By Greg Hugh, Staff Writer

Although her birthday really isn’t for several months, that didn’t stop Jennie Hsiao from holding a celebration recently for several hundred of her close and personal friends with a brunch at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum located in Chanhassen, MN.  The date was selected to be the monthly activity for the Chinese Senior Center Society (CSCS) members of which Jennie is President.

 

By Greg Hugh, Staff Writer

Although her birthday really isn’t for several months, that didn’t stop Jennie Hsiao from holding a celebration recently for several hundred of her close and personal friends with a brunch at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum located in Chanhassen, MN. The date was selected to be the monthly activity for the Chinese Senior Center Society (CSCS) members of which Jennie is President.

 

The celebration day started off overcast but since the brunch was held indoors that did not deter the gathering from enjoying the program that began with the registration process while a slideshow presentation was being played as guests settled into their assigned seats.

 

Howell Shaw, Jennie’s eldest son, started the program with a few announcements including that the brunch menu was a fusion of western and Asian items to signify the blending of both cultures. He also asked that there was to be a moment of silence to honor the memories of Jennie’s late husband, Fred Hsiao, and an uncle who recently passed away.

 

After the gathering had completed their brunch, Thom Dreeze, a representative of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum sang a stylized rendition of happy birthday which was followed by the more traditional version by the whole gathering.  The cake cutting followed after Jennie struggled with blowing out all of the candles but eventually birthday cake was enjoyed by all while the Ha Family Sisters sang a few songs.

Next, not on the program, was a presentation by Helen Fong, Vice President of CSCS, during which she presented separately donations by CSCS board members and other CSCS members to the proposed Chinese garden as recommended by Jennie in lieu of birthday gifts to her personally.

Following this presentation, Jennie’s eldest son, Howell, offered some thoughts on his mom’s life which in a nutshell recognized her persistence in spite of her being legally blind and what a great negotiator she is.  Those comments were followed by Second Son, Hoyt Hsiao, who remarked that his mom was an avid traveler whom has taught him to be independent at a very early age but everything was done in a loving manner.  Next to offer some remarks was Youngest Son, Holden who stated that not only was his mom an avid traveler, but a very adventurous one that was, despite her handicap, not afraid to travel alone despite surviving a few mishaps that can only be attributed to good luck. 

Following the remarks from her sons, Sherri Gilbert of the Minnesota Historical Society,

followed with her remarks about when she met Jennie and Fred Hsiao years ago when she authored the book, Chinese in Minnesota, how helpful and generous they were in providing material for the book and while they have been included in the book and subsequent exhibits at the Historical Society, they are now also featured in the Chinese Museum in New York.

Speaking next was Kaimay Terry who described in more detail Jennie’s medical condition known as myopic degeneration and how this has not deterred Jennie from being an active member of the Chinese community. Terry also recounted how she met Jennie some 16 years ago when she was encouraged by her to be more community active even though she was busy running her own business.  Jennie shared a saying that she received in a fortune cookie that stated “Just do it!”  Needless to say, Jennie has quite literally made this saying an integral part of her life.

Dr. Ed Schneider, Arboretum Director, then spoke and thanked Jennie as well as the entire Hsiao Family for making the generous lead donation to help establish a premier Chinese garden in Minnesota.

The vision for such a garden was then presented by Damon Farber, a local architect that has been chosen to assist in the design of the Chinese garden.  According to Farber, “the Chinese Garden is like the first drop of rain in a pond.  It portends a prospect.  It understands that there will be more drops in the future, and in our case, it will promote dialogue and inform the vision.”

Acknowledgements were then provided by Howell and Frank Molek, Director of Development for the Arboretum, added that the wives of the Hsiao sons, Nina (Howell), Zheng Zheng Lou (Hoyt) and Yu Wen (Holden) deserved recognition as the other significant women in the Hsiao family.

At the conclusion of this celebration, the guests were invited to stay and enjoy the more than 1,100 acres of gardens or take the 3 mile drive through the Landscape Arboretum.

For additional information regarding the vision of a Chinese garden at the Arboretum, contact Frank J. Molek, Director of Development and Communications of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum at 952-443-1433.

 

 

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CHINAINSIGHT (CI) is published monthly ((except July/August and November/December are combined) by China Insight, Inc., an independent, privately owned company started in 2001 and headquartered in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota.

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