Kam Wei Liao
December 11, 1922 – June 5, 2019
Kam-wei Liao, 96, passed away peacefully on June 5, 2019, at her home of 62 years in Beachwood, Ohio.
Born Gum-wah Chen in Guangzhou, China, she attended True Light School and Hangchow Christian College, where she received a degree in architectural engineering.
Kam-wei is survived by her beloved husband of 72 years, Chien-wei Liao; sons Winston (Carol Hazard) and Wayne (Marty Shultz); seven grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren; and sister Gum-ling Dyer and her family. She was the family’s Wonder Woman.
Among the family’s treasured stories about her World War Two college years in Shanghai during the Japanese occupation was her leading her roommates on a daring clandestine foray behind enemy lines to buy a live chicken for dinner. When it came time to cook the smuggled squawking booty, all of Kam’s high-born classmates shirked the essential task. So, as she memorably put it: “I killed the chicken” and saved the day.
On the job, Kam blazed a pioneering path as a structural engineer in the 1950s and 1960s, working in a field populated almost entirely by men. While at the prominent Cleveland engineering firm Arthur G. McKee, she was asked to serve as one of the firm’s first computer programmers, writing Fortran and COBOL code for everything from pipe stress calculations to accounting routines. She continued programming at engineering firm, H.K. Ferguson, and closed her career at Computer Task Group.
Applying her learned and experiential knowledge, Kam was a true "Jill" of all trades. She is fondly remembered for her careful craftsmanship in building a bookcase for her sons, expert preparation of scrumptious Cantonese cuisine, and fine sewing, knitting, and crocheting creations, indeed, faithfully devoting Monday mornings to Beachwood’s Happy Hookers knitting and crochet group.
The neighbors remember seeing Kam on the roof with Chien, repairing and painting the house, on her knees gardening, and walking daily with Chien in Eaton Place or around the neighborhood. For over five decades they enjoyed season subscriptions to the Cleveland Orchestra. Also a keen opera fan, when she and Chien traveled, they sought out operatic performances wherever possible.
Contributions may be directed to the Happy Hookers at the Beachwood Community Center, Cleveland Chinese Senior Citizens Association, or Diabetes Association of Greater Cleveland.