BethWoo2-3

Beth Wu

HONORING BETH WOO


Mike Woo is the Dean of the College of Environmental Design at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. He delivered the following eulogy to honor his mother on March 18, 2017.

On behalf of my sisters Pat, Elaine, and Pam, welcome to the memorial service for our mother Beth Woo.

I’d like to begin with a simple question: How many of you in this room have been fed by Beth Woo?

Some of you used to come to the big birthday parties in the backyard of our old brick house on Virginia Road, or in the backyard of our new tract house on Ridge Crest Street. Some of you used to come to the banquets in Chinese restaurants celebrating our grandparents’s birthdays. Some of you were my former campaign volunteers who had your first taste of char siu bao when my mother brought you a snack to tide you over from your phone calls or precinct walking.

Mom was a good cook, and consistent with her long hours working in the family produce business, she made sure that her kids ate fresh fruits and vegetables. But Mom taught us that food is more than just physical nourishment. Food is a way to make people feel comfortable, a way to make people feel at home, a way to make people feel that they’re part of the family.

For Mom, the sense of family was all-important. She was the second of five children, an only daughter alongside her four brothers Wyan, Kenow, Kingdon, and Kingget. Her parents were immigrants from Guangdong Province in southern China who arrived in Stockton and made a living as farmers growing potatoes. You’ll hear more in a few minutes about Mom’s experiences after she graduated from high school in Stockton and was sent to China. But first I want to tell you about my recollection of Mom’s parents whom we knew as Grandpa Yip and Grandma Yip.

I have fond childhood memories of our family’s summer trips to visit Mom’s parents and our relatives in Stockton. Sometimes Dad would load Mom, my sisters, and me into his car and we’d spend a day riding up Highway 99 to Stockton (remember, these were the days before Highway 5 literally gave you a straight shot through the Central Valley). I wouldn’t tell my Dad, but I preferred it when Mom took us to Stockton on the Southern Pacific train from Union Station, not because this was an early expression of my support for public transit, but because Mom would let me order French toast in the dining car.

I think that Grandpa Yip and Grandma Yip imparted to Mom a rare combination of kindliness and stubbornness. Mom used to tell us a story about her mother going on a trip to San Francisco and then getting into a taxi and telling the driver that she wanted to go to Stockton. The driver assumed that Grandma Yip meant Stockton Street in San Francisco. But when the taxi arrived on Stockton Street, Grandma Yip had to explain to the driver that she meant Stockton, California (a distance of about 84 miles). Grandma Yip knew what she wanted.

Mom told a story about Grandpa Yip in the hospital in Stockton, near the end of his long life. Grandpa Yip had learned to speak English because, as a farmer and later as a storeowner, it was a business necessity. He had to be able to speak English in order to communicate with his customers and his suppliers. But with his family, Grandpa Yip’s communication was strictly limited to Cantonese. Mom said that she could barely remember her father ever saying anything in English. But near the end of his life, as Grandpa Yip’s condition deteriorated, Mom made regular trips to Stockton to spend time with him in the hospital. During one of her visits, a nurse came into Grandpa Yip’s hospital room and asked Mom to step outside while the nurse changed Grandpa Yip’s hospital gown. Mom stepped outside the door, and then suddenly, from outside the door, she was shocked to hear her father’s voice, demonstrating an unmistakable command of the English language, telling the nurse: “Take your hands off my drawers.”

Like Grandma Yip, Grandpa Yip knew what he wanted.

Like her parents, Mom was capable of being stubborn. But unlike other stubborn people, Mom’s stubbornness was never obnoxious or unkind. She always had a lovely way with people, but not in a superficial way. Mom related well to people because she really cared about people. In her later years, after she retired from Chungking Produce, Mom wanted to find a way to be useful, so she and our sister Janice used to volunteer at the Chinatown Library and the Bruggemeyer Library in Monterey Park to tutor Chinese immigrants in English.

Another example comes from Gladys Lee, the founding executive director of the Asian Pacific Family Center in the San Gabriel Valley, who is here in the audience with us today. Gladys says that back in the 1980s, when she was trying to launch this pioneering effort to combat mental illness in the Asian American community, she had encountered a lot of reluctance on the part of Asian Americans who did not want to be tainted by even an indirect association with the stigma of mental illness. But Gladys was determined to find support for this much-needed venture. She had heard of Beth Woo but never had met her. So Gladys picked up the phone and made a cold call to Mom, introducing herself and making the case for the real, but under-recognized problem of mental illness in the Asian American community. Gladys says that she was surprised when Mom told her that she knew that this was a real problem because Mom would get phone calls from her friends about mental health issues in their own families. Mom became the first member of Gladys’s advisory council and not only donated money in her own name but also raised money from others, leading the Asian Pacific Family Center’s first fundraising drive and arranging for the donation of a new car for a raffle.

Gladys recalls that when the Asian Pacific Family Center held its first open house, Mom not only invited her friends but (true to form) also brought an ample supply of dim sum, cakes, and of course char siu bao to feed the supporters and put them in a good mood.

When Mom wanted to describe someone she admired, one of her favorite words was “enterprising.” She admired Gladys Lee’s efforts to raise awareness of mental illness and thought of Gladys as an enterprising person. But Mom herself was very enterprising and taught each of her children to do our best, using whatever we’ve got, to make a difference in the world and to be good to people.

In closing, on the subject of being good to people, I’d like to express immense gratitude on behalf of my sisters Pat, Elaine, and Pam, my brothers in law Robert and John, and my wife Laurie to the caregivers who have been so diligent and dedicated in their service to Mom in her later years. To Mylene Viray, Mele Griffith, Letty Lim, and Roque Navarro, our entire family deeply appreciates your indispensable role taking care of Mom and making her life as good as it could be especially during her final illness.





DWong-dust

Dolores Wong

2015 SCHOLARSHIP AWARD DINNER HONORED LEGACY OF DOLORES WONG

Founding member of the Friends of the Chinatown Library


“Dolores Wong was born in Vallejo, California, on September 24, 1921. She passed away peacefully in her sleep on November 23, 2014. She was preceded in death by her husband of 58 years, the Honorable Delbert E. Wong. She is survived by children Shelley (the Reverend Tyrone Pitts); Duane (Joanne); Kent (Jai); and Marshall; grandsons Sandy Pitts, Ryan and Robin Wong.

Dolores was a fourth-generation Californian whose great-grandfather arrived in San Francisco in 1852. She was the first person in her family to attend college, graduating from U.C. Berkeley in 1942, and receiving a Master’s Degree from Smith College in 1946. She worked as a psychiatric social worker in Boston, New Orleans, and Sacramento until the birth of her children. She became a full-time mother and invested many years in community volunteer activities. Her happiest and most satisfying contribution was to help fund and establish the first public library in Los Angeles Chinatown.

Honors received during her lifetime include awards from the YWCA, Organization of Chinese Americans, Asian Pacific Women’s Network, Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics, Chinatown Public Safety Association, and Friends of the Chinese American Museum.

Friends wishing to honor her memory may contribute to the Friends of the Chinatown Library, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – LA, the Chinese American Museum, or the East-West Players.

A celebration of life for Dolores Wong was held at Forest Lawn in Glendale on November 28, 2014. Her memory was honored at the FOCL Annual Scholarship Award Dinner on June 5, 2015.”

The above remembrance of Dolores was submitted by the Wong family.

“We cherish her legacy as one of the original founders of the Friends of the Chinatown Library, committed to developing the library from an idea into a reality, an immense contribution that altered the community landscape of Chinatown and the citywide Los Angeles public library system.

With fierce skills of persuasiveness wrapped in elegance, kindness and charm, Dolores tirelessly campaigned for the right of Chinatown residents, young and old, to locally access the academic resources, information, services and programs that only a neighborhood public library can provide. She helped to nurture the concept, lead the advocacy campaign, and raise the funds that supported each new chapter of building this vibrant community institution on its long journey from proposal to its original home in borrowed space in Castelar to its current beautiful landmark building today.

Dolores was a role model of public service, community leadership, good citizenship, dear friendship and an inspiration for us all. Her legacy and impact will benefit and inspire generations to come.

As we travel over the crest of Hill and Ord Streets, through the gateway to Chinatown, and pass in front of the library, intersecting with Judge Delbert E. Wong Square, we embrace fond remembrances of the exemplary lives of Dolores and Del.”

Respectfully remembered by William Chun-Hoon, FOCL Community Historian

Updated 07/08/2017