Pi Hwa Wong
11 November , 1920 – 22 May , 2019
王司徙碧華 Pi Hwa Wong (Szutu), known also as Betty, was born in Beijing to a large and affluent government family. Her father had 10 siblings: 7 brothers and 3 sisters, all with ancestral roots in Kai Ping 開平. She had a secure childhood though it was a very strict and disciplined upbringing where she was mostly reared by servants and hardly ever had contact with her parents. She had 3 older siblings: 2 sisters and a brother. The sisters were quite a lot older so even with them she had little contact, a lot more with her older brother though as he was only 2 years older. Her closest sibling was her younger brother, 5 years her junior and the two of them spent nearly all their time together. They grew up speaking the local dialect of Mandarin and their ancestral dialect Cantonese.
In 1935, with World War II on the horizon and foreign invasion on the doorstep, the family evacuated to re-locate in Shanghai where she learned the Shanghainese dialect. It was at the housing complex they finally settled in where she met Chun Wing Wong 王春榮. This would lead to a friendship and a long-loving marriage of 63 years until cancer cruelly took him at age 92 in 2013.
When Shanghai was invaded and occupied in 1937, the adult men in the family all left to join the government in the provisional capital of Chongqing. The women and children were left in Shanghai. Her mother was a feudal lady who was provided with no education and forbidden in her life to do anything independently, hence she possessed no skill or ability to perform the simplest tasks or make routine decisions. Her oldest sister was suffering from debilitating Tuberculosis and the second sister was married and not in Shanghai. She was left with the task of running the entire household, including raising her nephew, at the tender age of 17. In the occupied territories there was a shortage of everything, even finances since astronomical and continual inflation had eaten up everyone’s savings. She, her brother and her future husband would scour the countryside on their bicycles looking for food and often survived on discarded lard from the local butcher and barbecue shops.
When the war ended, she attended university and continued with her role of overseeing the household. Upon graduation in Chemistry, she went to work in a variety of positions, as court secretary of the Supreme Court, analyst of the Mint, analyst of the central milk assembly plan, and announcer of the official central radio station. The last was gained from her talent which allowed her flawless mastery of all 3 dialects as well as preciseness of official pronunciations.
1949 ushered in an eventful timespan in her life. She was married and moved to her own home. At the commencement of the civil war, she and her husband uprooted to Hong Kong with a total possession of $1 between them. They managed to find shelter in a single room in the household of a relative. The same period also saw the birth of her son.
Another special period started in 1957 with the arrival of her second son. It was the beginning of reaping the rewards from their toils and struggles. She also welcomed to Hong Kong both her mother-in-law and her own mother. When her son was in grade 1 she would meet a girl in grade 6 who would emerge to be a precious goddaughter and godmother to her eldest grandchild.
When her boys grew older she went back to work as a high school teacher and taught Chemistry. One of her students became a treasured, life-long goddaughter.
She also joined the church at this time.
The turmoil of the Cultural Revolution had a severe impact on the stability of Hong Kong. The family decided that they would emigrate to Canada to provide a safer and more peaceful environment for the boys, and they did just that in 1969.
In Vancouver she opened her own gift store and managed both the store and the home by herself while her husband commuted often back to Hong Kong to attend to his company. Soon she expanded her gift store to 2 locations and was a mainstay in the International Market at the PNE for a long number of years. She was a founding member, and eventually a Deacon, of the Evangelical Chinese Bible Church (ECBC) 大溫哥華聖道堂.
Over the years she had received numerous children of friends and family into her home while they studied or pursued their careers or goals in Vancouver. When the time came, she was enchanted to have her daughter-in-law join the family.
When her grandchildren arrived, she was totally delighted. She doted over them and spent nearly all her time with them, particularly helping them with their Chinese lessons. She would spend countless hours, even into her eighties, going over their lessons and then constructing exercises and quizzes, hand-writing them out, copying them and conducting them. She shared many, many happy times with them and created invaluable memories.
As she aged, her memory began to fail her and dementia slowly advanced. The bright spots were always the visits of both of her goddaughters from afar, and the times with her grandchildren.
Her life was all about family, friends and people. It was always about giving and caring. Her descendants are forever grateful they have been on the receiving end of her love and compassion. It is an example well witnessed, a lesson well learned, an experience well lived. Their task now is to continue to pass on her message and her selfless giving.
In her waning years, after her husband departed, she was cared for at home by her sons until one gentle night, while she was peacefully sleeping at home, with her boys there, she was called by God and embarked on her final journey.
Bon Voyage! 一路走好!
She is survived by her sons 長子 Jimmy 怡庭 (吉美); 次子 Eugene 悦庭, daughter-in-law 媳婦 Liliana (To) 杜敏莉, grandson 長孫 Alex 光華, granddaughter 次孫女 Britina 子華 and fiancé 及未婚夫 Owen Dong 董鵬, grandson 三孫 Clayton 浩華; goddaughters 契女 Lily Tai 戴莉莉 of San Francisco; 契女 Siu Lan Law (Tang) 羅鄧少蘭 of Hong Kong, god granddaughter 契長外孫女 Winnie 慧思, and husband 及夫 Tommy Wong 王守義, god grandsons 契次外孫子 Raymond 禮文 and wife 及妻 Connie (Yip) 葉好芬, 契三外孫子 James 禮邦 and wife 及妻 Panda (Tang) 鄧麗明, god great grandson 契曾外孫子 Eason 羽琛; 契女 Marcia Chen of Los Angeles.
She is also survived by her brother Louis 司徒沛, and his children, her nieces and nephews, Cynthia, Daarek, Selina and David along with their respective families.
Requiescat in pace.
- Visitation Wednesday, 5 June , 2019
- Funeral Service Thursday, 6 June , 2019
- Reception Thursday, 6 June , 2019
- Private Graveside Service Thursday, 6 June , 2019
Pi Hwa Wong
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