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Mariano S. M. Chan (1922-2011)

Mariano S.M.Chan, known to his friends as Ming, passed away peacefully at home in Sugar Land, Texas, on February 5, 2011 at the age of 88. His wish of dying in his sleep was granted, having played mahjong the night before but failing to wake up in the morning.

Ming was born in the Philippines in 1922 when it was an American colony. His parents were Cantonese from the city of Zhongshan near Macau, where he lived as a toddler and was sent for a proper Chinese education from age nine to fourteen. Ming grew up speaking Cantonese, Mandarin, Fukienese, English, Tagalog, and some Spanish. His education was cut short at sixteen with the death of his father, whereupon the support of his mother and six younger siblings fell on his shoulders. However, being inquisitive and an avid reader, he never stopped learning.

During Japan’s brutal occupation, Ming was scraping by as a houseboy and a bartender when he found a wallet of cash left at the bar by a Japanese officer. This enabled him to open an elegant restaurant named Old Europe. When America retook Manila by carpet-bombing the city, the family lost everything and one of his brothers was killed. After the war, Ming operated a restaurant concession at Clark Air Base and served briefly as editor of a Chinese newspaper, before joining Caltex (a Standard Oil of California and Texaco joint venture) where he retired as a training director some twenty years later. He relished the collegiality at Caltex, and working with graphs and charts appealed to the methodical side of him. Inspecting gas stations took him to all corners of the Philippine islands, which he came to love very much.

Ming and his wife, Rita Patricia Quejong, (http://www.fortbend, immigrated to Boston in 1976. While Rita taught in public schools, Ming landed on his feet as a social worker serving people of diverse backgrounds at Boston’s South End Neighborhood Action Program, where he was eventually promoted to be its deputy director. After their 1996 trip to the Philippines, he had a heart attack while being operated on for colon cancer; he returned to work even as he was undergoing chemo/radiation and cardiac rehab. On Ming’s second retirement, he and Rita moved to Sugar Land in 1998, joining their son Lumen, daughter Mary Ann, nephew Larry and their families. Ming took to wearing flamboyant cowboy boots and ten-gallon hats. Struggling in 2001 with depression, to which he was prone, he and Rita accepted Christ as their personal savior. They sold their house shortly afterwards and bought a larger one with Lumen and his wife who, along with Mary Ann and her husband, helped care for them. Ming became computer literate, spent his time trading online, corresponded with far-flung friends and relatives, compiled meticulous genealogical charts of the Chan and Quejong clans, and played mahjong for entertainment.

Ming and Rita celebrated their combined “170th Birthday” in 2007 with guests from China, the Philippines, and all over North America. After Rita passed away in January of 2010 following a long illness through which he lovingly nursed her, he grieved for his wife of sixty-five years but sought solace in singing hymns he sang with his daughters to Rita in her final days, often accompanied by his canary Frank Sinatra. Ming celebrated his 88th birthday last December by throwing a joyous banquet at a Chinese restaurant to thank relatives, friends, and the home care aides who helped care for him and his wife.

Aside from Lumen and his wife Ana N. Chan, Mary Ann and her husband Mario Lee, Ming is survived by his daughter Susan and her husband Ron Egan (California), daughter Margaret (North Carolina), son Marciano and his wife Sabine Bornholdt Chan (California), as well as an “adopted” American daughter, Catherine Abbott Carrillo, an ex-colleague of Ming in Boston. He had eight grand children and three grand children-in-law: Mark and Julia Lee, Michael and Natasya Lee, Marlon Lee (soon to wed Catherine Santos), Louisa Egan and Daniel Brad, Leonard Chan, Andrew Chan, Ann Margaret Chan, and Matthew Lee. He lived to see two great grandsons, Ethan and Tristan Lee. There will be a family gathering to celebrate Ming’s life. His ashes will join his wife’s in the Pacific Ocean according to their wishes.

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