Remembering Kong Blue

By Gregory Singh Syiem Standal

She was lovingly called Kong Blue and was loved by all for her charismatic character and intelligence.
Dr. Bluebell Reade StandalSyiem was an academician and the first Khasi individual to obtain a PhD and that too from the University of California, Berkeley.
Born on February 8, 1921 to Shim KiriSyiem and andKongor Wilson Medley Reade Phanwar (Babu Wil), one of the architects of present-day Meghalaya, Bluebell Syiem had always shown a keen interest in academics. She received her primary and secondary education at the Presbyterian Girls’ High School, Shillong, and later obtained her Baccalaureate of Science in Physics and Chemistry from Cotton College in Guwahati.
In late 1943, she obtained a scholarship to study Home Economics in the US. Despite objections at home, Bluebell Syiem, who was the eighth among 11 siblings, was determined to take the opportunity. She travelled from Shillong to erstwhile Calcutta and then to Bombay by rail to board the USS Hermitage, a ship transporting Polish refugees from erstwhile Bombay to California. The ship journeyed via Perth and Melbourne zigzagging the Pacific through the Solomon Islands to arrive at San Pedro, California. Her final destination lay further on at Chicago, Illinois, where she arrived in the November of 1943 to attend the University of Chicago.
But transitioning from the fall climate of Shillong to the Midwest winter of Illinois was more than she could bear. So she managed to obtain a second posting at the University of California in Berkeley where she completed her doctorate in Human Nutrition.
She returned to India in 1955 and was stationed in New Delhi at the Indian Institute of Medical Research. She went back to the US in 1958-59 to take up residence at the University of Hawaii as an Assistant Professor of Human Nutrition with emphasis on protein research. She continued to advance in her academic responsibilities and eventually became the department chair.
In Hawaii, Bluebell Syiem met Stanley Wallace Standal on a hike up Mount Olomana. They got married and had two sons, Gregory and John. After their divorce in 1968, she raised her two sons with the assistance of her sister Marybell Reade MuirSyiem. Bluebell Syiem purchased the family home in Hawaii in 1969 and raised her sons to graduate from the University of Hawaii.
John became a data analyst and database engineer working with the University of Hawaii Linguistic department to create a database of spoken languages across the world. Sadly, John preceded his mother in death in 2006.
Gregory married Vicki France of Boscobel, Wisconsin. He went on to a profession in teaching. Vicki went into Graphic Design. Brandon and Mariah are their children. Brandon married AnnaliseMorkri of Mount Horeb, Wisconsin. Mariah married Brock Schoepp of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Bluebell Syiem had always appreciated the groundbreaking work of her father in pioneering the accession of the Khasi states to the secular Indian Union. He had pioneered the idea of a ‘hill state’ separated from the administrative control of Assam. The fruits of his innovative thinking resulted in the creation of the current state of Meghalaya.
Immediately after Bluebell’s retirement as the Department Chair in the University of Hawaii, she spent numerous years going through the papers of her father and authoring a book about his life and work titled A Voice In The Wilderness. The book was introduced in Shillong in 2009 at a grand ceremony held at the Khasi National Durbar Hall by the then governor RS Mooshahary.
Bluebell had a warm, vibrant and adventurous personality. Her faith in Christianity gave her a solid foundation from which she developed kindness, love and generosity towards most people who she met over the years and had a lasting impact on them.
Bluebell lived in Hawaii throughout her retirement. Given her advanced age, Gregory moved her to Wisconsin where she lived at Girlie’s Manor in Mount Horeb till the end. She passed away on July 10, 2019. A heartfelt gratitude goes to the staff at Girlie’s Manor who tirelessly took care of Bluebell. She was loved by all and they remember her as a person with great conviction.

(Memorials may be written on the Gunderson Funeral Home website,

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