June Rose Bellamy, Adventurous Burmese Princess, Dies at 88


June Rose grew up speaking Burmese, English and Hindi. Her father settled down and raised orchids. When the Japanese attacked Rangoon in 1941, when June Rose was 9, the family evacuated to India and spent five years there. June Rose remembered Indira Gandhi, a future prime minister of India, watching over her as she played on a swing set.

She was sent to a convent school in Kalimpong, in the Himalayan foothills, but was distracted, her son said, and expelled after she made up an answer to a geography question. When June Rose was 17, she submitted an essay to The New York Herald Tribune’s World Youth Forum, a program designed in 1947, in the wake of World War II, to foster peace by bringing young people together. Competition winners like June Rose spent three months with a host family in New York City.

There, she learned to jitterbug.

She proved resourceful. After meeting a 20-year-old Ms. Bellamy and her parents at a party at the British Consul in May Myo, the British travel writer Norman Lewis was surprised to see her take on the role of car mechanic. As he wrote in “Golden Earth, Travels in Burma” (1952), “When the family were about to leave, in an elderly and ailing British car, June Rose showed much skill in locating a short in the wiring, and much tomboyish energy in winding the starting handle until the engine fired.”

Before meeting Mr. Postiglione, Ms. Bellamy was cast in “The Purple Plain,” a 1954 film starring Gregory Peck as a suicidal pilot in World War II Burma. She played a Burmese nurse who gave Peck’s character a reason to live. But she pulled out of the movie, her son said, because it depicted “behavior that a good Buddhist Burmese would never do, and therefore gave the wrong idea of the country.”

Ms. Bellamy later told an interviewer, “It was so Hollywood, it was ridiculous.”

She was a devout Buddhist, spending a few weeks each year at a retreat in England. She was also an omnivore, a sensualist and an omniculturalist. She studied cooking in England with Kenneth Lo, a Chinese restaurateur, but taught all kinds of cuisines at her school. Her book, “L’Anima Della Spezie” (“The Soul of Spice,” 2017), was a cultural history of spices, with recipes.

For the forthcoming documentary, Ms. Bellamy talked about her dining philosophy: “Enjoy what you are eating. Do not gallop down your food. Don’t mix everything up on your plate. Keep the conversation light. The table is not made for politics.”



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