AFTER 26 YEARS, MINNESOTAN SEES PARENTS IN VIETNAM (story about David Bauer)

Date: 1993-12-25

[this is probably not the victim]
St. Paul Pioneer Press (MN)
Author: BYLINE: Mike Sweeney, Staff Writer

Family and friends in Minnesota know him as David Bauer, a 32-year-old welder who lives in rural Hastings with his wife and three children.

Relatives in Vietnam remember him as Nguyen Sau, a 6-year-old boy who left home in 1967 to travel to an orphanage in Saigon where he could get treatment for his polio.

Today, after a 26-year separation, Bauer is spending Christmas with his parents and other family members in Loc Ninh, a village near the Cambodian border 180 miles northeast of Saigon.

``I think they are more excited than I am,'' Bauer said of his parents, sisters and brother in Vietnam before his arrival there Tuesday.

Bauer was accompanied on the trip by his wife, Becky, his 4-year-old son, Jacob, and his 2-year-old daughter, Lindsey. The family hopes to spend three weeks in Vietnam, much of that time in Loc Ninh.

Although it's been a quarter century since Bauer left the Vietnamese village, he remembers its rice paddies and bamboo homes, playing childhood games and watching the big-horned water buffalo.

``I remember one friend for sure,'' he said, ``but I don't know if he'll be there. He had a heart problem.''

A childhood health problem indirectly played a major role in Nguyen Sau's journey from his then war-ravaged homeland to a more peaceful setting in Minnesota.

``I got polio when I was 3 years old,'' Bauer said. ``In my village there was a French missionary priest and he knew a place in Saigon where they would take care of me. He took me to the orphanage in 1967.''

Bauer hasn't seen his parents since he left tiny Loc Ninh 26 years ago and took up residence in the big city orphanage, which was run by French nuns.

``I sometimes wondered why they didn't come to visit,'' Bauer said, ``but the war was going on and it was far and we were poor.''

In the spring of 1975, with the North Vietnamese Army closing in on Saigon, the nuns offered Nguyen Sau a chance to go to a different country.

``I signed the papers right away,'' Bauer said. ``Everybody wanted to go to America. We thought it was the best place.''

Before he left, however, the nuns subtracted three years from Nguyen Sau's age, making him 11 instead of 14, so he would be a more attractive adoption prospect.

Bernard and Mary Lou Bauer adopted Nguyen Sau, who changed his name to David Bauer and lived with the couple and several other adopted children on a farm in Dakota County. Among them were two others from the orphanage where Bauer had lived.

Bauer graduated from Hastings High School in 1982, and spent two years at Dakota County Vocational-Technical College, where he learned welding.

About six years ago, Bauer decided to do more than wonder about his family in Vietnam.

``I sent a flier to the orphanage, but someone lost it,'' he said. ``We didn't hear anything back.''

After seeing a television report earlier this year about two friends from the orphanage who had found their parents, Bauer sent the orphanage a second flier that detailed his story and included a photo of him with three other orphans.

``One of the nuns, she saw my picture and recognized who I was,'' Bauer said. ``She knew a lady who knew my parents. She went to the village and my parents came to the orphanage.''

Bauer said his father sent him a letter with photographs of his brothers and sisters. He sent a letter back, with photographs of his American family, and began planning a trip to Vietnam.

``I guess ever since I first came over I wanted to go back, but I never really thought I would,'' said Bauer. ``I guess miracles do happen.''

Caption:
Photo:Scott Takushi, Pioneer Press
David Bauer holds his daughter, Lindsey, as his wife, Becky, holds their son Jason with Jacob, 4, nearby. The family journeyed to Vietnam for a reunion with relatives whom David Bauer, formerly Nguyen Sau, has not seen in 26 years.

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