On a cold snowy morning, November 9, 2020, Joseph Wong peacefully transitioned from this life. His son, Wymond Wong, was by his side holding his hand in the hospital.
My father-in-law was many things, but first and foremost he was a family man who cared deeply about his family.
Here is the obituary and notice of the memorial service which will be held on Tuesday, November 17th.
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.
Rest easy, Dad.