At age 25, Martin Pieronek is living the American Dream. The Torrey Pines High School graduate holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical engineering, and he recently landed a job in Texas that involves the marketing of process simulation software products. But the road to success involved some obstacles for the native of Vietnam.
Helping Martin navigate the path were Carmel Valley residents Cindy and Jim Pieronek and their son, Chris.
In the mid-1990s, the Pieroneks, unable to have additional children, considered adopting a young child through agencies connected with their congregation, the San Diego Church of Christ.
“We were in limbo,” Cindy Pieronek said.
Around this time, a friend of theirs from church was traveling back and forth from Vietnam, in the process of adopting a baby girl from a family living on the street. The friend informed the Pieroneks that while she was in Vietnam, she met a nice, young boy whose 72-year-old adoptive mother, Tuyet, was seeking better opportunities for him in America. Tuyet had broken her hip, and she was concerned that she couldn’t care for the energetic Martin — known then as Hong An — who was 11 years old, according to Cindy Pieronek.
“I thought: ‘Older child? Are you nuts?! This wasn’t what we were thinking!’ ” Pieronek said, who was dealing with 7-year-old Chris’ ADD (attention deficit disorder) issues.
Martin had been with Tuyet since he was an infant; he had been given up by his birth mother several days after his arrival into the world. During her pregnancy, his mother had to be sequestered and protected to ensure Martin’s safety in Communist-run Vietnam, Pieronek said.
“It was culturally not sanctioned” to be pregnant out of wedlock, she added.
Fortunately for Martin and his birth mother, they had the assistance of Catholic nuns working in a hospital in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).
“The Catholic nuns did their best to take children off the street and care for them,” Pieronek said. They bought the homeless children books, clothes and uniforms, so they appeared similar to those who were paying for school. The nuns also fed the children and taught them how to read and write, Pieronek added.
The nun who aided Martin’s birth mother initially took Martin into her home, but it was her sister Tuyet — a career nurse — who adopted the baby boy and lovingly raised him as her own.
“Martin had a beautiful, wonderful extended family,” Pieronek said. “He never knew he was adopted until later on.”
When the opportunity arose for the Pieroneks to adopt Martin, the timing appeared to be a concern. The family had recently moved to Carmel Valley from Albuquerque, N.M., after Jim accepted a job offer at Qualcomm.
“At the time, we were financially strapped,” Cindy Pieronek said. “I said to my friend, ‘We’ll pray about it and see what happens.’ ”
The cost of the adoption was estimated to be $15,000 to $20,000. The Pieroneks prayed, and they received plenty of advice from close church friends. As soon as they started doing that, the money started coming out of nowhere, Cindy Pieronek said. Jim received a bonus from work, and Cindy landed a job as a technical writer for a biotech company.