My grandmother, Moy Lee name given at birth was Ming Q. Wong, her paper name was Ngun Moy Hum born 1916, in Kongmoon, (Jiangmen) a city in Guangdong province in southern China. She married tWae Yin Tom born 1885 approximately in 1933.
Moy at the age of 18 and Wae Yin then 49, gives birth to a daughter named Hong in 1934. Wae Yin went back to American, and in 1937 he made plans to bring his daughter Hong to America. Moy knew she would lose any opportunity to come to America if she allowed him to take their daughter. She then threatens to take their daughter and leave him if Wae Yin did not make plans to bring her to America.
Moy arrives on the ship President McKinley in Seattle Washington, America in Sept 15, 1937 alone, leaving her 3 year old daughter with the first wife (rumored also, that the first wife would not allow Moy to bring her daughter).
Moy was 21 and came as a student and paper daughter of a native. It is documented that she had $8.00 in her possession. Even though she arrived Sept 15 she was detained at Angel Island, Seattle and was not admitted to United States until 10 days later. According to the Dept. of Labor Immigration office she was residing at 666 King St Seattle Washington. I do not know how she got from Seattle to New York.
Moy residing in Brooklyn, New York, in a Laundry at 77 Lafayette St Brooklyn; Moy bored Wae Yin Tom a son Yow Choy (Harry) in 1939, a daughter Elsie 1942, Barbara 1943 and lastly in 1947 Ella May all born in Brooklyn, New York.
Approximately in 1952, Moy takes her girls and leave Wae Yin, leaving their only son Yow Choy with his father. (She was not allowed to take the “boy”). Moy survived by making a living driving a taxi to/from the Brooklyn Navy yard and participating in prohibition (and was arrested for doing so) while living in an abandon building in Brooklyn.
She met Winston Lee her future husband in 1953? They married and moved to Kingshighway in Brooklyn and opens a restaurant, “Sunrise”, she the hostess and him the cook, this turns out to be a very successful partnership, they build an extremely lucrative business together from 1959-1962.
What was predominantly Italy and Jewish neighborhood, Moy assimilated, speaking better English than some Americans, she also took to America’s more colorful words, they became her repertoire, very rarely did she speak without them.
Her success enabled Moy to adopt two boys David and Kenny Lee in 1959 and eventually moved to 634 Collins Avenue Miami Beach, Florida in 1962 and opened a restaurant-House of Moy Lee, selling Sunrise Restaurant to her brother See Poy Wong.
During this time her daughter Barbara was breaking into show business and there was a lot of celebrity mingling, from Liberace, Dustin Hoffman, Johnny Mathis, Jackie Gleason, Milton Berle and Jackie Mason and many more. The movie “Lenny” was a 1974 American biographical film about the comedian Lenny Bruce, starring Dustin Hoffman and directed by Bob Fosse. Restaurant scene was filmed at the House of Moy Lee in Miami with Winston Lee making a cameo.
In the 1970s, Moy Lee’s outgoing personality landed her a guest appearance on The Merv Griffin Show when daughter Barbara Tai Sing was a performer in nightclubs, theater and on television.
Moy sells House of Moy Lee in Miami Beach, Florida in 1977 (before it was the well-known South Beach) and moves to Fort Lauderdale, and opened Moy Lee Chinese Restaurant at 2321 N. Federal Highway in 1975 partnering with 10 business men to open a 330 capacity restaurant, vowing never to be a slave to these businessmen within a year she bought them all out and became the sole owner and multimillionaire before she finally closed in 1988.
Moy died in 2012 at the age of 96, she was an entrepreneur, a woman liberator, before it was fashionable. Moy did what men did, she took no nonsense from anyone, she dared to come to America when there were few Asian and even less women, she was afraid of no man, women or demons, she roared wherever she went, she was heard whether you wanted to hear or not. You knew her point of view whether it was solicited or not, whether you agree or not. Moy was Moy and there will never be another like her ever again! And I am proud to be her granddaughter~~~Suzanne Eng
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