LEMONT – In many ways, Thuy-Van Becker is not a typical volunteer with the Lemont Area Historical Society.
Becker, 28, was born and raised in Germany by Vietnamese parents. She moved to Lemont in October of last year when her husband, Sebastian, got a job in the physics department at Argonne National Laboratory.
Though they will return to Germany at the end of the year, Thuy-Van has had a large impact during her brief time with the historical society.
She said she has done a little bit of everything since she started volunteering last spring. Most recently, she created an interactive workbook for children visiting the museum.
Becker has a bachelor’s degree in pedagogics and Catholic theology and a background in teaching.
When she moved to the U.S., her job opportunities were limited because she does not have a work permit.
She said rather than trying to find work, she decided be a stay-at-home wife and get to know the area.
Becker said she initially considered volunteering at one of the many Catholic parishes in Lemont, which she had done in Germany.
“But I didn’t do that because I thought ‘You should do something new,’” she said. “’You’re in a new place. You should do something new, like nothing you’ve done before.’”
Becker said she went to the museum because she was interested in history and antiques.
Museum coordinator Sue Donahue said she met Becker when she visited the museum. Donahue mentioned the historical society’s need for volunteers.
Since then, Becker has been volunteering at the museum on a regular basis, helping with basic tasks and larger projects, such as updating the cemetery books, Donahue said.
Becker said the idea for the workbook came from thinking of how to get more children to come to the museum.
“Why not do a little booklet for them so they have something to take home with them?” she said.
She started working on the booklet at the beginning of summer and finished in the middle of September.
Creating the booklet offered a chance for Becker to learn about Lemont history.
She said she has had an interest in the 1850s ever since watching “Little House on the Prairie” in Germany.
Becker said the historical society board told her they needed a booklet for children because everything else they had was for adults.
Becker also volunteered with the Lemont United Methodist Church during its Vacation Bible School.
Though she is Catholic, she said she was compelled to volunteer there when she met Pastor Kelly Van, who is also Vietnamese.
Becker said the large Polish population in Lemont surprised her and helps her feel more at home because she can get European food.
“If you move to the states, you expect to be in an All-American surrounding,” she said.
Becker said she is returning to Germany partially because her husband’s project at Argonne is ending, but also because she is pregnant and wants to raise her child near family.
She said it feels good to leave the interactive workbook with her name on it to show she accomplished something while she was in Lemont.
“It’s not just going to a place where nobody knows you and going back and having to admit ‘I’ve been a total stranger there,’” she said.
Donahue is sad to see Becker go.
“You get used to seeing someone,” she said. “I understand. She’s going back home. I definitely will miss her.”