Ohio's Greatest Home Newspaper
Farmlike retreat teaches a new philosophy for eating, living
Sunday, March 11, 2001
Stories by Dennis Fiely
UTICA, Ohio -- Options at the Hsu Retreat Center in rural Licking County typically lead to the same choice: her way or the highway.
When she welcomes guests into her $1 million home, Sung Bok Hsu expects them to learn about -- if not practice -- her nutrition theories.
"This is not a bed-and-breakfast," she emphasized. "Healing is the only purpose of this place."
A certain diversion is conspicuously absent in the six-bedroom house.
"If you want to watch television, stay home," Hsu said. "Television doesn't heal, does it?"
Visitors who arrive for daytime sessions or overnight stays are invited to rest, relax, walk in the woods -- and feed the chickens.
The focus of the 73-acre getaway on Homer Road, southwest of Utica, is found in the kitchen, where Hsu teaches how to prepare meals rich in raw fruit and vegetables, and enhanced with exotic supplements.
Her instruction includes seminars in the basement and trips to the supermarket.
The retreat center opened to the public in September.
Hsu has thus realized her dream of devoting a reclusive facility to helping people recover from illnesses such as cancer, arthritis, heart disease and diabetes.
"They come here with everything," said the 70-year-old proprietor, a mother of three grown children. "People get sick because they are in the rat race and have no time to reflect on life's values and meanings."
The center is intended, in part, to "free the squirrels from the squirrel cage."
The many large windows invite the outdoors inside, revealing views of deer, pheasants and wild turkeys roaming the property.
Balconies and bedroom porches beckon boarders outside.
"You don't want to shut yourself in," Hsu said. "I think people get strength and wisdom from the stars, moon and trees."
The landscaping highlights ginkgo and pine trees and a Japanese rock garden. A chicken coop and doghouse in the back yard accent the spread with a farming flavor.
"It is emotional therapy to see olden times. This is an enchanted place with a spiritual atmosphere that helps turn people around."
In 1961, Hsu moved from South Korea to the United States to attend the University of Portland. She earned a master's degree in library science from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and worked as a librarian at Columbus State Community College and Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Bexley.
"My soul wasn't into it," she said of the library work.
A turning point occurred in 1970, when Hsu applied her training as a researcher to develop a dietary regimen that she said cured her of diverticulitis, an inflammatory condition.
She continued to read books on health and nutrition into the wee hours to refine her "internal-cleansing program," the heart of her health-care philosophy.
In 1977 she parlayed door-to-door ginseng sales into Hsu & Co., consisting of three Columbus nutrition centers.
She built the Hsu Retreat Center, she said, with proceeds from her business and the stock market.
Her diet combines mostly raw fruit and vegetables with a variety of supplements to clean the intestine and colon, and improve digestion and waste elimination.
Accumulated waste throughout the body, Hsu said, underlies all diseases, provides a breeding ground for germs and parasites, and interferes with bodily processes.
Flour, white rice, white sugar, caffeine, soft drinks, milk products, red meat, chocolate and alcohol are forbidden.
Michelle Barker, a Hsu convert, is to end a monthlong stay Monday at the retreat center.
Because of an eating disorder, the 23-year-old Grove City woman arrived there too weak to walk across a room.
"I was constipated, fatigued, and weighed 96 pounds," she said.
As of Friday, Barker had gained 27 pounds -- and she was jogging.
Hsu keeps a book of testimonials from folks who claim they have benefited from her program; they cite reductions in weight, cholesterol and blood pressure.
She also welcomes healthy people interested in disease prevention.
Roger McClain of Jerry McClain Construction in Newark and his wife, Kathy, adopted the program shortly after the company began building the house.
"My wife and I were perfectly healthy, but the diet made sense to us," McClain said. "We've been on it for about a year now, and we feel great."
Hsu buries her boarders in educational materials and assigns them to kitchen detail.
"The first thing we do," she said, "is take ginseng and go for a walk."
Copyright © 2001, The Columbus Dispatch