John Hua Yee
November 29, 1921 – March 26, 2019
"...time and chance happeneth to them all" -- Ecclesiastes 9:11
This favored quote of John Yee befits his life's journey. Born to a Chinese family in a remote region of China in 1921, "time and chance" carried him worlds away in both space and time to the Colorado that became his home for over 70 years.
From early childhood, John was raised by an extraordinary English missionary couple working in and near Kunming, Yunnan. In the late 1930s they sent him to St. Stephen's College in Hong Kong for his secondary education. After returning to Kunming near the onset of WWII, John joined the American Volunteer Group--the "Flying Tigers", which was formed to defend China against Japanese air raids. Bi-lingual and bi-cultural, John was an interpreter for American air force leaders such as General Claire Lee Chennault.
In 1944, opportunity brought him to the United States to help in the U.S. training of Chinese air force cadets. Illness later landed him at Fitzsimons hospital in Aurora, Colorado. Eventually, he was able to remain in the U.S., and he became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1952.
He attended both the University of Denver (DU, Bachelor's) and the University of Colorado (Master's), giving him an education that would propel his life's work: the sharing of his unique experience, knowledge, and vision of world cultures, east and west.
He taught in the Aurora Public Schools for over 20 years, teaching social studies, world and Asian history, and Chinese. He also taught at DU and Metropolitan State College. His "retirement" coincided with the early years of communist China's economic opening to the West. John and his wife, Nai-Li, led many educational tours to China, and he worked with colleagues to establish the Denver-Kunming Sister City relationship in 1985.
Recognition and Awards Over the years, John received numerous recognitions and awards for his WWII service, his teaching, and his work in international relations. Some of these include: * Americans by Choice Award for Distinguished Service, 1961
* Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award, 1998
* Minoru Yasui Community Volunteer Award, 2005
* Friendship Award, Denver Sister Cities International, 2010
* Asian American Heroes of Colorado Award, 2011
* Lifetime Achievement Award, Colorado Asian Culture and Education Network (CACEN), 2011
* Tribute Brick in the Runway of Honor, Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum, from the Denver-Kunming Sister City Committee, 2012
* "John H. Yee Day", July 17, 2012, proclamation by CO Gov. John W. Hickenlooper. Proclamation of Distinguished Service, R. James Nicholson, Secretary U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs 200507. Reception also hosted by Mr. John Sie and Don Ellison, Chancellor of the CU Medical Center
* Medal in recognition of WWII service, People's Republic of China, Central office of Military Affairs, 2015
* Recognition on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives by CO U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, a former student of John, Congressional Record, 2016
John was preceded in death by a wife, daughter, and great-granddaughter. He is survived by his wife, son, three grandsons, a granddaughter and their spouses, and by four great-grandsons and two great-granddaughters.
- Memorial Service Sunday, April 14, 2019
- Committal Service Sunday, April 14, 2019
- Reception Sunday, April 14, 2019
John Hua Yee
April 12, 2019
I first met John and Naili Back in the late 80s. I had always wanted to study Chinese and I found out that he was the best teacher I could find..He and Naili both we’re an inspiration to me to further my language and cultural studies and I am forever grateful to have known him all these years. What an amazing life! 再見老朋友！Memory eternal!George and Elaine Strompolos
April 11, 2019
Rest In Peace, John Yee. member of The A.V.G. Flying Tigers. So proudly we salute you as a Member Of The Greatest Generation and of Chinese American Veterans of WWII.
April 10, 2019
My husband, Bill, our dear friend, Tony, and I were so honored to meet John and his beautiful wife, Nai-Li. We spent 3 glorious days as guests in their home in Oct, 2017. Soaked up so much friendship, wisdom and history from them.
John, you were a man deserving of the utmost honor. Fly free, dear friend. You are missed beyond words.