Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Fong Wong and The Golden Dragon, 1977

Fong Wong, 48, born in Mainland China, was a cultured man who had emigrated from Hong Kong to the United States in 1969. Five feet, nine inches in height, he was taller than the average Cantonese, but of slim physique. He had left a wife and seven children behind in order to make his way more easily alone in the New World. He went first to New York and worked as a waiter, moving next to Los Angeles, where he ran a take-out food business. An accomplished cook of both Cantonese and American cuisine, he was, as well, a talented musician. He played the violin beautifully, his taste inclining toward the romanticism of Brahms.
Reaching San Francisco in 1973, he found ready employment as a waiter at the Golden Dragon. Living quietly, soothing his loneliness with his beloved violin, he saved money and sent for his family in 1976. One daughter had married and remained in Hong Kong, but his wife and the other six children, ranging in age from 10 to 18 in 1977, joined him in America. He welcomed them to a cozy flat in North Beach, above a Chinese noodle factory. With only two bedrooms, it was much too small a place for a family of eight, yet it was more than merely a place to live; it was a home. He filled it with music; his family filled it with love.
As industrious as her husband, his wife went to work as a baker in a fortune-cookie factory. His kids went to school, the older ones taking care of the younger.
Fong Wong gave of himself to everyone. Many of the Golden Dragon's customers became his friends. The boss was very fond of him, as were his fellow workers. He had been working seven days a week since the death of a colleague from cancer two weeks before. Nothing seemed too much for him to do, if it were of help to others. "He was very harmonious," an employee said of him.
When the shooters entered the Golden Dragon, he had been working nine hours already that day, running up and down the steps to the mezzanine, whose tables he helped to serve. He had waited on Donald Kwan, Calvin Fong, Robert Yuen and the other girls and boys crowded around that booth and table.
He had not served the gangsters who sat across the aisle from the kids on the upper level. The restaurant was so busy that night, the waiters were required to attend to several stations instead of staying with their regularly assigned tables. Thus, as it had fallen to Fong Wong to work both levels.

With less than ten minutes left on his shift; bullets from rival gangs flew taking the life of Fong Wong and 4 other innocent victims. 4 Gang members would be tried and imprisoned for the murders. San Francisco's economy would take a nose dive. And 8 children would become fatherless.


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