Helen W. Fong, age 88, of Bloomington MN, was a loving wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. She passed away peacefully on October 16, 2023. Helen spent her last remaining weeks surrounded by family members and her loving husband, David.
She was born in a village in Toi San, Guangdong Province, China on October 17, 1934. She immigrated to the United States at the age of 13 with her mother, Kim Gook Lee Wong. Despite not knowing any English when she arrived, Helen worked hard and excelled in her studies. She was very proud earning As and Bs in U.S. history, physics, chemistry, and Latin, graduating from Belmont High School in 1953.
Upon graduation, she worked for Dr. Su in his medical clinic in Los Angeles Chinatown for 3 years. She was a trusted assistant, even given the key to open the office. Her duties included drawing blood, running tests, and performing X-rays. Working full-time, Helen also attended Los Angeles City College to pursue a career in nursing but received a business degree, which would come in handy later. She met David shortly before he joined the U.S. Army in 1954. Helen sent him weekly letters and care packages, resulting in David being called ‘Lucky David’ around the base. In December 1956,
Helen took her first vacation in 3 years to visit David. She arrived wearing high heels in the snow and David quickly bought her a warm coat and boots. It was a life changing trip – she found love and decided to make Minnesota her new home.
Helen and David married in July 1957, moved to Bloomington, MN, and opened Fong’s Chow Mein, a small 500 sq ft Chinese take-out in 1958. Eight years later, they opened the iconic and legendary David Fong’s Restaurant, which remained a family-owned and operated business for 64 years.
She helped David run the restaurant while raising 6 children. Helen always set a positive and strong example of fairness and cultural awareness. She taught them to be respectful individuals, with hearts towards giving and active community service.
Helen was active in the many civic activities in the city of Bloomington, and the Twin Cities. Her many roles included membership in the Bloomington’s Lioness Club and the Bloomington Women’s Club. The mayor of Bloomington selected Helen to represent the city as one of the delegates that traveled to its sister city Kyoto, Japan. Helen also helped many find their homes and businesses with her residential and commercial real estate licenses.
Helen was also a leader in the Chinese community in Minnesota. She helped many new immigrants through her volunteer work through the Council of Americanization. Helen also recognized the importance of sharing her cultural traditions and customs. She established and was the founding principal of the Chinese Language School at Westminster Presbyterian Church in downtown Minneapolis. In 1970, the theme of the Minneapolis Aquatennial was “The Seas of the Orient” and she and David helped sponsor a prominent Chinese drum corp from San Francisco to perform at the event. Her children, along with many of the local Chinese children also performed traditional dances. It was a significant moment in time for the Chinese in Minnesota, who were honored to share their heritage. Helen was most recently involved with the Chinese Senior Citizen Society, which provides fun activities and fellowship to both young and old.
Helen was an amazing cook and had an incredible palate for developing and assessing recipes, whether Chinese or American. One of her most beloved recipes was the popular and often sold-out dish, Helen Fong’s Weekly Special Prime Rib Night at David Fong’s Restaurant in Bloomington. She often shared her love of cooking with the Bloomington Women’s Club through Chinese cooking demonstrations. Family favorites included lap ngaap, sui mai dumplings, mai fun, cha sui baos, woo tau goh, fried chicken, Thanksgiving stuffing, and chili. She also baked fluffy sponge cakes and David’s favorite, custard pie.
Helen often reminisced about her happy childhood in China. Her family grew many crops, including a wide variety of sweet potatoes, her favorite food. David and Helen frequently visited their villages, where they upgraded schools, roads, and established community centers. This improved the lives of many families.
Her many joys in life included cooking, gardening, crocheting, dogs, traveling, swimming, and hosting parties. However, her biggest joy was her family, cooking for them and creating cherished moments of togetherness. She was the matriarch of the family who dispensed words of wisdom and will be dearly missed.
Helen was preceded in death by her great-grandson Bradley Fong. Helen is survived by husband David Fong Sr., children Edward (Blanche), Donald (Wendy), Amy (Bob Howard), Barbara (Rody Portier), Cindy (Leo Le), and David Jr (Amy). Grandchildren Christopher (Lisa), Daniel, Ricky (Stacey), Bobby (Kirstee), Mia, Helena, Haley, Gerrit, Hannah, Abby, Cameron, David III, and Elizabeth. Great-grandchildren Leah, Emma, Makayla, Evelyn, Margaret, and Lauren. She is also survived by her siblings Herbert Wong (Jean), Lynn Wong (Dennis), Hanson Wong (Cindy), and Hayward Wong (Ruth).
Private funeral and interment services have been held. With gratitude, we want to thank the staff at Benedictine St. Gertrude’s, for their loving care and kindness. Donations in Helen Fong’s memory may go to the Benedictine Foundation, Attention: Yvonne Anderson, 1850 Sarazin Street, Shakopee, MN 55379; or use this link for giving: benedictineliving.org/shakopee-mn/