ELLYN LO FONG / 1911-2006
Late senator's wife won acclaim as gracious hostess
Family members described Ellyn Lo Fong as a remarkable woman who fully supported the political career of her husband, the first Asian American elected to the U.S. Senate.
"I hope I can have half the traits she has had," said her daughter Merie-Ellen Fong Gushi.
Fong, wife of the late Hiram Leong Fong, died at the Queen's Medical Center on March 25. She was 94.
Fong was born on Oahu. During her childhood, she and her three siblings helped their parents, Lo On and Shee Ching, with their grocery store in Ewa.
When she was 14, Fong moved into town. She was part of the first class to graduate from Roosevelt High School. Soon after, Fong attended Lingnam University in Guangzhou, China, for a semester, Gushi said in a statement.
Fong returned to Hawaii and attended the University of Hawaii. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in education and briefly taught at a school on Kauai.
Gushi said her mother met her father at a picnic with a group from the First Chinese Church of Christ. After a nine-year courtship, the couple married in 1938.
In 1959, when Hawaii became the 50th state, Hiram Fong was elected to the U.S. Senate. The Fong family moved to Washington, D.C., where Ellyn Fong demonstrated "the spirit of aloha, opening her home to many from the islands as well as being a hostess to dignitaries and senators from other states," Gushi said.
During her husband's political career, the couple traveled to Europe, Africa, Australia and other countries.
Fong also served as a Red Cross volunteer and was honored as a recipient of a certificate for Valued Services by the U.S. Senate Red Cross Chapter. In 1999 she was also a recipient of the Distinguished Service Award from the Organization of Chinese-American Women.
Her husband, who served in the U.S. Senate for 18 years and was co-founder of Finance Factors Ltd., died in August 2004.
Fong is survived by her four children, Hiram Fong Jr., Rodney, Merie-Ellen Gushi and Marvin; 10 grandchildren; two great-granddaughters; sister-in-law Alyce Lee Lo; and many nieces and nephews.
A private service was held Thursday at Nuuanu Memorial Park.