At a time when much national news is focused on disagreements among nations, the 25th Annual Reunion of the Descendants of the Original Siamese Twins, Eng and Chang Bunker, prided itself on the partnership between the United States and Thailand.
The reunion was held in the First Baptist Church Fellowship Hall on 714 North Main Street in Mount Airy Saturday afternoon. Zack Blackmon Jr, great-grandson of Eng Bunker, served as the emcee for the event which was highlighted by the presence of his Excellency Vijavat Isarabhakdi, Thailand Ambassador to the United States. The Royal Thai Embassy provided the lunch, which was catered by the Thai Cafe, and reunion participants who brought the desserts.
Elected officials present included Surry County Commissioner Buck Golding and Mount Airy Commissioner Shirley Brinkley both commended the efforts of all involved on keeping the history of Eng and Chang Bunker alive.
Golding called his chance to participate an honor. He welcomed the ambassador “on behalf of the 75,000 people in this county, we want to express what a resource this family is.” He said the event was proof of a cultural melting pot and told the ambassador to “come back and come often.”
“It’s an honor to be a part of the Bunker get together,” said Brinkley. “On behalf of the city of Mount Airy I would like to present you this key to the city. It is very small but it opens big hearts.”
Ambassador Isarabhakdi told the group he brought the key back up with him to the podium for his speech and said he was “very honored and delighted” to have received the invitation to the reunion. He said his reception in Mount Airy had made him feel warm and welcomed and he felt at home. Isarabhakdi commended the family’s awareness of its roots.
He said the twins’ journey to America, in 1829, preceded the first formal treaty between the two countries by around 181 years and marked the first such agreement between the America and Asia.
“We work together as partners in virtually all areas,” said Isarabhakdi. “In spite of challenges we will continue to grow and blossom.” He called the lives of the twins “an indelible part of the history of Thai-U.S. relations.” Blackmon presented the ambassador with a framed lithograph of the twins. Gifts were also given to Brinkley and Golding by the Thai delegation.
Nong Endear performed a classical Thai dance before lunch and a Thai folk dance afterwards for reunion participants. Participants were also asked to sign proclamations honoring conjoined twins Ronnie and Donnie Galyon who reached a personal milestone of living more than 62 years, 8 months and 7 days. Eng and Chang Bunker died at age 63. Members of the Yates family were also honored. Eng and Chang Bunker married sisters, Sallie and Adelaide Yates.
David Broyles may be reached at 336-415-4739 and on Twitter@MtAiryNewsDave.