Harrowing journey

War brides overcame obstacles to settle in West Michigan.
Felipa Schwartz and her son, Tony, are reunited at the Kent County Airport on July 21, 1950. Traveler’s Aid and the Grand Rapids Herald assisted the family in the months-long process of getting his travel approved. Courtesy Grand Rapids Public Library

At the close of World War II, thousands of women came to the United States as war brides, mostly from Europe. Felipa Breguera was one of 2,215 Filipina women who immigrated to America between 1946-1950 under the War Brides Act.

Felipa and her parents left their hometown of Burgos in the Pangasinan province of the Philippines when Japanese forces invaded. Living in Manila, Felipa met her future husband, Basil Schwartz, while he was serving there. Basil was born in Allegan and worked in a furniture factory in Grand Rapids before enlisting.

Felipa must have faced a difficult decision when she decided to move to Grand Rapids in 1947. She was unable to bring her 5-year-old son, Tony, with her, and also moved away from her parents and sisters. As soon as she was eligible, Felipa became a U.S. citizen and began the paperwork to bring Tony, who was living with his grandfather, to America. On July 21, 1950, Tony arrived at the Kent County Airport after an 8,000-mile trip by plane from Manila. Felipa and Basil had three additional children and raised their family in the Wyoming area.

This story can be found in the May/June 2022 issue of Grand Rapids Magazine. To get more stories like this delivered to your mailbox, subscribe here

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