Gloria Lee Wong

4

Gloria Lee Wong passed away peacefully in her sleep at her home in Vineyard Haven on Jan. 24, 2024, one month shy of her 96th birthday. She lived year-round on the Island for the past 25 years, and was a seasonal resident in the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association for nearly 60 years.

Gloria Violet Lee was born on Feb. 24, 1928, in Victoria, British Columbia. She was the daughter of the Rev. Clarence Lee and Edith Lois (Ching Oi) Koo, and older sister to Cordelia Shampanier, Felicia Lee, and Timothy Lee. 

She grew up in Canada; in 1944, her family moved to San Francisco. Her father was offered the position of minister of True Sunshine Church in San Francisco and Oakland. At the time, her parents were Chinese citizens, and the U.S. permitted only a limited number of Chinese to enter each year, so permission was required from the Chinese, Canadian, and U.S. governments.

Gloria graduated from Lowell High in San Francisco in 1945, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1949, and her master’s of social work from Smith College in 1954. She was ordained as a deacon in the Episcopal Church in 1993.

While on work study in Baltimore, she met Backman Wong. Gloria and Backman married in San Francisco in 1954, and resided in Baltimore, where their two eldest sons, Malcolm and Cary, were born. In 1961 they moved to Massachusetts, and settled in Wayland in 1962, where their three youngest children, Darrell, Andrea, and Janice, were born. After Backman passed away, Gloria moved full-time to the Vineyard in 1998.

Over the years, Gloria worked at the San Francisco YWCA, Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, N.Y., Family and Children’s Service in Baltimore, Wayland Junior High School, South Cove Community Health Center in Boston where she served the Asian community, Tewksbury Hospital, and the Massachusetts Public Health Department, working with teens, special-needs children, refugees, and nursing home social workers.

Gloria was spiritual, and came from a religious family; her father and maternal grandfather were ministers. She was involved with numerous churches and ministries: Boston Chinese Ministry at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Church of the Holy Spirit, Grace Episcopal Church, Trinity Episcopal Church. Gloria was a member of the Order of St. Luke (OSL), an international interdenominational Christian healing organization, and attended conferences worldwide. She provided healing prayers at M.V. Hospital Chapel, Grace Church, and Trinity Church.

Gloria was involved in numerous community organizations and activities, such as church community suppers, fundraising walks, and Chinese New Year celebrations with help from the Brownie troops, singing in choruses and church choirs. She loved music, and played the piano. She sang with the Golden Tones, and with the Island Community Chorus for more than 20 years. She also enjoyed gardening and growing flowers.

Gloria was a member of the Polar Bears since 1970 for early morning swimming and fellowship; they became family. She was interviewed by M.V. Museum about the Polar Bears for its oral history. 

Despite having quadruple-bypass heart surgery at 86 years old, she was busy, active, and energetic. She attended exercise class at the Tisbury Senior Center regularly. Recently diagnosed with alpha-gal, she reluctantly gave up ice cream. She had perfect eyesight, recently renewed her driver’s license, and was considering buying a new car.

Gloria enjoyed traveling to new places, and visiting her children and grandchildren in Japan, Hawaii, Morocco, Singapore, and Thailand. In 2022, she took a road trip with grandson Dustin, from Washington State to Los Angeles. She and Backman toured China, and went skiing in Austria. During a pilot strike, she took a solo bus trip from Massachusetts to California, unbeknownst to her children. She visited Jerusalem, went on cruises to Alaska, and traveled to many other countries, but Italy was on her bucket list. Another wish was getting her pilot’s license. 

Despite her small stature, she was big in spirit, and full of joy, generosity, and kindness for others. She always had a smile.

Gloria is survived by her five children, Malcom (Junko) in Tokyo, Japan, and Hawaii, Cary (Lillian) in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and North Attleboro, Darrell in Wayland, Andrea Wong Monteiro (Kelvin) in Singapore and Vineyard Haven, and Janice Skilling (Robert) in Windham, N.H.; by her grandchildren, Dustin, Isaac, Analisa, Lukas, Brian, Natalie, Maximilian, Jenna, Samuel, and Jack (who shares her birthday). She is survived by her brother Timothy (Marie) in Mountain View, Calif., and many cousins, nieces, nephews, and grand-nieces and -nephews. Gloria was predeceased by husband Backman, father Clarence, mother Edith, and sisters Cordelia and Felicia.

There will be a memorial service in July 2024 in Oak Bluffs. Details will be provided at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Gloria’s name to the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, online at giving.mvhospital.org, or to Grace Episcopal Church, online at bit.ly/GEC_donate.

4 COMMENTS

  1. So sad to read this news , Gloria was a neighbor of mine and would greet me each day as I walked my dog past her house, she always had a golden smile and would ask how I was doing and she would always interact with my small dog , I think she was a very humble person that was full of compassion, my condolences to Gloria’s family

  2. A lovely human- kind, warm, intelligent,and multitalented. We sang together in the Island Chorus and was always a joy to be with. Very sad to hear of her death, but glad that, after such a long and fulfilling life, she left us peacefully

Comments are closed.