Frank Fung Choon Kwong
April 29, 1927 – October 29, 2019
Kwong, Frank Fung Choon Frank Fung Choon Kwong passed away peacefully at the age of 92 on October 29, 2019. He was born April 29, 1927 in Toishan, China. He was the second of seven children born to Nai Bon Fong and Yu Yuk Oi (Yee). He has three surviving sisters: Sue Ma from San Francisco, Sue Chung from Monterey Park, and Sue Ong from Sacramento. He was a loving brother to the late Sue Lee from San Francisco. He was also predeceased by his third sister, Sui Lin, and a younger brother, Fung Daii Kwong. Frank married Fong Yuen Yee in 1948. Their first born, a precocious little baby named Yee Peng, became ill and died at the age of two. Growing up in a tiny rural village that lacked the most basic of modern facilities such as electricity and running water, Frank was determined to make a better life for his young family. While attending college in Hong Kong to earn a degree in accounting, he petitioned to bring his wife from the village to join him in Hong Kong (using the pretense of being ill as a justification). Daughter, Helen, was born in Hong Kong in 1954, with brother Tyrone, arriving one year later in 1955. Frank yearned to be reunited with his father, Nai Bon, who had come to America in 1939 seeking employment in order to send money home to support his family. In 1953, President Eisenhower signed the Refugee Relief Act, an act that defined refugees as people who “lacked the essentials of life”. Reverend Hiram Fong from the Chinese United Methodist Church informed the Chinese community in Sacramento about the Refugee Relief Act, including Frank’s dad, Nai Bon. Reverend Fong assisted numerous families in their petition to bring loved ones from China. In 1956, Frank and his young family boarded the President Cleveland, bound for the golden California shore of San Francisco. They were met by his oldest sister, Sue Lee who had married a US serviceman and had immigrated to America through the War Bride Act. Before marrying and leaving for America, eldest sister Sue had tailored all the fashionable suits that Frank wore so many of the photos of Frank as a young man shows a dapperly dressed gentleman, belying his penurious state. One month after arriving in America, third son, James was born. Frank was sponsored by a small market owned by Tai Chong Fong in Sacramento and his first official job was being a bag boy, a job that brought a gentle reprimand after he tipped over the grocery cart laden with groceries in the parking lot. Without a car and unable to continue to take advantage of carpooling, Frank sought employment closer to home. He found work at Sam’s Hof Brau, within walking distance of home. Saving all the tips in a jar, he bought a used two tone car and a neighborhood teenager taught him to drive. Referred by two people associated with Farmer’s Market, a grocery chain owned by the late Walter Fong, Frank was hired, advancing from the backroom to the cash register as his acumen with the register and his razor sharp memory for prices became evident. His artistic penmanship also was on display. He was responsible for many of the hand drawn ad and price signs throughout the store. In 1957, fourth son, Caleb was born. In 1958, a second daughter, Susan was born, and finally, third daughter, Janet was born in 1960. By this time Frank had moved the family to Hollywood Park. Owning his own home unleashed his creative energy. While his love for America never ceased (from American made cars to football, baseball, basketball), he yearned for scenes from his native land. This he would create with his goldfish pond. He was a DIY’er, self-taught, in the days before the internet, and possessing limited English reading skills. Upon the concrete edge of the pond he created Chinese villages dotted with tiny ceramic inhabitants and miniature bonsai trees. There were staircases leading to mountains, bridges spanning villages, water trickling down the side of the mountain into the village pond. Below this scene would swim the colorful goldfishes. He would build three ponds in his backyard and as his friends and family visited their delight and wonder led way for many requests for him to build a pond for them. His was a unique talent. When he no longer had the space in his yard for more fishponds, he took to creating the scenes of the Chinese landscape using bonsai pots. Eventually his yard would boast over one thousand bonsai plants. The kitchen was another place where Frank flourished. The only remodel he made was adding on a larger kitchen and a nook. For this, he had to sacrifice his first pond which he had built so he could enjoy it from the view of the old kitchen sink. The original kitchen became a very wide hallway. The most valuable part of the house now became the kitchen. It is the place where, growing up, all eight members of the Kwongs ate nightly, sometimes as late as 8:30 as they always waited until he got off work from Farmer’s Market. His meals were always worth waiting for. When he retired from the grocery store, he took a six-month long trip to Hong Kong to attend culinary school. His repertoire of dishes expanded and some nights the kitchen table resembled a banquet table at a restaurant. Frank was active with the Soo Yuen Benevolent Association. He served as a secretary up until his passing. His calligraphy, with the crisp, sharp execution of strokes, was a visual art to admire. Even with the passage of time, his strokes did not diminish in their crispness. Besides his penmanship, his literary prowess was exceptional. He wrote Chinese couplets, a form of Chinese literature that adheres to certain rules. He published five books containing many hundreds of couplets. He contributed articles to a local Chinese monthly newspaper and was on series 26 before his passing. All of Frank’s grandchildren and great grandchildren had the honor of being giving a Chinese name by him. With a choice of over one thousand characters he gave careful thought to each selection. Always choosing two characters, he named each child with considerable thought, paying attention to several qualities. A good name had to be easy to write and remember, sound pleasant to the ear and look pretty to the eyes. It had to have good connotations in order to propel the young child forward in life with the best wishes for success and happiness. Family was his number one priority. With six children in one station wagon, weekends were visits to Sambo’s for pancake breakfast, strolls to William Land Park, shopping trips to White Front, Kmart, and Sears, fishing along the Sacramento River. Any visit from aunts, uncles, and cousins from out of town were occasions for gastronomic feasts. Eventually the rest of Frank’s family arrived to Sacramento through the sponsorship of the oldest sister, Sue Lee. Grandma Yu Yuk Oi was now reunited with Grandpa Nai Bon. Weekly visits to his parents soon gave way to daily visits when his father, Nai Bon suffered a stroke and became wheelchair bound. Frank and Fong Yuen would go nightly to minister to his dad and put him to bed. As more extended family arrived in America, Frank extended an invitation to visit for the summer to escape the brisk San Francisco weather. Summers spent with our Goo Poo (great aunt) endeared us to her gentle but wise nature. Cousin Hong Liang and his family were the last of the family from the village to come and his two younger children spent several summers with uncle Frank. The Chung family from Monterey Park came every summer during their youth. There were frequent travels to San Francisco to visit with dad’s sister, aunt, and many cousins. We children remember those times spent with family as being opportunities for fun, relaxation, good food, and great memories. Frank’s affiliation with the Soo Yuen Benevolent Association provided him with a great opportunity to connect with the Chinese community at large. He was very proud and happy to serve as an officer. He had the opportunity to visit his homeland several times when the association held conferences in Toishan. When he was 86 he told his family that he and mom were going to the conference one last time. Grandkids, Cameron, Jennifer and Corey, as well as children, Helen, James, and Janet, along with Helen’s husband, Michael, and Janet’s husband, Douglas traveled to China to visit the village where Frank grew up. The beam on Frank’s face as he observed his family taking in surroundings of his youth lit up our hearts. That beam was always evident whenever he encountered the newest, youngest addition to the Kwong family. So it is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to our “daddy”, gon gon, yeh yeh, uncle, cousin, and partner of 71 years. But it is with a beaming heart that we recall that however long each of us knew him, we were blessed to have known him and the longer we knew him, more blessed we are for it.
- Viewing Monday, November 4, 2019
- Funeral Service Tuesday, November 5, 2019
- Burial Tuesday, November 5, 2019