Joseph was born May 1, 1937 in Faat Au Village, Toisan, Guangdong, China to Wong Yow and Yue Kam. He learned to be independent at a young age. In 1950, when Joseph was 13 years old, he boarded the “American President” steamship in Guangdong, China and crossed the Pacific Ocean. He landed at Angel Island Immigration Station in San Francisco. In January 1951, he was able to reunite with his father in Minneapolis.
Joseph Wong could accomplish anything he set his mind to do. As a teenager, he had a passion for building things. He enjoyed fixing cars, motors, and all things mechanical. He graduated from Minneapolis Vocational High School in 1954. One of his fondest memories is buying a “clunker” car with a rusted floorboard. Together with his cousin, they fixed it up and drove (sometimes pushing) the car around town and making trouble.
His hobbies included, fishing, stereo systems, listening to Chinese opera, flying airplanes, playing games – Pacman, shooting pool, placing bets sports games, eating well, telling jokes, and taking road trips. Mr. Wong served in the army from 1956 to 1960. Stationed in Ladd Army base Fairbanks, Alaska, his service included flying Cessna planes from Ladd Army base to Fort Lewis (Tacoma Washington).
After being discharged from the Army, he turned down a job offer to be Northwest Airlines pilot. Instead, he chose to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a restaurant entrepreneur. He had a strong work ethic often working 12-18 hour days to build his restaurant business. He did the best for his family and was proud of his ability to send support to his mother and sisters abroad while providing for his own family in the United States.
Joseph had a big heart and often provided financial support to those around him who needed it. He believed that many times, people sometimes just need a boost to get them over the hump. And, with this in mind, he never hesitated to offer assistance when asked.
Over the next 35 years, he operated several successful restaurants which included Lan’s Garden Café (Minneapolis), Wong’s Teahouse (Mound), Statesman Restaurant and Bar (Chaska) and Jerry’s Restaurant (St Paul).
After selling Jerry’s Restaurant, he retired in 1997. Not being able to sit still in retirement and having a desire to hit the open roads, he took on a part time job driving busses from Minneapolis to Chicago. In 2001, he entered full retirement and found his 4th career as grandpa. He enjoyed walking, traveling, meeting up with his friends, watching the news, and spending time with his grandchildren.
On Monday, November 9, 2020 at the age 83, he passed away peacefully following a fast moving liver infection complicated by low blood pressure at North Memorial Hospital.
Joe’s pride and joy were his children and grandchildren who learned from him that food, life, and love are interconnected.
This obituary was written as a collective effort by Joe’s children with support and input from his wife Zenaida Wong.
It was Christmastime 1989 when I walked off the plane at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul airport and I met the family.
As I came out of the jetway and into the gate, I am greeted by all the Wongs, big-eyed and excited and I get hugged and welcomed to Minnesota.
This was back when visitors could go all the way up to the gate. Before 9/11 changed things.
The entire Wong family had come to pick me up not just Vonnie. If you have ever traveled to Asia or China, you know that this is how our people receive you at airports.
And this is how the Wongs do it—they come as a unit to greet you, to welcome you, to love you, and to check you out.
Dad was a restaurant guy who had recently sold his restaurant, the Statesman, and hadn’t yet bought his next restaurant, Jerry’s.
“Do you like steak?” he asks.
Because we’re in Minnesota, the heaviest snowstorm this California kid has seen is happening outside with snow that looks like a ticker tape parade down Wall Street.
Undeterred or maybe even unnoticed, Dad puts on his parka, shuffles out to the garage, opens the garage door, and fires up the barbecue. He proceeds to grill ribeyes in the garage, filling up the place with smoke.
In the oven, he has ten pounds of crab legs slowly roasting in a butter bath.
“Go get me more butter!” he asks Wylie, Vonnie’s brother. The butter comes in 1 pound sticks because that’s how restaurant people cook.
We had the best surf and turf dinner that Christmas.
Dad was an immigrant and his father, Vonnie’s grandfather, was also an immigrant. And so his story is also the story of America.
Joseph Wong was born in Toishan, China, a region in Guangdong province. His father was already in Minnesota and would come back periodically to visit his family every few years.
Joe immigrated to the United States when he was 13 or 14, getting on an American President Lines ship and landed, as many Chinese people did, at the immigration detention center in San Francisco. He was not a paper son in the true sense but was caught up in the mistrust, bureaucracy, and barriers that the government put up for immigrants who don’t come from Europe.
Immigrating to the United States before 1965 was an arduous and awful process.
I will miss how he would call us—with concern and care in his voice–when he saw on the news of something bad happening in California. It didn’t matter that the actual thing happening might be miles away.
We would get a phone call:
“I heard there was an earthquake. The bay bridge collapsed. Are you okay?”
“Oh I saw on the news that the fires are bad.”
“Be careful, I heard there was a shooting nearby.”
I will miss how much he loved dim sum and beef chow fun. We would inevitably be on the hunt for a dim sum restaurant whenever and wherever we went on vacation with him.
I will miss how he would drop into Toishan to speak with family and friends from the village. It was, in many respects, when he seemed most at home.
I will miss his unwavering love for his kids and grandkids. He worried about them and bothered them to make sure that we were taking care of ourselves.
Joseph Wong, age 83, is survived by his wife, Zenaida Wong, five children, ten grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
No, not that Celebrity game. We just played this shelter-in-place style over Zoom and it was loads of fun.
What is it?
Celebrities is a party game introduced to me by friends, Jean Cheng and Eric Chou. It’s super fun and we realized with a little effort, it can be adapted to be played over Zoom. These instructions are written by Jean, with an assist by me (Eugene).
Celebrities is a guessing game where players secretly submit a celebrity name. After hearing the full list of names, players take turns guessing who submitted which name until all celebrity names are revealed.
It’s a memory and guessing game. Not only are you guessing who submitted what name, but you have to try and remember all the names.
It’s competitive and collaborative at the same time. You’ll see in a second.
Other than Zoom, no special gameplay tools or knowledge are needed.
What do you need?
You’ll need 8-10 people to play—and the more people, the more fun it is. It works best when each person has a cellphone that can text or message other people in the game.
A paid Zoom account so you don’t run into the 40 minute limit.
A Google form (created by the host) with one question “Submit your celebrity name:” with a short text answer field.
How to play?
Think of a famous name that other people in the room would know. It can be real or fictitious, person, animal, cartoon character…anything goes, as long as it’s a recognizable name.
When you’ve got your name, submit it via the Google Form to the host and then, in the participants tab, “raise your hand” to signal you’re done.
Once everyone has submitted, the host will read all of the celebrity names out loud exactly TWICE, without revealing who submitted which famous name. Players should listen carefully but are not allowed to write anything down. This is the only time players will hear the list of celebrities.
Starting with the person whose name is at the top of the participants tab, have them guess who submitted a celebrity name.
Let’s say it’s Angela’s turn, and she says, “Eugene, are you the person who put in Mr. T?”
If Angela guesses wrong, her turn is over. If she guesses correctly, Eugene joins Angela to form a team. Each player gets one guess per turn.
Because he was identified, Eugene is no longer an active guesser in the game and doesn’t get a turn. Eugene is now part of Team Angela.
He should “lower his hand” in the Zoom participants list to show he is now on another player’s team. That signals to the host that Eugene doesn’t take a turn to guess.
Play resumes. The next person on the participant gets to guess.
If the next turn falls to someone who has a team, they can text or message among themselves who the team guess is.
The teams are a key advantage to this game. Teams caucus to share information and collectively strategize on the next guess.
Ultimately, the team captain makes the guess.
Every time a player is guessed correctly, they are added to the guesser’s team. If they have a team, all of their players move to the new team forming an even larger one.
Pretty soon teams multiply in number and in size. The teams grow larger in membership as they consolidate through correct guesses.
Eventually, it’s down to two teams with half of the players on each.