft, good for concentration. When you do the Origami from the early age you learn so much. Meeting the points, making a crease, opening the pieces ó you have to follow the stages and you have to use your brain to do that,” Junko said. “We learn from the early years you have to be so precise about everything in Origami. For the first Palmfest we had an Origami booth. We love to share our culture with the local people.”
At first they had one small table, but it was such a hit that when the next Palmfest came around they requested two tables.
“People came and wanted to learn how to do it, so we taught them,” she said.
The local Japanese community is not large.
“The biggest community would be the Japanese Supplementary School of McAllen, which recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary. Parents pay tuition and it is supported by the Japanese government,” said Junko. “The main purpose of the school is to educate the Japanese in Japanese so they can be Japanese.”
Teaching Japanese math and the Japanese language keeps the students up to date with their fellow students back home in Japan.
“The students go to their regular school throughout the week and attend Japanese school on Saturday mornings. Parents donít want their children to be left out when they return home,” she said. “They want to keep the Japanese and math levels in Japanese up to the standards of Japan.”
Teaching the combined classes of fourth and fifth Japanese and sixth and seventh math class, Junko watches how it affects the students.
“I think itís the only time they get to see other Japanese children since they go to different schools,” said Junko. “Many of them go to public schools and live in different areas of town, so I think they pretty much have fun meeting each other in the Japanese school.”
With around 20 children from first to ninth grade, it helps them keep their language alive.
“We need to have the school because the language is so different,” she said. “The language has 50 Japanese letters plus almost 5,000 Chinese characters. In order to read newspapers and live normally in Japan you have to know around 3,000 Chinese characters. Once you learn Japanese with the Chinese characters, at a glance at a Website or newspaper you can observe a lot of information. Itís convenient.”
Junko also teaches and plays the Koto, a traditional Japanese stringed instrument. Down to one student, Junko misses the 20-member club in Chicago she was able to play with. Local performances have included playing for UTPA International Week and for McAllenís Centennial.
Education was drummed into Junko from an early age.
“Half a century ago, my dad was a Fulbright student from Japan at UT Austin,” Junko said with pride. “He took a ship to America and then a train to Austin to study. He became an English professor at a medical university in Japan So, my environment was different. I was always wanted by Americans and people from all over because my mom spoke good enough English and my father was a teacher.”
Today, her son is following in his grandfatherís footsteps, attending UT Austin.
The local Japanese community gathers occasionally for bowling or golfing days. But every day the Terada family use many traditional Japanese items.
A half curtain called a Noren curtain, normally hung across a restaurant or shop doorway in Japan meaning “open,” brings warm memories as it hangs across a doorway in her home. Kutani porcelain, chopsticks to eat with and cook with, rice cookers and Wajima lacquerware all bring home memories of life on the island so far away.
Entering their home the shoes are removed and set neatly by the door. Watching Japanese TV on her computer and reading Japanese newspapers online help her keep the language alive for her when she goes home to visit her parents.
Always enjoying the American way of life, Junko does her best to keep her familyís heritage an important part of their life by meeting with friends and family and sharing Japanese food and fellowship.