Shet-fai Wong of Ithaca, N.Y. left us peacefully at home, surrounded by love, on July 21, 2020, at the age of 96. She was predeceased by her husband of 74 years, the Rev. David Wong, in 2018.
Shet-fai was born in Hong Kong, where she trained to become a nurse. Friends set up a meeting with David Wong, who was completing his seminary studies. It was love at first sight! Their engagement ceremony turned into their wedding on December 8, 1944, during sudden air raids over Hong Kong. After their marriage, Shet-fai helped David plant and pastor churches in West Malaysia. They also founded the Hakka Methodist Church in Singapore. Shet-fai served as the volunteer church secretary, treasurer, pianist, nurse and teacher.
In 1969, Shet-fai and David immigrated to the United States, making their home in Ithaca, N.Y. The Wongs established deep and lasting roots in Ithaca’s Chinese community. The Wongs operated the first Chinese grocery, Tung Fong on Eddy Street and the Oriental Shop on Aurora Street, besides managing rental properties. The income from these allowed Shet-fai and David to purchase a church on Slaterville Road as well as the current site on Mitchell Street.
In 1983, David and Shet-fai founded the First Ithaca Chinese Christian Church, fulfilling their desire to establish a place of worship for the Chinese community in their adopted hometown and to provide a Christian community for students far from home. The first services were held in the Wongs’ living room.
Shet-fai and David were devoted to the church and its parishioners. Many graduates returned to Ithaca, bringing their families to introduce them to the Wongs. This was a source of great joy and pride for Shet-fai.
The Wongs traveled the world and returned to Asia and Europe every year to visit family and friends. David loved taking pictures and videos of beautiful Shet-fai and their friends. The Wongs are the source of countless cherished memories among family and friends.
Shet-fai was a wonderfully caring, courageous, patient, steadfast, and gentle mother. She was devoted to her family and to serving others. Her knitting and tailoring skills were beyond compare. Her great love of music is a lasting legacy to the third and fourth generations of their family. In support of David’s ministry, Shet-fai was unfailing, faithful and dedicated. Shet-fai’s sense of humor made everyone laugh and smile. “Why my number of teeth got less year after year, but dental bill keeps going up?”
David and Shet-fai are survived by three children, Siu-ling (Thak) Chaloemtiarana of Ithaca, the Rev. Michael Siu-kuk (Tracia) Wong of Seattle, Washington, and Siu-sing (Noreen Ryan) Shantur of Ithaca; son-in-law Walid Shantur; plus three grandchildren, Thwen (Jennifer West) Chaloemtiarana, Khwan (Scott Cooper) Chaloemtiarana, and Annette Shantur; two great-grandchildren, Katherine and Saijai Chaloemtiarana; and many nieces, nephews, great-nieces, and great-nephews around the world.
A private family graveside service was held at East Lawn Cemetery, where Shet-fai now rests with her beloved companion and husband, David.
Those who would like to make a contribution in Shet-fai’s memory kindly consider the First Ithaca Chinese Christian Church, 429 Mitchell Street, Ithaca, N.Y. 14850.
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