The Hong Family: Recollections on Serving the Community

1951 San Francisco Civic Center Plaza - Paul, Larry, and Jack Hong
1955 San Francisco Richmond District
(L-R) Sister-in-law Marie Chu,
Mary, Lily, and Paul Hong

     My father, Jack, and his four siblings, Larry, Paul, Lily, and Mary came of age in the 1950's and 60's when it was common young men and women heeded their country's call. They felt a deep and abiding desire to serve their communities and country. They also grew-up at the tail end of segregation and exclusion in the United States when government jobs often provided some of the best (and often only) opportunities for hard-working, dedicated minorities to make a good middle-class life for themselves and their families.

     They were third-generation Chinese Americans, who were born in China and spent their early years there. After World War II they followed their father and grandfather's footsteps moving to the US in their teens, individually then in pairs. They spent most, if not all, of their careers serving their country, state, or local communities. They and their spouses served with distinction as teachers, doctors, engineers, lawyers, civil servants, and community leaders. All U.S. military service was completed with honorable discharges. Continue reading to learn more about their individual stories.

c1954 - Lanfee Larry Hong

Lanfee Larry Hong (1928-2019) enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1951, during the height of the Korean War, and served until 1955. He was stationed at Castle AFB near Merced, California, where he served as a communications engineer. He made sure the radios and communication equipment were in working order on airplanes and on land, among other duties.

     After his military service, Lanfee began working as an electrical engineer for the State of California in San Francisco in the Department of Transportation (known as Caltrans). After working a few years at Caltrans San Francisco, he transferred to Caltrans in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles division offered him a position due to the freeway and highway expansion in Southern California during that time. 

     Larry worked on many projects including: the conversion of the lower deck of the San Francisco Bay Bridge from rail to automobile traffic, the 118 and other freeways. He retired from Caltrans as a senior engineer overseeing state projects in 1994. He was married to Marie Chu Hong (1931 -).

August 1956 - Demilitarized Zone, Republic of Korea
Jack Lan Hong

Jack Lan Hong (1933-2013) served in the United States Army as a medic and interpreter from 1955 to 1957. In addition to English, Jack was fluent in four Chinese dialects: Toyshanese, Cantonese, Yunnanese, and Mandarin. He was stationed in Texas before being posted to the demilitarized zone in the Republic of Korea. After the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed in 1953, the DMZ was still very active in the years immediately following. There were frequent clashes along the border, and Jack recalled that some of the American and Korean soldiers with whom he worked never returned from their patrols.

     In 1963, Jack joined the State of California as a savings and loan examiner. He later moved to the audit division of the California State Department of Health Services. Jack was also a Certified Public Accountant, licensed real estate broker, and financial planner. In addition to his day job with the state, Jack ran an accounting, tax preparation, and financial planning business with his wife, Rose Chin Hong (1939- ). Whether your were a client or just family and friends, Jack enjoyed share financial and investing tips and helping people secure their financial futures. In 1996, Jack retired after 33 years of service as the Chief of Audits for the Department's Northern California division, having achieved the highest possible rank in California State's civil service.

     Jack was also an active member of the Chinese community. In 1953, he was the President of the Chinese Club at San Francisco City College. Later, he was a member of the Foster City Chinese Club and would serve as the long-time advisor for the Foster City Chinese Youth Group, which created a scholarship fund in his honor.

December 9, 2021 - UC Hastings College of Law
Chancellor and Dean's Reception
Lianne Lai Yen and Paul Lan Hong 

Paul Lan Hong (1936- ) received his Doctors of Jurisprudence from the University of California Hastings College of Law in 1960 and was admitted to the California bar in 1961.

     In 1966, he was the first Chinese American appointed to the San Francisco Public Defender's Office. This office provides effective assistance of counsel to indigent persons who by Law are entitled to representation for a variety of cases--not only those accused of crimes, but parents and children who are engaged with the child welfare system, elderly people losing autonomy over their affairs, and mentally ill people facing commitment. He served 14 years as a Public Defender, rising to the position of Principal Trial Attorney, and received board certifications as a Criminal Law Specialist in 1975. During his time at the Public Defender's office, he represented clients in a wide variety of cases including from traffic infractions and Juvenile delinquency to prostitution, kidnapping, robbery, burglary, rape, and homicide (death penalty with special circumstances).

     Paul had the following comments about practicing law:

"The role of a defense lawyer is to help his client minimize or avoid legal jeopardy."
"[The] measure of a good trial attorney is not how many cases are won or lost, but how well the cases were prepared and presented to the court."

     In 1979, Paul resigned from the Public Defender's office and continued in general practice until his retirement in 1998. He is an active alumni of UC Hastings, and has given back to the school in many ways including sponsorship for the following capital improvement projects and scholarships:

  • The first floor Student Lounge and Cultural Center at 333 Golden Gate Avenue in honor of his father, Hock How Hong.
  • Study Room 611 in the library at 200 McAllister Street in honor of his mother, Tui Goon Chu Hong.
  • Classroom 30B on the 2nd level of 198 McAllister Street in honor of his brother Jack Lan Hong.
  • Lai Yen and Paul Lan Hong '60 Endowment Scholarship Funds to support the education of future generations of lawyers in the following areas:
    • Public Defense
    • Juvenile Delinquency and Dependency
  • The Hong Chancellor & Dean's Suite

     In addition to English, Paul is fluent in four Chinese dialects: Toyshanese, Cantonese, Yunnanese, and Mandarin.

2004 - Hong Siblings and their Spouses
Front (L-R): Lily, Larry, Jack, Paul, and Mary
Back row: King Fong, Marie, Rose, Lai Yen, and Gene Lee

Lily Hong Fong (1938- ) is a retired public middle and high school teacher. Her husband, King Q. Fong (1937- ), is a retired civil engineer for the Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

     Lily taught remedial English, Math, Food & Nutrition, Child Care, and Home Science for the new immigrants from Mexico & Vietnam (including Hmong), disadvantaged teens, and physically/emotionally/mentally handicap teens. She spent the 26 years from 1967 to 1993 teaching in the West Contra Costa Unified School District in Northern California at the following schools.

  • 1967-1968 Richmond High School
  • 1968-1978 Helms Middle School
  • 1978-1982 Crespi Middle School (Now named Betty Reid Soskin Middle School)
  • 1982-1985 Harry Ells High School
  • 1985-1991 Kennedy High School
  • 1991-1992 Richmond & Kennedy High Schools (traveling between the schools)
  • 1992-1993 Pinole Valley High

     She received a $25,000 grant from the State of California Education Department to set up a program for disadvantaged teens and for multicultural non-English speaking teens. Focused on remedial 3~4 grade level reading, writing, math; food & nutrition, prenatal & postnatal care, and basic computer skill.

     During her teaching career, Lily was recognized for 1) Teacher Expectations & Student Achievement. 2) Developing Leadership for Quality in Education, 3) Principal Award for Outstanding Performance, and 4) Impact Program to accommodate various learning styles in Career~Vocational Educational Programs.

     In 1973, Lily was a founding member for Foster City Chinese Club which was created to promote Chinese Culture and Language. As a member, she participated in the community events, helped organize various Chinese Festival programs, and organized their annual Mongolian BBQ.

     Lily has also volunteered her time and talents to the community in many ways, including:

  • Donated Christmas gift packages, and distributed food packages to the elderly at S.F. Chinatown through the Soo Yuen Benevolent Association.
  • 16 years Teaching visualization/meditation & Syang Gong exercises at San Mateo Self Help For the Elderly
  • 2~3 years with the Red Cross doing Disaster Relief, feeding the homeless & disaster victims.
  • 2 weeks @ Mother Theresa Center in Calcutta, India, caring for the abandoned crippled children.
  • Occasionally help & prepared dinners for the homeless shelter in Modesto, CA
  • Once a month for 23 years:
    • Prepare or donate Sandwiches Lunch with fruit & snack bars / potatoes chips and delivered to the Walnut Creek Homeless Shelter.
    • Donate food, prepared 93 to 65 dinners and serving the homeless @ Tri~ City Homeless Shelter in Fremont, CA.
  • Performed Chinese Folk dance for the elderly community and nursing home.
  • Reiki Healing once a week @ Belmont Sr. Community Center, and Redwood City Veterans Memorial Wellness Health Center for 3-4 years.
  • Red Cross interpreter on call to support Chinese immigrants, speaking Toyshanese, Cantonese, and Mandarin.
  • In the summer of 1971, Lily was invited to join a group of teachers to attend the Chinese Language Institute for Teachers at National Taiwan Normal University under President Nixon’s National Defense program to promote Chinese language and culture.

     Lily and King joined Sai Service Group at the Sri Sathya Sai Baba Center Benicia Center, which later moved to Pleasanton, CA. The center is devoted to the teachings of Hindu guru Sathya Sai Baba and dedicated to undertaking service activities as a means to spiritual enlightenment. In 1994, Lily and King donated $2,500 for the Drinking Water Supply Project Sri Sai International Organization which brought water to more then 750 villages in Prashanthi Nilayam in the State of Andhra Pradesh, India. Their many contributions to the homeless have been through the Sri Sathya Sai Baba Center.

2016 Health Fair in South San Francisco, CA
Mary Hong Lee

Mary Hong Lee (1943- ) started as an American Red Cross (ARC) youth volunteer in 1958 teaching children swimming during the summers of her high school years. When she started volunteering she never thought she would still be volunteering today… a total of 64 years and still counting.

     After graduating from SF State College in 1966 with B.S. in Nursing, she worked as a Public Health Nurse with L.A. County Health Department, On Lok (which provides culturally appropriate care for senior), North East Medical Services in S.F, and the S.F. Public Health Department where most of her clients were Chinese speaking. In the meantime, she also volunteered as a translator for ARC language bank for Mandarin, Cantonese, and Toysanese.

     The 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake of San Francisco launched her into a long tenure as volunteer National Disaster Health Services Nurse of the ARC. Besides being the on-call nurse for her local area, she worked to improve preparedness for disaster which included working with government agencies and community groups, training nurses for disaster relief work, and maintaining emergency medical supplies. 

     She responded to local disasters and deployed to major disasters throughout the country including: the Missouri and Illinois floods in 1993, Hurricane Marilyn, St. Thomas in 1995, Hurricane Horentse, Puerto Rico in 1996, Kosovo Relief, Fort Dix, NJ, in 1999, World Trade Center Incident (9/11) 2001, Asiana Air Crash at SFO in 2013. Overall she responded to over 33 major disasters.

     Retiring from disaster relief work in 2014, she came full circle to being a co-advisor of the ARC San Mateo County high school youth club, YES (Youth Engaged in Services) Team till 2020. She mentored youth to teach preparedness and hands only CPR, fundraising activities, and as team members of Sound the Alarm program to install smoke detectors in homes. In 2020 she joined the ARC Service to Armed Forces to support new recruits and assist military families with emergencies.

     She played the violin in the South Bay Community Orchestra. For many years the orchestra has brought music to people in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and senior centers.

     Commenting about her service with the Red Cross, Mary wrote, "My husband, Gene W. Lee (1937- ), was my main support when I responded in the middle of the night for local fires or floods, or was deployed out of the area on 24 hours notice. He was holding up the home front with our daughters. Thank you!"

     Gene served as a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army, and is a retired optometrist who served patients from his office in the San Francisco Mission District. He was the president of the Woo Family Association of San Francisco from 2016 to 2019. In that time he increased the stock holding funds of the association.

     Jointly Mary and Gene have donated one acre for a park, and more than 3 acres for a scenic easement to the City of Belmont, CA.

[NOTE: This article follows the one I wrote last year about the Chin Family's Greatest Generation, which was based on my maternal Uncle William Chin's notes on the service of his brothers and sisters in the Military and civil service.]

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