Gordon Gee Hung Wu was born on July 30th, 1904 in Song Chau Village, Toisan district, China. He was the second of four sons and a daughter of a county judge. He graduated from Pui Ching High School, established by the Baptist Missionary in Guangzhou. With help from his father, Gee Hung started a shoe factory in Guangzhou where his father later worked as a lawyer. He married and had four children-three daughters first and then a son. Meanwhile, his brothers immigrated to America as “paper sons” and settled in New York City Chinatown.
When the Japanese invasion of the north headed south, Gee Hung was in his office when a bomb crashed to the floor in front of him. By some miracle the bomb did not explode, but others did and the factory was ruined. A cousin hired him to manage his Wah Chong Trading Company in Hong Kong with a beginning salary of $50 a month. The English he knew helped with foreign accounts, and he was able to provide for his wife and four children back in the mainland.
Soon the safety of Hong Kong was also threatened. Despite The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 restricting Chinese laborers from entering America, merchants were able to obtain travel visas. Gee Hung was to investigate business opportunities for the trading company in New York. His chance of obtaining a visa improved if he claimed, at 36 years of age, that he was still single.
On December 27, 1940, he boarded the President Coolidge liner, one of the last ships to leave Hong Kong Harbor. After 21 days at sea, the ship entered San Francisco Harbor on January 1941. Since the administration building on Angel Island had recently burned down, processing of immigrants was moved to San Clemente Island. After two days waiting, a relative living in San Francisco received funds from Gee Hung’s brothers in New York City and posted his bond. A cross-country journey by train reunited him with his brothers in N.Y. Chinatown. First Brother had a laundry. Third Brother worked on a farm in New Jersey, and Fourth Brother had a restaurant.
At first, Gee Hung worked as a waiter and was able to send money to his family. But, after the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, no communications or money made it through to the mainland. Eventually, Gee Hung and his brothers pooled their money and opened Wah Nam on Mulberry Street, a trading company and grocery supplier to local restaurants. The business thrived for about 45 years.
In 1951, ten years after Gee Hung arrived in America, the Communist government permitted non-essential old and young populations to leave for Hong Kong. The measure was to conserve resources for China’s war in support of North Korea’s invasion of South Korea. His wife and three of his four children qualified, but Second sister was a nurse and was denied passage. Eventually, on the guise that her mother was dying, she was permitted to visit with nothing more than the clothes on her back. She never returned. The family lived safely in Hong Kong for about 7 years receiving direct support from Gee Hung.
Meanwhile, Gee Hung attained permanent residence status in America, attended night classes, and obtained a notary public license. When the US initiated an “amnesty“ program in 1956 that allowed Chinese to revert to their true identity, he was able to claim his family in Hong Kong. Gee Hung garnered the help of the Catholic Transfiguration Church on Mott Street to sponsor the family as wartime refugees of Taiwan. At the time, Taiwan was recognized as the official China. In 1958 his wife and family arrived in New York.
Over the years, he was able to witness and notarize legal documents for countless Chinese immigrants, and he facilitated the sending of money back to families in Hong Kong. His daughters married and delivered the next generation of Chinese Americans. His son at age 19 had not seen his father for 18 years. The son studied hard and earned a MS in Engineering from MIT and a PhD from UC San Diego. All 11 of his grandchildren have graduated from college, are contributing to their communities, and enhancing the ethnic plurality of America. They include a doctor, a federal prosecutor, business lawyer, financial analyst, aerospace industry manager, graphic designer, architectural designer, health & exercise business owner, registered nurse, actuarial portfolio manager, and journalist. Wu Gee Hung passed on in 1986.
Respectfully submitted by his daughter-in-law, a public school educator. January 2015