Lucy Wang ’69 Lee

Lucy, our youngest, therefore, the most loved of our siblings, was born April 13, 1948 in Gulangyu, Xiamen, Fujian Province (福建省廈門市鼓浪嶼)in China shortly after the brutal Sino-Japanese War, 1937-1945, and World War II, 1941-45. Our oldest sister, Mary Wang Ling-yee Chen, and I were born before WW II, respectively in 1937 and 1938, and our younger brother, John Ling-fai Wang, during the war in 1942. The war brought devastating famine, diseases, atrocities, and untold suffering to Xiamen and to our family at a time when our father was a poor high school teacher at the Anglo-Chinese High School (英华中学) in Gulangyu and our mother, a housewife. Our parents frequently went hungry to give us what little food available to us. I almost died of incurable diseases and our younger brother, then just a toddler, suffered from malnutrition, ceasing to grow in both height and weight. Fortunately, under my parents’ loving care, both my brother and I survived the ordeals under Japanese occupation. Lucy was fortunate: she was born after the war in 1948 when our father had already left teaching to work in Hong Kong as a manager for his high school classmate who owned a soy sauce and food-processing factory. We eventually reunited with our father in 1949 in Hong Kong shortly before Mao Zedong took over China.

Among all of us, Lucy was, therefore, special – a gift to the Wang family after the brutal war. She was a joy to our parents, a new playmate to the older siblings, and an opportunity for our parents to teach us how to be responsible and care for each other. When she was born, my father, already working in Hong Kong, missed my mother so much he decided to break the Chinese naming-tradition by skipping the generational signifier and named Lucy “Huai-york” (懷玉), a daring declaration of how deeply he missed and loved our mother, York-lin (玉麟), our mother’s first name. (Lucy’s Chinese name,however, was made consistent with her siblings to Ling-york (靈玉) when she entered elementary school.)

We grew up knowing how precious Lucy was, like jade (玉), to him and what our obligations were to her and our parents. We would be remiss if we said we did not occasionally feel jealous and slighted. However, we never doubted our parents’ affection and care for us. By their daily example, our parents also instilled upon us the value of family solidarity, respect for others, and above all, the need for all of us to stay close and look after each other. To this date, we followed their wise precepts and examples as we raised our own families. We loved our parents, and we honored them by following what they imparted on us in words and deeds. Lucy was their gift to her older siblings. We loved her dearly as our parents did!

Lucy received her elementary and secondary education at the Maryknoll Convent School, the same Catholic school Mary was attending. In fact, Mary, at 15, was assigned to take her five-year-old sister, by bus or by walking, to school and back every day, an awesome responsibility for a 15-year-old girl in densely populated Hong Kong. For years, both girls took piano lessons, and the two boys were discouraged or deemed ineligible. Upon graduation from high school, Mary went to Macalester College (’60) in St. Paul, MN while Lucy followed the footsteps of her two brothers (’61 and ’65) and went to Hope College, a small liberal arts college in Holland, Michigan.

It was at Hope that Lucy met James Lee (‘66), her future and lifelong partner at home and at work. James graduated from Hope in 1966 and Lucy in 1969. They married in 1969 while James completed his Ph.D. ’70 in Biochemistry at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH. Their children, Genevieve and Amanda were born respectively in 1974 and 1977. Genevieve attended Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania and Amanda Columbia University (‘00) in New York City. James pursued a distinguished career in teaching and research in Biochemistry at Brandeis University, University of St. Louis, and the Medical Branch of the University of Texas, Galveston.

Throughout James’ research career, Lucy was the manager of his laboratory and travel companion. She also devoted her life to the care of James and the affairs of their children and family. She routinely maintained close contact with both the Lee and Wang clans, traveling to and vacationing in scenic sites in the western states of the U.S. and joining relatives, far and near, in a historic reunion at the Wang ancestral home in Jinmen, Fujian (福建省金门縣).

A family tragedy occurred in 1994 when Genevieve at 20, still a junior at Swarthmore College, died in an accident at a treacherous waterfall in Shaanxi, China while she was a student in a summer Chinese language program run jointly by Duke University in North Carolina and the University of Nanjing in Jiangsu Province. The tragic loss inflicted the parents with unspeakable pain and permanently and profoundly scarred the family.

Both Lucy and James enjoyed classical Western operas. Besides taking in the Houston Operas season themselves, they also introduced the Wangs to the annual Santa Fe Summer Operas in New Mexico. Santa Fe opera season became an annual occasion for Lucy and James to reunite with her siblings from Hong Kong and San Francisco in beautiful Santa Fe. Likewise, the annual dinner on Christmas Eve in San Francisco was also an occasion for a Wang family reunion in San Francisco when the Wangs and cousins, from near and far, gathered to renew their kinship and commemorate Lucy’s parents’ wedding anniversary on the Christmas Eve of 1936 in Gulangyu.

A very few months ago, Lucy was unexpectedly diagnosed with terminal colon cancer. Within a few weeks, she left us on October 26, 2023. Her abrupt departure has been both shocking and painful to the Lees and Wangs as well as colleagues and friends.

We hope this wound inflicted on us can and will be healed, aided by the wonderful and lasting memories and gifts of her life and the countless and happy gatherings and activities we enjoyed together.

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