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YUEN-CHWAN SHEU OBITUARY

YUEN-CHWAN SHEU OBITUARY

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Published by Don Sheu
Obituary I wrote in honor of my father.
Obituary I wrote in honor of my father.

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Published by: Don Sheu on Jun 29, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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04/18/2013

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1Different Universe
Rizhao city is located on the coast of Shan-dong province near Qingdao, home of the fa-mous brewery. Shandong has produced many famous figures, some mythical like Wu Song who reportedly killed a tiger with a single blow, others more real though still larger than life like Zhuge Liang, Liu Bei’s chancel-lor during the fall of the Han dynasty, Confu-cius who’s synonymous with Chinese cultureand also his prized pupil Mencius. When Yuen-chwan Sheu was born in Rizhao,the count of souls tallied no where near itscurrent 2.8 million inhabitants. Yuen-chwan was born the day after the Lunar New Year celebrating the year of the snake on February 9, 1929. At the time Rizhao was organized as acounty. He was born into a different universe.His was a universe where his parents fully expected a restoration of the emperor. Thenew Republican government appeared to be just another anomaly among many in thethousands of years of dynastic rule. Luxury transportation in Rizhao in 1929 was a horsedrawn carriage.From this beginning in this coastal ruralcounty Yuen-chwan Sheu’s life would spantwo continents, three countries and four lan-guages. Though he never mastered English, Yuen-chwan did master Mandarin, Korean, Japanese and a smattering of Russian. He would outlive the usefulness of a horse, learnto drive a car, come to love to watch John Wayne western movies on television, andcontribute to an American life.By 1940, it must have seemed as if the world was coming to an end in Rizhao. Eighteen years and still no restoration of the emperor in sight, and Japanese invaded China. Yuen-chwan’s father died from heartbreak, betrayed by a kinsman over an investmentin the newly developing German influencedcity of Qingdao. A few weeks thereafter, Yuen-chwan’s mother devotedly followed her husband, also dying from heartbreak whileembracing her eleven year old son on her matrimonial bed.One fateful day that Yuen Chwan missedschool, Japanese bombers demolished hisschool. His paternal aunt who had takencharge of his care decided to send him to therelative safety of Korea. The Korean penin-sula was solidly under the administrationof Japanese as an imperial colony. He wasto join his former warlord uncle, a younger  brother of his father. His uncle had fled Chinamany years prior to escape Chiang Kai-shek’stroops during that general’s Northern Expedi-tion. Yuen-chwan’s uncle expected a battle, but that battle never materialized as ChiangKai-shek’s march into the northern prov-inces of China proved to be more show thansubstance, and the generalissimo instead brokered deals with local warlords along hispathway to Manchuria. Yuen Chwan accustomed to spoiling as theonly son of a prominent landowner did notlast long in his authoritarian uncle’s military household. In his teenage years he set-off onhis own.
Moment of Destiny 
During the late 1940s, Yuen Chwan settledinto a job at a prestigious Chinese restaurantat Seoul. Still a teenager, he was affordedgreater responsibility beyond what was nor-mal for his young years. Two things electedhim for special treatment, his previous educa-tion (though he attended only the equivalent years of the 7th grade) prepared him better than his many Chinese compatriots in Korea,and his comparatively tall height of 5’11”made him seem more authoritative than his
YUEN-CHWAN SHEU
February 10, 1929 - April 17, 2009 
 
2
 years would suggest.Leading up to the Korean War, Yuen-chwanin his role as a manager and maitre d’ of therestaurant would broker meetings betweenthe political and military elite of Korea. Hisposition in the restaurant afforded him a birds eye view of developing history. Once war broke, he took to the road again. Duringthe initial invasion Yuen-chwan made a moraldecision that defined the rest of his life andhow he would be regarded by anybody hecame into contact with. A number of Chinese refugees bribed SouthKorean soldiers to transport them in a mili-tary truck. As the makeshift caravan made itthrough the countryside, the soldiers be-came impatient with the slow time they weremaking burdened by their human cargo. The young soldiers stopped the transport in themiddle of the countryside and ordered theChinese cargo to unload.Everybody complied except for Yuen-chwan. This young man just barely twenty-one yearsold stopped with one foot in the truck andone foot out, straddling a border betweendeath and survival. He refused to move. There were others among the Chinese refu-gees who could speak Korean, but all weresilent except for Yuen-chwan.He admonished the soldiers saying that they had a moral obligation to escort the people tosafety in some town or city. He declared thatto leave them in the countryside with NorthKorean soldiers in pursuit was to condemnevery man, woman and child to death. After atense standoff, this unarmed man convincedthe soldiers to reload the refugees. He wonout by a force of moral conviction. This con- viction would serve him in life and make iteasy for him to make friends later in life. That Yuen-chwan did not share a language with astranger never stopped him from making anew friend.
 America
 Yuen-chwan survived the Korean War, andrestarted an almost Quixotic journey acrossKorea. Before leaving Korea, he had lived inevery region except for Gangwon-do.In 1959, he met and fell in love with So Yuk-lan. A bride normally out of the reach of aChinese resident of Korea. She was born of adistinguished lineage affiliated with the Parkclan tracking back to Hyeokgeose of Shilla.During the tumult of the Korean War, she wasdislocated and never recovered the comfortof pre-war days. An aunt plotted to marry her off to an old man as a way to jettison a mouthfrom her dinner table. Yuen-chwan rescuedher from this perilous fate and the two mar-ried without any of the bride’s family in at-tendance because the groom was Chinese.In 1960, Kennedy’s ascendance to the presi-dency of the US inspired Yuen-chwan andhe believed with Park Chung-hee’s parallelascendancy to power in South Korea andthe birth of his first child a daughter named Ying-li that all things were possible. Whenduring the Park regime his economic andpolitical situation became harder, Yuen-chwan prepared his family for an epic adven-ture to immigrate to the US sponsored by hiskinsman Chuan-hsiu Sheu in Rochester, NY. Yuen-chwan moved his family from Gyeong-sang-do in the southeast of South Korea to Youngdeung-pu in Seoul and settle in withold time friends the Lius to await the issueof visas from the US Embassy. While in Seoulawaiting immigration to the US, a son Jia-hao was born. Visas finally arrived after several years of  waiting. In the spring of 1973, the Sheu fam-ily embarked on a plane flight destinationSeattle, the family’s first port of entry in theUS before continuing on to the final destina-tion of Rochester, NY.

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