News By: Gerrye Wong

News Date: July 4, 2017

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July 4, 2017


By Gerrye Wong   July 4, 2017

As I write this, it is Independence Day for  our United States and people are celebrating whether they know what the holiday was for or not.  How fortunate we are to live in a land of so-called democracy and freedom.  It isn’t quite like that today and it wasn’t like that in 1910-1940 when many of our Chinese forefathers ventured across the ocean to a life of they thought would be freedom from wars, chaos and poverty.  For some who came through San Francisco, to be detained at the Angel Island Immigration Station, it was not an easy task to enter freely. Many were detained, some deported, and most unfairly interrogated and imprisoned on the island from a week to months.

Bench Sponsors at Angel Island Dedication

Last month over 60 people went to Angel Island themselves to remember their forefathers who came seeking a better life for their families.   Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation (AIISF) President Katherine Toy and Grant Din invited families who had wanted to memorialize their families’ immigrant history by placing a bench in their honor at the Immigration Station site, and it was a wonderful time of remembrance for all of us there.

AIISF Board members welcome visitors to Angel island immigration Station

The eager supporters gathered at Tiburon  Ferry Pier were escorted by AIISF Board members Henry Der and Darlene Chiu Bryant while Katherine Toy, Felicia Low and I eagerly welcomed those coming from San Francisco.   From ferry to tram shuttle, as organized by the California State Park Rangers and Grant Din, brought us all to the immigration station under a beautiful sun filled sky. 

Calvin and Gerrye Wong with Gary, kely, Todd and melissa Matsuura dedicatin g their family bench between the barracks and mess hall area of the Angel; Island immigration Station

Representing the California State Park System,  Superintendent Amy Brees welcomed all as we sat on the concrete steps g facing the dock, no longer there, that unloaded thousands of immigrants who were eagerly hoping to enter America after a long voyage.  People came from over 80 countries during the 30 year period the Immigration Station was opened, so as we sat there, we could picture the throngs of frightened immigrants who were led on to the island instead of the US mainland. 

Colleen Gee sitting on the family sponsored bench at Angel Island

As with all non profits, fundraising is always a crucial issue and  the  Heritage Bench campaign was an important  way families could not only support the AIISF’s work but also remember their family history. 

Chen Family on bench honoring their family IMG_4255

Among those coming to herald and dedicate their bench that day were Bob and Lien Chen, Coleen Gee and family, Victoria Fong/Gee Kin Chou and daughter Julianne, Louella, Fung, Faye Fun Sailors and Shel Fung,Hop and Carol Jeong with Cynthia Sevin, Albert and Bessie Jung Family, Hazel Louie and Family, Franc Martinez representing the Herbert Yee Family,  and my own family, Calvin Wong, Gary & Kelly Matsuura with my grandchildren Melissa and Todd Matsuura.

 State Park Executive Amy  Brees shows the new hospital rsoration building to Angel Island visitors for first time


For golfers, when one ventures to San Diego area, there is no finer resort to visit than the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort in Carlsbad.  Having read that Golf Digest named it as one of the top resort golf courses in America, and the #1 in San Diego by Conde Nast, of course this is a most popular destination go-to.  Director of Golf Renny Brown welcomed us warmly to his prestigious course which one could see he enjoys being stationed at for many years.  The Aaron Wongs and we told him we especially enjoyed winding through the green rolling  hills , and tasting the salty air of the Pacific while enjoying the spectacular views of nearby Batiquitos Lagoon which was very attractive to our errant mis-hit balls.  

Aviara Director of Golf Renny Brown welcomes Northern Californian golfersFullSizeRender

We enjoyed learning more about the course and the resort from Park Hyatt Aviara Resort Marketing Manager Emily Koch at the resort’s elegant two story Spanish colonial clubhouse restaurant who proudly claimed was again given the AAA Five Diamond Resort rating .  Whether you are a single digit or duffer like yours truly, the golf course is one to enjoy for its wonderful landscaping of colorful plants and flowers in a beautiful wildlife sanctuary overlooking the Pacific Ocean

Park Hyatt Aviara Resort  Marketing Manager Emily Koch welcomes Calvin Wong and Maelene Wong

Ah nirvana where after the game, we enjoyed browsing the extensive upscale golf shop and driving around the beautiful resort surroundings vowing to put its world renowned spa salon on our next  Southern California bucket list.

Barona Creek Golf Course Director Don King shows off trophy in pro shop

For an all-around casino indoors and out, we ventured to Barona Resort & Casino, which had been voted San Diego’s best Casino , self proclaimed the happiest casino on earth, and its golf course voted 6th best casino course in the US by Golfweek Magazine.   The very affable and welcoming Director of Golf Don Brown was happy to meet with us and show off his facility. The long ride through winding trails surrounded by open country seemed very remote to us, but it must not have seemed so to others, as the parking lot was filled, as was the casino restaurant Don escorted us to after our strenuous golf game. The restaurant menu satisfied my Asian food taste with a large exceptional Oxtail soup while a menu of many international  options  also satisfied our adventurous appetites too.  Everyone on staff at both the golf course and casino were most welcoming, and everywhere felt like a winning atmosphere, no matter how our golf score or slot machine results ended up. For golfers, I would say this is definitely a great experience to golf among San Diego’s rolling hills away from the city atmosphere  in its Audubon Certified Signature Sanctuary since 2002.


It is always hard to say good-bye , but the children of Homer Cheng, Iris, Suzan and Rex,  came North Carolina,  Ohio and Southern California to host a farewell celebration of life for him,  bringing back all of the good memories family and friends had of the quiet, generous and friendly  gentlemen.  Although he spent most of his life in middle of America Ohio as a pathologist, he loved spending his retirement years in San Francisco, recalled his cousins Mel Lee, Clifford and Bob Chang.

Homer Cheng

Homer’s history of escaping China as a youngster and forging a life for himself and his children in America was told by his Cheng grandchildren that evening.  A fitting conclusion to a slide show and musical program of his favorite music, was everyone joining in singing to Homer, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”.

Helen leong birthday

Helen Leong was heralded for her 90th birthday two times because this lady has so many friends, no Chinese restaurant could hold such a large group. One party was in fine style with 100 friends, which as her sister Nancy exclaimed was the first time she had ever thrown a party for herself because she was always thinking of her family first before herself.  Held at the Palo Alto Su Hong Restaurant, Helen’s celebration was highlighted by a very special speech by husband George who complimented on her surviving hard working times following him around the world.  He recalled the difficulties they faced together in their desire to move to Atherton, which up to their appearance, had been closed to minority families.  He cited her ambitious nature exploring many occupations, from scientist to entrepreneur to property manager to real estate investor, and her most cherished accomplishment, her volunteer and church work.

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 Not only did she help found her Advent Lutheran Menlo Park Church, but was a leader in starting the Peninsula Children’s Center which has evolved into a school program called AchieveKids for developmentally disabled children.  Leaders of that program Dr. Ryan Eisenberg, Karin Klarreich and Luke Farley were lauding Helen’s leadership.   Brother Victor Chinn told of how Helen always thought of her siblings first in making sure they were okay, like a second mother,  and modest Helen was congratulated for being the youngest looking  90 year old by her Stanford cardiologist Dr. Alan Young.

Helen leong Birthday

Family heralding their sister’s faithfulness in keeping family togetherness were sister Violet Lee with son Jeffrey and wife Heidi, sister Nancy and William Lee, Susan Mak Chinn from Reno, Sam and Susie Leong, nephew Scott Duncan and wife Helga and niece Laura Duncan Bridges.   I send my Happy birthday wishes to my role model in the Chinese American community, Helen Leong, for her active and philanthropic generosity in giving her time and resources to needed causes.


Until acclaimed director Steve James told the incredible saga of the Chinese immigrant Sung family, owners of Abacus Federal Savings of Chinatown in New York City, few knew what the family had to endure when they were accused of mortgage fraud in 2008.  “ABACUS, small enough to jail , the movie, shows like a harrowing legal and political thriller but it Is an exemplary piece of filmmaking  of a true experience suffered by this Chinese American family whose bank became the only U.S. bank to face criminal charges in the wake of the nation’s financial crisis of 2008.   Over a five-year legal battle, the indictment and subsequent trial forced the Sung family to defend themselves and their bank’s legacy in the Chinatown community of New York City, while the other larger institutions  who later were found to be a part of the nation’s mortgage scandals, were never prosecuted.   Shown in small theatres throughout the United States, the movie is a statement of discriminatory practices still operating against minorities and their businesses even up to today.  See if you can find how to view this unbelievable story.


Lorna and Wade Randlett hosted California State Treasurer John Chiang to meet their many Asian American friends at their San Francisco home recently.   Chiang told of his upcoming hopeful bid for the next Governor of California position at this small gathering hosted in part by Buck Gee, Caryl Ito and Jeff Tsai.  Chiang laughingly introduced himself to the audience as the “keeper of your money” to make sure the state stays solvent, and told the gathering some of his hopes for the state of California should he become its next Governor.  The very personable John Chiang easily won new supporters at the event with his calm demeanor in this tumultuous political ,  with his wise evaluation of California’s ills and what the legislature can and cannot do to solve its many problems.

John Chiang

Coming up in July, San Francisco Symphony has many programs coming to celebrate iconic films and their scores. July 13-14 will be a fun film screening and live orchestral performance of JAWS. PIXAR IN CONCERT will be seen July 15-16 in a special concert celebrating the music and animation of beloved Pixar films. Acclaimed American vocalist Rhiannon Giddens will join SFS July 20 for “Gershwin & Bernstein” for an evening of American classical and roots music. July 23 at noon will be a free San Francisco Symphony concert at San Francisco’s waterfront.  Join the throng at James R. Herman Cruise Terminal at Pier 27 for a great afternoon of San Francisco’s finest.


Hershey Felder is hard to describe.  He is a performer, playwright and pianist  – the three P’s, but add a fourth P – perfection!   His latest revised work, BEETHOVEN recently played to sold out and standing ovation audiences at Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, but hopefully he will return soon with one of his character enactments for you to see.   Presented by Theatreworks Silicon Valley, HERSHEY FELDER, BEETHOVEN is a one-man show like none other.  Hershey is on stage the whole hour and a half, portraying either the composer himself, or a Viennese doctor who knew him most of his life.    Felder has been called a seductive portraitist, compelling storyteller and superb concert pianist, but none of this can tell you enough about this wizard on stage who can easily make you believe he is Beethoven, or Chopin or Irving Berlin, other composers he has characterize in previous shows.  Be sure to check him out next time we Californians will be lucky enough to see this theatrical genius on stage.


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