Brigitte Chen, 78, of Charleston, Illinois passed away Friday, March 31, 2023 at the Villas of Holly Brook in Charleston, Illinois.
Brigitte Chen was born in Ansbach, Germany on March 25, 1945 and grew up during post WWII. She was the eldest child of Franz Otto and Amalia Elsa (Appich) Lehner, both preceding her in death as did her sister, Ingrid Lehner, who passed on March 6, 2021, and her husband Yung Ping Chen who passed May 3, 2022.
As a young girl, Brigitte dreamed of traveling and studying in foreign countries, especially the United States. Her first attempt to obtain a student visa for the U.S. failed; however, one day in 1965, while on a train in Europe, she met a Chinese-American professor, Yung Ping Chen. He had worked for members of congress and enjoyed helping young scholars. At the time, Ping was a professor at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and he was able to get Brigitte the first scholarship from the G. Heileman Brewing Co. of Lacrosse, Wisconsin, to attend Eastern Illinois University, promoting German-American good will. Ping became a professor at Eastern Illinois University’s political science department in the fall of 1966, and Brigitte entered EIU as a student the following January. In 1969, Brigitte earned her Bachelor of Arts degree and then her Master of Arts from the University of Illinois in 1971. That same year on June 19, she married Ping Chen in his hometown, College Park, MD. The years following their marriage were full of traveling through Asia and Europe, especially yearly trips to Munich, Germany during Octoberfest to visit her family.
Brigitte and Ping had no children and dedicated their time to international diplomacy, to students’ education, and to the arts. Brigitte worked at the campus library and was an advisor to international students. From 1978 through 1996, she was the EIU International Student Director, and from 1996 served as Assistant Director to the Dean, College of Arts, retiring in 2004.
When not traveling with Ping, Brigitte enjoyed her home and gardening in Charleston and going shopping in Chicago. The past three years she missed her visits to Germany because of travel restrictions due to Covid, and the loss of her beloved husband Ping in May of 2022. Surviving Brigitte are her brother Lothar (Christine) Lehner, niece Sieglinde Lehner, and her 96 year old aunt Hedwig.
A Graveside service will be held at 11:00 AM, Thursday, April 6, 2023 at Roselawn Cemetery in Charleston, Illinois. Memorials in her honor may be made to the American Cancer Society or the Alzheimer’s Association and mailed to Adams Funeral Chapel, 2330 Shawnee Drive, Charleston, Illinois.
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