|Fred Chin and Lee Chen, December 23, 2022
Fred grew-up in the family's home on 7th Street in Oakland Chinatown. Although his family did not have a lot of money, their home was filled with a lot of love and the Chin’s all worked together to get through lean times. Throughout his school years, Fred enjoyed playing basketball, football, and many other sports.
Fred (Center) in 1945
with siblings (L-R) Rose, Dennis, Mabel and Allen
Looking back, his brother Dennis recalls that Fred was a good student, getting all A’s and B’s, especially in Math and Science. Freddie wanted to take a Chemistry class, but it was full so he ended up having to take a laboratory tech class instead.
Fred (bottom 2nd from left)
Lincoln Junior High School
6th Grade Photo
After Fred graduated from high school in 1961, Denny remembers the day that recruiters came knocking on their door to enlist him into the US Air Force.
|Fred in 1961
In 1961, Fred enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, completing basic training in Texas and South Dakota. He was then deployed to Kusan AFB in the Republic of Korea where he served as a medical technician until he was honorably discharged in 1965. With this solid training, Fred developed his expertise in medical technology which he carried to Oakland Children Hospital, where he retired as a Laboratory Supervisor in 2005 after 33 years of service.
Fred’s nephew Andrew remembers that Uncle Freddie often missed dinners because he was working swing-shift and weekends…. and that Uncle Freddie always showed up for dessert!
Fred picked up skiing in his late 40’s and was an active member of the Chi Ski Club which is where he met the love of his life, Lee Chen, in 2000.
According to Fred's older brother Allen, he was the one who got Fred to start skiing. They both were part of the Chi Ski club. Eventually, Allen quit skiing, while Fred continued to travel around the world skiing with Lee and the club. His love for skiing is well noted in his email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The couple lived in Belmont, then after Lee retired from Genentech, they moved back to her place in Danville in 2013. All through their years together, Fred and Lee enjoyed traveling, north to St. Petersburg, south to Antarctica and many places in between.
Besides crossword puzzles and experimenting in the kitchen, Fred loved to sing and happily performed at retirement homes.
The couple picked up dancing and made weekly rounds at many Bay Area dance floors. Allen said that Fred followed his footsteps with dancing too. When I asked if Uncle Freddie was any good, Allen deadpanned, “yes, he was, but not as good as me”. Being one of the youngest of the Chin Clan, Fred had many footsteps to follow.
Fred, no doubt, enjoyed a fun, colorful life. Something we can all learn from and follow.
|Fred in 1993
Lee Chen shared these thoughts about Fred:
“It’s hard to find someone like Fred who was so easy to get along with. I consider myself lucky! His family is always so warm and welcoming, and I felt their unconditional acceptance of me from our first meeting.
"I heard that Fred could be a demanding boss at work, but I never saw that when we were together. Fred was always so caring. He loved to eat and always found ways to make things right, often combining the two.
"One morning after a very rare disagreement, Fred asked: 'Are you ready?'
"I asked back: 'Ready for what?'
'For dim sum, let’s go to your favorite place.'
'Fred was the love of my life and am so thankful for 22 years of sweet memories.”
In addition to Lee Chen, Fred is survived by his brothers Henry (Penny), William (Gift), Allen (Jeanie), and Dennis (Mildred) Chin; sisters Mary Bufton, Helene Hall, Mabel Fong, and Rose Hong; sister-in-law Diane Chin (widow of Morris); many nieces and nephews, grand-nieces and -nephews, and great grand-nieces and -nephews.
He is also survived by Lee’s family, her mother, Lai Yu Ying, her brothers George Chen and Chen Shao Ping, her daughter Cynthia Chen and granddaughters Sadie and Tess Scott.
He was predeceased by his brothers Bruce (Elsie), Harry, Hammond, Edward (Estelle), Morris, and Jimmy Chin; sisters Edith and Elsie Chin; and brothers-in-law James Bufton, Johnny Fong, and Jack Hong.
At his sister Mary's 90th Birthday Party in 2015
L-R: Rose, Allen, Morris, Dennis, William, Mary, Fred, Helene, and Mabel
Memories of Fred:
From nephew Kenneth Hong with Fred's sister Rose Hong and niece Carole Hong:
|Fred and Kenneth Hong around 1989
"If you know anything about the Chin family, you know that our enormous family gatherings can be loud, raucous affairs with no-nonsense uncles playing mahjong while drinking whiskey and swearing in Chinese; outspoken aunties shouting across the room and laughing loudly; and so many cousins and nieces and nephews to remember...
"When I was a kid, it was intimidating. But I would always smile whenever I saw that Uncle Freddie was there. Uncle Fred could always brighten up a room with a smile, a joke, or a kind word or a well-placed pun. And he did enjoy puns especially off-color Cantonese ones with its many homophones and tones.
"He cared deeply about his family. At Christmas and Chinese New Year, he wouldn't just pass out gifts to his nieces and nephews. He would invent games where the outcome would determine which package or red envelope we would get. I was always excited to see what he would come up with.
My sister Carole remembered: "Growing up, we used to go over to seventh street and then to Alameda every Sunday for Chin family dinners and Uncle Freddie was always the least serious of all the uncles, always ready with a funny comment or joke. Uncle Freddie can be found in the back row of many family photos, not just because he was one of the tallest, with handsome, charismatic, movie star good looks, but because of his great sense of humor. He was undoubtedly making witty remarks and having fun with our cousins and whoever else wanted to chime-in from the back of the room."
My mother, Rose, said that one of the benefits of all Fred and Lee’s many travels is that they would stop by and visit me. They would often take me to dinner before I gave them a ride to or from the airport. Rose was so pleased that Fred and Lee found each other. She is also thankful that Fred was able to help take care of their mom in her later years. He took his mom to doctors appointments, made her exercise, massaged her aching shoulders, helped her with her garden and made sure she ate well.
"Finally, we are grateful for the life Uncle Fred and Lee have built and enjoyed together in Belmont and Danville. The joy and happiness that they've brought to each other is plain to see.
"We will always remember Uncle Freddy with a smile and do our best to carry his jovial and generous spirit with us."
|Fred with Charlotte Chin and Kenneth Hong around 1980
From grand-niece Charlotte Chin:
“Thanks to Uncle Freddy I'm alive. We had a family gathering, I was maybe 2 or3 years old, and I was so excited about my new swimsuit; I jumped in the pool, didn't even think about if I could swim, I didn't know how to swim; Uncle Freddy was the one who noticed what happened and came to my rescue at the bottom of the pool. Every time I saw him, he would ask me if I had learned to swim and I would thank him for saving me.
“Uncle Freddy was always the one with a joke and to bring the happiness to every gathering. Him and Emma were birthday buddies and he would tell her that they could share the day but he gets all the presents. His jokes, his laugh, his stories and his presence will be missed.”
Charlotte read these memories from Fred's sister Mabel Fong and her daughter Karen:
“Fred was very friendly, liked to joke and tease the kids a lot, making everyone laugh. He was also very smart - especially with investing. He was the one that taught me about investing and the power of compound interest. He constantly stressed how important it was to start saving while I was young. He would always check in with me to see what I was investing in and to make sure I was keeping up with it. He even later started a family investors "club" to share investing ideas amongst the family. He enjoyed hosting annual investing club dinners, as reward for sharing tips.”
My cousin Ken thinks sharing his wisdom with everyone and getting insights from others was a way to keep connected and mostly an excuse to get us all together. It shows how much he cares about the family and enjoying a good meal together.
At Fred's service, his niece Marisa Wilson, told a few stories:
|Fred and Marisa in 2017
When she was younger, the family would have dinner at the 7th Street house every Sunday. The house seemed huge at the time, which it really wasn't. But it somehow held Fred's family of seventeen kids. The younger kids were forbidden from going up stairs. When Marisa was about 5 years old, someone dared her to go up the stairs, which was kinda spooky because she could hear "woooh... woooh...". As she walked up, she could see stacks of stools piled high among the bunkbeds. The young Marisa gasped out loud, "why are there so many stools?" And a voice replied, "because the ghosts did it." It was Uncle Freddie.
Marisa was in Hawaii visiting her kids this last Christmas and had to walk up 11 flights of stairs to her room because the elevator was broken. As they walked up, she would hear a sound "woooh... woooh...". When she got to the top of the stairs she wasn't even out of breath. That's when cousin Susan called to tell her that Uncle Freddie has passed away, and she knew right away it was Uncle Freddie spirit in the stairwell.
She also remembered how Uncle Fred would banter back and forth with his mother. Freddie joking in English and Grandma replying in Chinese. One day, Marisa told Fred that if he told that joke to her in Chinese, maybe she'd laugh. Fred told her that his mother understood everything he said because she understood English. Confused, Marisa asked, "Why doesn't she speak English then? You mean I could have told her that I didn't want cabbage for breakfast." Fred laughed back, saying that she didn't speak English because she was protesting being brought here and having to take care of so many kids. These were the funny things he would say. Marisa hopes that Uncle Freddie never, ever haunts her.
Fred’s eldest nephew Dickie Chin spoke next:
|Fred enjoying the Chinese New Year feast at Dickie's House in 2017
Freddie taught Dickie how to speak his mind, which Freddie always did when it was to his advantage. It was Dickie who dared his sister Marisa to go up the stairs. Another day, Grandpa told Dickie to bring the stools down for dinner. But it was too scary. So, Freddie, Denny, and Alan go up and start to chuck to stools at Dickie. Catch!
Another time during dinner, Dickie went up to the main table to grab some food and Freddie wacked him on the hand. But Grandpa didn't like that and rapped Freddie on the head with his chopsticks saying, "don't you ever touch him again." So naturally, Dickie would try to get Fred in touble whenever he could. Dickie would stand on the landing pretending he was going to go up stairs. Taunting Freddie. When Freddie responded, Dickie would scream and blame Freddie. Aunt E, Freddie's oldest sister, would come and give Freddie hell.
Uncle Freddie and Uncle Henry were Dickie's inspiration for joining the Air Force. After Dickie enlisted, Freddie said, "Well, that was stupid." Dickie said he didn't want to become a 2nd Lieutenant and go over to Nam. "Well, that was still stupid." Dickie ended up joining the service as an enlisted man. "Now, that was stupid!" We had good times. Dickie's younger cousins didn't know the younger Fred, who mellowed after cousin Steven was born.
Chuck Chin, Fred's grammar school friend, told us about how they would go to Chinese School from 4-6pm after attending Lincoln school together. Freddie was a jokester who practiced on Chuck. Once Chuck stood up to answer a question, and when he sat down Freddie stuck a pencil up his butt. After class, he found that the lead had broken off in his skin and had to go to Dr. Jacob Yee in Chinatown to get it removed. When Dr. Yee saw what happened they couldn't stop laughing. Rest in Peace Freddie.
A colleague of Fred's, who is a retired clinical laboratory scientist from several local hospitals, said that Fred Chin is at the top of the list of people who have influenced her career. She related how hard it was working at Children's Hospital and that pediatric medicine is another step above regular adult medicine. "Fred was excellent at everything he did. We had rules to follow, and Fred was a stickler for quality control (QC). We were there before computers were there to help clinicians turnout the right results. Fred had the highest integrity. He taught me a lot and I will never forget him. He was the best and I will really miss him."
A friend from the Let's Sing group at the Walnut Creek Senior Center has known Fred for about 10 years. He has always been a very committed, calm, and reassuring person. He gave a lot of joy to the elderly. They would meet about once a week to sing, in person or on zoom. "They just had their Christmas party on December and had great fun singing together. The group had a very strong bond, and Fred's sudden passing is a great loss. Their music director, Robin Wolf, said that she can't imagine singing "White Christmas" without Fred next year. He was a great singing and no doubt had a great voice. We really love him. His loss is a lot to all of us. May he rest in peace."
Lee and Fred’s long time Karaoke friend, Rich Van Tassell, led the singing Amazing Grace at Fred's service. Rich knew Fred from the Wednesday Karaoke class at the San Ramon Senior Center. "Karaoke singers come in all different ability levels. Some very good. Some not. Fred was one of the better singers and as a matter of fact, he was an excellent singer. He had a twinkle in he eye when he sang, as he always did. He sang in a very relaxed style. He always reminded me of Bing Crosby when he sang. His voice was very nearly perfect. He was never off pitch or off tempo. He was an excellent singer. I know that surprised some of you here. If you haven't heard him, you wouldn't know that."
Fred's brother William Chin and his wife Gift wrote:
"Fred is an empathetic, compassionate and concerned person. He would understand people and try to help people. In the U.S. Air Force he was in charge of the laboratory and was liked by all the staff and he helped staff to improve. In civilian life he was concerned about health of many people including his brother Bill and he had messaged Onnicha thanking her for taking great of his brother when Bill had health problems.
"I remember Fred as a child being jovial and happy to help others. In his early teens he learned about the stock market and other things. He was generous with siblings and other relatives. Every year he would invite all relatives to a restaurant for dinner where he hosted and paid for a family get-together many times with more than 50 relatives attending."
Fred's niece Christine Chin read "Poem for a Loved One" at Fred's Celebration of Life. Fred wrote the poem in 2006 in memory of his mother:
A special thanks to Lee's Brother Chen Shao Ping for video below, Fred's niece Carole Hong for emceeing Fred's celebration of life, his nephew Andrew Chin for reading Lee's memories of Fred, and to friends and family who been with Lee following Fred's passing.
A recording of Fred's celebration of life may be viewed here: https://www.viewlogies.net/diablo-valley/