Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.

GWEN DEW: ALBION’S FAMOUS REPORTER and PHOTOGRAPHER

Morning Star, May 3, 2009, Pg. 15

On August 26, 1993, the cremains of a once well-known figure in the world of journalism and photography was laid to rest in a family plot in Section 57 of Riverside Cemetery by a cemetery employee. There was no funeral here, nor any fanfare. The area for engraving on the large family tombstone remained blank due to the fact that this person was the “last of her line” and there were no arrangements made for engraving the stone. Unless specifically informed, you wouldn’t have known she was even buried here-- Until now.

She was Gwen Dew (1903-1993), and on Memorial Day, May 25 immediately following the regular service at Riverside Cemetery, there will be a special dedication of the newly-engraved tombstone for Gwen. A flower urn will also be placed at the site. The tombstone engraving has been graciously paid for by retired Albion Public School faculty member Andrew Kooi. The cemetery urn and flowers are being provided by the Ladies Auxiliary of the Eagles, with the project being headed by Patti Tautkus. Yours truly will be there and together we will give Gwen the memorial service she didn’t get and so deserved. You, my readers, are invited to attend. Mark the date on your calendar.

The Dew family stone has now been engraved with her maiden/writing name: “GWEN DEW 1903-1993 Writer, Journalist, Photographer.” For a detailed story about her life, read this writer’s article “Around the World With Gwen Dew.” This is a “local” version which is more detailed than the article by yours truly which appeared on the front cover of Michigan History Magazine in March-April 1999.

For our newer readers and for quick review, who was Gwen Dew? Gwen was born and raised in Albion and graduated from Albion High School in 1920. Her father owned Dews flower on Perry St., which is now Clark Flowers. Gwen was a prolific writer, and attended Albion College for three years. She then transferred to the University of Michigan where she graduated in October, 1924 with a degree in Journalism. In the late 1920s she served as the first publicity agent for FTD Florists, where she updated/redesigned its “running Mercury” logo. Gwen got to present flowers at the U of M stadium dedication in 1927 in front of thousands of fans.

In the early 1930s she wrote for and edited a variety of magazines, but in 1936-37 went on a daring tour around the world as a woman travel reporter for the Detroit News. Her weekly articles about the Far East and Orient were especially well read by thousands of readers. She became quite a photographer and her photos were highly prized and exhibited.

Gwen was caught in Hong Kong in December, 1941 when the Japanese invaded that British colony. She was held in a Japanese concentration camp for several months, but was released in the summer of 1942. She wrote about her experiences in a series of installment articles which made headlines in newspapers across the country in late 1942. Her book, “Prisoner of the Japs” detailing her story, was published in 1943. There was also an NBC radio broadcast dramatizing her ordeal, and this broadcast is available on the internet where Gwen’s own voice may be heard at the conclusion.

Gwen spoke at numerous rallies during the duration of the War, and helped raise over $2 million in War Bonds for the U.S. Treasury. In the latter part of the War, Gwen worked for the Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor of the CIA. In 1946 she was the first female reported allowed into Allied-occupied Japan, and continued as a reporter for several years, writing articles, some of the controversial. In 1948 she married Army Major James Buchanan at her home here in Albion; the marriage only lasted five years as he died suddenly of a heart attack in 1953.

Gwen sold the family house in Albion in the early 1950s, and moved to Scottsdale, Arizona where she lived her remaining years. She conducted a travel series there, as well as continued to travel. She worked on her autobiography and memoirs, but the manuscript was not published before she died in Phoenix on June 17, 1993, seven minutes shy of her 90th birthday.

Fortunately, the manuscript was published posthumously in 2007 and is entitled “My God, a Woman!” Also published was another manuscript Gwen wrote entitled, “MacArthur’s Japan.” This writer has just secured a very limited number of these books and they are now available for purchase at the Albion Chamber of Commerce while the supply lasts. The first two chapters are about Albion, and there are some notable Albion references throughout the book. Due to length and thickness, the book was published in two volumes.

From our Historical Notebook this week we present the cover of the March-April 1999 Michigan History Magazine featuring Gwen Dew returning to the U.S. in 1937. How many of our readers remember Gwen Dew? More about Gwen all month long here in our Historical Notebook.


The cover of the March-April 1999 Michigan History Magazine featuring Gwen Dew

Next: GWEN DEW RAISED FUNDS FOR WAR EFFORT


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