James Wong

James P. Wong

July 30, 1925 September 17, 2019

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Obituary for James P. Wong

James P. Wong, 94, passed away peacefully in the home that he designed, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Tuesday, September 17, 2019. He was surrounded by his family. His death was celebrated at the church that he also designed, St. Francis of Assisi, Ann Arbor, on Saturday, September 21. He was laid to rest the same day in Arborcrest Cemetery, Ann Arbor, with full military honors, including a 21-gun salute.

Jim was born on July 30, 1925, in Buffalo, New York, to Poy and Kim Wong. He was the second son and third child in a family of four boys and two girls. His family played a prominent role in the Chinese-American community of Buffalo. When the Great Depression hit, followed shortly thereafter by the death of his father, Jim, along with his two older siblings, set out from a very early age to provide for his mother and family. He studied aviation mechanics at Burgard High School, in Buffalo, while working part-time building P-40 fighters at Curtiss-Wright Aircraft. He was on his high-school football team, beginning a lifetime of delight as a football fan.

In 1942, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy at the age of 17 because, apparently, he would have needed his mother's permission to enlist in the Marines. All four of the brothers would eventually serve in the War and survive. He went to boot camp at Sampson Naval Training Station, in Romulus, New York, then to gunner's mate school at Great Lakes Recruiting Training Command, in North Chicago, Illinois, and finally to the Naval Training Station in Norfolk, Virginia, where he became a gunner's mate second class.

Jim was a gun captain and ship's photographer on the USS Fieberling (DE-640), a Navy destroyer escort, commissioned in April 1944 in San Francisco. The ship arrived in Pearl Harbor in June. Jim fought in the Battles of Guadalcanal, Okinawa, Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima. The Fieberling received damage from a near miss in the massive kamikaze raids on April 6, 1944. Jim photographed the destruction of Hiroshima four days after the dropping of the atomic bomb. His total pay from the U.S. Navy upon discharge in 1946 was $53.89. He received the American Theatre Medal, the Victory Medal, and the Asiatic Pacific Theatre Medal 2 Stars.

His discharge papers asked the question: Does the veteran intend to continue his instruction? The answer was "Yes." Jim benefited from the G.I. Bill, first taking night classes at Columbia University, N.Y., then, after marrying his wife, Lin, in 1952, followed by a reception at Forest Hills Country Club, in Queens, N.Y., moving from New York City to Ann Arbor, to attend the University of Michigan, where he graduated with a B.S. in Architecture, in 1954.

He opened his own practice, James P. Wong and Associates, Architect, in Ann Arbor, in 1957. During his 50 years of practice, he designed some of Ann Arbor’s notable buildings, homes, and houses of worship, including St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, Glacier Way United Methodist Church, Westminster Presbyterian Church, and Ann Arbor Christian Reformed Church. He was an adjunct professor at the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of
Michigan, and a president of the Huron Valley Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. He took great joy in mentoring young architecture students, including his daughter Therese, currently an architect in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Jim Wong was devoted to his young, widowed mother, to his five brothers and sisters, and to his wife. He imbued in his own four children the values of family, generosity, empathy, loyalty, honesty, hard work, creativity, and an appreciation of beauty. He taught them through his own example some of the greatest privileges of being Americans: to invent their own lives, to take risks, to strike out on their own, to transcend themselves. He taught them to love jazz. He was an optimist until the day he died.

Lin, his beloved wife of 67 years; Jonathan (Kim), his oldest son; James Jr., his second son; Therese, his daughter; Matthew, his youngest son; their partners, Carol and Young-hae, and their children — Jim's beloved grandchildren, Sophie, Evan, and Daniel, on whom he doted; all of them will continue to celebrate Jim Wong's rise from an impoverished youth, his wartime heroism under fire, his beautiful architecture, and his love of crisp, sunny autumn days, when the Japanese maples that he and his family planted throughout his life at his home in Ann Arbor, turned their leaves into blazing reds and yellows.

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Service Details

  • Visitation

    Saturday September 21, 2019 | 10:00am - 11:00am
    St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church
    2250 E. Stadium Blvd.
    Ann Arbor, Michigan
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email |
    Saturday September 21, 2019
    10:00am - 11:00am
  • Mass of Christian Burial

    Saturday September 21, 2019 | 11:00am
    St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church
    2250 E. Stadium Blvd.
    Ann Arbor, Michigan
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email |
    Saturday September 21, 2019
    Fr. Tony Smela
  • Interment

    Saturday September 21, 2019 | 12:30pm
    Arborcrest Memorial Park
    2521 Glazier Way
    Ann Arbor, MI
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email |
    Saturday September 21, 2019

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