The Life of Virginia Wing

Chinatown in Chicago

Dr. Carl Chan of Milwaukee, WI, presented the following eulogy at Mrs. Wing’s funeral:

We are here today to celebrate the life of Virginia Wing.  Virginia loved and was beloved by people from all walks of life from just about every state in this country.

She was born in 1915 in Chicago.  Her grandfather, a well-respected herb doctor, had immigrated to America in the mid-1800s, so her American roots went back quite far.  As a second generation Chinese girl raised in Chinatown, she was quite the American girl, as evidenced by pictures of her as a teenager in the 1930’s, in a short skirt, tap-dancing in a chorus line.  She was also quite the traditional Chinese girl, attending Chinese school and participating in Chinese opera as well. This duality was to follow her all her life, sometimes leading to great pleasure and sometimes causing great confusion.  But altogether adding up to a woman who was full of love and who cared deeply for those around her.

Virginia suffered many losses as a young child: the death of her grandfather, which was followed by the death of her mother and, shortly after that, the death of her grandmother — all before she was 12 years of age.  She had an adopted brother, Lindsay, a blond-haired, blue-eyed boy who caused heads to turn when he spoke up in fluent Chinese.  They were separated after her grandmother’s death but kept in touch over the years.  Sadly, Lindsay passed away this last year.  Although she had no other siblings, she considered her cousin Jennie Chan of Milwaukee to be her sister.  Amazingly, at ages 88 and 92, they stayed in contact through email on a daily basis.

After her grandmother’s death, Virginia was taken in by an unbelievably kind and generous widow, who was struggling herself to raise three daughters.  That widow died shortly thereafter and Virginia went to live with Gertrude Wong’s family. Virginia, the widow’s three daughters, and Gertrude remained close friends throughout their lives and Gertrude is here today to pay her last respect to her friend Virginia.

Young Virginia was quite a beauty and was the model for a Chinatown noodle company in their print ads.  Later, she would be chosen to work at the 1934 Chicago World’s Fair in the Jade Pavilion.

In 1934 or thereabout she was introduced to Charlie Wing, who was visiting from Mississippi with his cousin, Yee Pang.  In 1935 they were married and she moved with him to Marks, Mississippi.  Having come from such a large, active city, she had more than a little trepidation about moving to a small town with a new husband that she barely knew.  But Marks opened its arms, and we’re told that almost the entire town turned up at the train station to welcome “Charlie’s bride” when she stepped off the train.  Ladies in the town who were there “oohed and aahed” over the petite woman with her long hair and beautiful hands.

In 1936 her first child, Tommie, was born, followed by Virginia Faye, Charles Edward and Anne.  Tragically, while Virginia was pregnant with Sandra, Tommie died in a fishing accident at age 13.  This was the greatest loss of her young life, but she fought valiantly and successfully to bring this baby to full term and a healthy birth.  Two years later Kenny was born.  While raising five children, Virginia still found the time and energy to work every day in their grocery store, run the Sunday School nursery and was active in the PTA and the Marks Band Boosters Club.

And bake.  Boy, could she bake!  Her pecan tarts are legendary and have, through the years, been eaten, appreciated and begged for by people far and wide.  It may be hard to believe, but the diverse group of her pecan-tart admirers extended to as far as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.  And that’s no lie!  This means that there are only two degrees of separation between all of us here today and the Beatles and Rolling Stones, thanks to Virginia and her pecan tarts!

With Charlie’s death in 1972, Virginia began spending less time in Marks and more time helping care for her children and grandchildren.  She nursed Sandra back from a severe leg injury and was secondary caretaker to eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, Holly, Kevin and Kelli, moving like a nomad whenever and wherever she was most needed.

In her later years she became quite vocal on political matters and loved to joust with anyone who held politically polar positions from hers.  P. S. She was almost always right.

The highlights of her life were always connected to family, especially the Pangs. The family gatherings, the mahjong parties and all of the events surrounding the cousins provided the foundation to build her life in the South.  Today, as Virginia watches from above, she is so honored and appreciative of the tremendous effort that all of the “PANG” cousins have made to make this celebration possible.

She traveled all over Europe with her Aunt Rose and Uncle George and their daughter, Gwen; her friend Gertrude; and her friend Gladys Wang.  She took a very adventurous trip to China with Gertrude.

She took pride in each and every one of her children and their spouses, but, OH THOSE GRANDCHILDREN!  They were her pride and joy!!  She recently took a United Airlines flight that was piloted by her grandson, Scott.  She watched with breathless pride, the NASA space flights that Kristen worked on.  She cheered for Geoff’s hockey teams and Corey’s soccer teams.  She never tired of watching Caitlin, the beautiful young cheerleader.  She was thrilled to walk Jennifer down the aisle when she got married.  She really appreciated Brendan’s breadth of knowledge and especially enjoyed their verbal jousting on political issues.  And she was delighted when she saw that Christopher was so very enterprising, entertaining and self-reliant.

In the last two or three weeks of her life, she said she was watching Dr. Phil every day on television and that many of the things he said spoke to her directly.  She said she could see where she should change and improve some of her attitudes, philosophy and thinking, and she was determined to keep evolving; a remarkable accomplishment for an 88-year-old.

Virginia lived a long and full life and left a fruitful and still unfolding and evolving legacy.  She died painlessly and peacefully, sitting in her favorite chair in her son’s home, surrounded by family and love.  She was truly blessed.  And we were truly blessed to have known her.

Quitman County Democrat, January 29, 2004

Photo By Daniel Schwen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

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