The fifth and final story in our Neighbors series is about the journey of Heagin and Roger, long-time residents of Urbana, Illinois. The couple have faced difficulties in foreign countries and raised three children. The overarching message focuses on a common issue among the youth - drugs. See below for the transcription of their interview with voice overs from Crystal Kang.
"My name is Roger L. Burton. My name is Haegin Burton. And we lived Urbana, llinois since 1988, July 29."
Heagin was born and raised in Seoul. She met Roger Burton, a Paxton, Illinois native, when he was in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and stationed in South Korea.
"I was born in Seoul, Korea. And 1960, I met my husband. He was teaching me conversational English at that time. And then we became little further than just friend."
"So that’s when I met my wife, and by golly, I decided right there and then that that was the woman I wanted to be with the rest of my life."
The couple married and embarked on a life that would see them move often as Roger was stationed here and abroad.
"And finally after 20 years, I retired from the service and have a wonderful life with this wife of mine. And she’s been through a lot, and I’m glad that she’s a book about it."
In that book, The Girl with a Lotus in Her Hair, Haegin shares stories about the hardships she endured as a child and young woman. Her father had a mistress at home and physically abused his wife. While Heagin was still a baby, her mother disappeared.
Haegin’s grandmother stepped in and sent her to live with a couple who cared for her until she was five-years-old.
"It was kind of hard for me to understand what’s the whole situation was. But God has really led me up to today. You know, this kind of story is not that everybody’s ordinary story."
The Girl with a Lotus in Her Hair is a story of resilience. Heagin says her grandmother taught her to love others and instilled compassion in her, which she extends to her neighbors today.
"I think the good neighbor have to come out from you. The life I had living here anywhere we’d go, we had good neighbors."
"Well a good neighborhood is, you know, you got to know your neighbor next door – to the left to the right. And say hi to them. And if they’re in the need, you see them out there trying to get a car started or something, offer your help."
While the couple is content in their east Urbana home, they say illegal drugs are a problem. Two of their three children have struggled with addiction. One is “clean”. The other continues to struggle.
"All the neighbors around here are concerned that their children is going to be exposed to drugs. And that’s a lot of what this book is about too is how our children got involved in drugs. The biggest message that I would say to parents that have children and of course it depends on their age. Children try to experiment. And the best way to combat that is to get them educated. Take them to places to show them what actually happens to people whether it be the Times Center or someplace where the guys go to get their free food or what have you. The other thing is show them how much that you have faith in God and show them that you do the right things. And the right things that you do, sometimes your children will follow."
Roger Burton. The Burtons live in Urbana, Illinois.
For Illinois Public Media, I’m Crystal Kang.