Christine Bashir Michael (nee Khan), 81, of Oak Park, died on Sept. 11, 2013. Her immigrant journey, part of the Indian diaspora, took her halfway around the globe — from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia and finally to Oak Park.
The journey began with her birth in pre-partition India in 1931. Her mother was the second wife of her father; her brothers and sisters were more than 12 years older. The family worked as farmers in the rich, five-river valley near the ancient city of Lahore in the Punjab, now part of Pakistan. The community was interwoven with devout religious neighbors and friends who were Hindu, Muslims and Christians. She lived in a village compound, with the narrow minority of Christians, sharing a central courtyard, growing rice, wheat, cotton and sugar cane.
When she was 6, her family decided she would train for a life in a religious order and sent her away from her family to a convent. Within a short time, they decided she would instead train to be a nurse. She was sent to Bombay for medical training. Afterward, she worked as a nurse and was courted by a young dashing medical student, Victor Michael, also a Christian from Lahore. They married and had three daughters, two of whom survived to adulthood. The couple then travelled to Saudi Arabia for work.
When the girls were school age, they decided their daughters should be educated at St. Denys, a British-run boarding school in the mountain town of Murree, Pakistan. They enrolled their girls, age 6 and 10, while they worked in Saudi Arabia to earn enough money to pay the tuition. The doctor and nurse team initially worked in rural areas in Saudi Arabia, delivering babies and performing minor surgery.
They eventually moved to the city of Jeddah where they rented out a vacant embassy house and set up a home in the wing of a palatial estate. There they celebrated holidays with their girls when they visited and entertained a large diverse group of friends, people of many different nationalities. They would take driving trips as a family to nearby countries, exploring Kuwait, Jordan, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.
During the 1970s, changes to the political establishment in Pakistan persuaded the family they could not return to Lahore. They arrived in Chicago in 1975 and bought a gas station near the Wisconsin border and also managed a six-flat building on the North Side of Chicago. The girls worked evenings and nights at the gas station while attending high school and college.
After Dr. Michael died suddenly in 1988, she worked at Lutheran General Hospital. Both her daughters finished college and graduated from law school. Her older daughter, Pamela, is a Cook County judge, one of the first Asians ever elected to office in Cook County and the first elected Pakistani judge in American history.
Christine Michael is survived by her daughters, Pamela (Tim) Leeming and Anita Bower; and her four grandchildren with whom she lived for the past 18 years. She was preceded in death by her husband, Dr. Victor Michael. She was known to most as "Nani" and spoke four languages.
Visitation was held on Sept. 15, at Conboy Funeral Home in Westchester. A funeral Mass was celebrated on Sept. 16 at Ascension Catholic Church in Oak Park, with burial at Montrose Cemetery, 5400 N. Pulaski Road in Chicago.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions to the Pakistan Bible Society, http://www.pbs.org.pk or P.O. Box 5400, Anarkali, Lahore Pakistan are appreciated.
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