Who is Yik Oi?
On February 15, 1930, Yik Oi Huang was born in Toi San, China in the province of Guangzhou. She was the youngest of 9 children and her name means Abundant Love (Yik Oi). Her husband was Ho Wei Huang from Guangzhou, Hoi Ping, China. They fulfilled their longtime dream of coming to the US when the couple was able to immigrate in June of 1986 to reunite with their third child, Helen Yee (Sasanna Yee’s mother).
Yik Oi was passionate about life and never feared hardship. Not knowing a word of English and with almost no money, Yik Oi and Ho Wei eked out a life for themselves in San Francisco. She worked as a seamstress and a nanny. She and her husband lived frugally as renters in a single room occupancy in Chinatown. When her other three children were finally able to immigrate to the US, the entire family pooled their money together to purchase a house across the street from the athletic field of Visitacion Valley Playground.
Although Yik Oi only had two years of elementary schooling, since her parents lacked money for education, that never stopped her from studying. During retirement, she taught herself how to read some Chinese characters by watching TV. Her favorite hobbies were gardening and Chinese soap operas. She loved to make soup, steam fish and one of her favorite foods was egg roll.
Yik Oi Huang was actively engaged within the Visitacion Valley community and made contributions to our city, the most significant one being her life. For 17+ years, she was an ambassador of the Visitacion Valley Friendship Club. This is an advocacy and senior group serving the Chinese immigrant community where members participate in senior services, voting rights, AAPI issues and emergency preparedness. She helped recruit neighbors especially during her walks around the park and made new members feel welcomed. Yik Oi always loved helping people. The recycling cans she had collected would go to her neighbors and friends. When going to Sunnydale’s food assistance program, she easily made friends with English and non-English speakers alike. Her ability to connect with neighbors enhanced the life of the community. This was evident when elders at the various VV parks would share with Sasanna the impact that Yik Oi’s life and death has had on them.
Visitacion Valley Playground was like Yik Oi’s front yard. It was a place where she, her friends and her family members felt relatively safe. Every morning for 20 years, she would walk around the perimeter of the park and practice QiGong. She was the epitome of health and a role model for the community. Grandmother Huang recognized the importance of doing her exercises on a grassy field, breathing the fresh outdoor air and socializing with neighbors. She loved this park!
After being violently attacked at the Visitacion Valley Playground, Yik Oi fought to stay alive for a whole year. Her friends from the park missed her radiant smile and still feel the trauma from the tragic attack. She left this world on January 3, 2020. Yik Oi Huang is survived by 4 children, 8 grandchildren, 6 great grandchildren, and a whole community devastated by this loss.
Let Yik Oi Huang be remembered by the way she lived, not by the way she died. Although she could have easily lived until 100 years old, her 89 years were lived to the fullest. Grandmother Huang’s life is representative of Visitacion Valley, both historically and currently. Grandmother Huang was not only a beloved grandmother, but also an immigrant, worker, woman, person of color, and active community member.
EULOGY for Yik Oi Huang shared at funeral on Jan 19, 2020
by Eldest Grandson Jeremy Lu
Yik Oi reminds me to "Be something bigger than yourself."
I’m the oldest grandchild of my grandma. My name is Jeremy. In this occasion, I'd like to share my own perspective of knowing grandma. In Cantonese, I liked to call my dear grandma, "Popo". So, I would use "Popo" for the rest of this talk as referring to grandma.
Like most mothers, Popo lived her whole life for the family, her children. Extraordinary mothers went an extra mile for her children. She went an extra ten. Based on what my mother told me, Popo didn’t get a chance to be educated in her childhood. She could speak Cantonese fluently, but she wasn't capable of writing Chinese other than her own name. She knows love deeply in her heart. How can we tell? Even her first name has the Chinese character name 'Oi', which means love.
When I was under 5 year old, Popo and Gonggong (my grandpa) lived in a house close to the river coast in Guang Zhou. It was my happiest days that I followed my parents to visit my grandparents' house and have family dinner over the weekend as a boy. We were not rich at that time, we enjoyed sitting together chatting as a big family around the dining table with my aunts and uncle. Popo usually granted me and my cousin Leo each a chicken leg. That was my favorite food.
Popo was the master of sewing. We didn't have enough money to spend on clothing back then. So she would sew up beautiful clothes for me. She's been sewing for a living for 30 years China. Cheap fabric turned into beautiful clothes by her hands and a sewing machine. It sounded like playing music while she ran her sewing machine. I can still vividly remember that sound.
Gonggong (my grandpa) and Popo came to the US when I was at the age of 6. Those were the memories about Popo at my early age. After she came to the US, she woke up at 6am everyday to take an hour of bus to go to Chinatown to wash dishes. After work she had to study English at night, and come home late after 9pm. She's been working hard for more than 10 years. A single goal on her mind was to pass the naturalization exam, so that she can bring her children and grand children to the US to be together, and live with better lives. Popo had been working hard since her early age. She had already given birth to four children in her early 30s. She came to the US without knowing a single English word. She studied English at the beginning from the 'ABC' letters. After coming to the US, she started her life all over again just for us. After 10 years of working hard and she had finally succeeded. Here we are, thank you, Popo.
Popo came to America in her fifties. She could have stayed in China to enjoy her retirement life. But she chose to come to America to start her life all over again for our future. One day, a long distance telephone call came that struck our family, Popo had a car accident at Chinatown. We were so upset, my mom had been crying. We were so worried but helpless, we were in China. God help Popo by giving her strength, but she was survived. Yet it left permanent injury at her waist.
Living with love
Despite all the hardship in life, Popo had always put on a lovely smile on her face. My grandma lived in a very healthy style. She ate only healthy food, kept exercising in the early mornings after her retirement. We all envied that she had skin as good as baby's. On occasions such as Chinese New Year, birthdays, she would always do what other parents would do, to give us red envelope with money inside. She's never stingy about sharing her love and joy to others.
On 1/8/2019, Tuesday morning was a day that I can never forget. At her age of 89, Popo was brutally attacked by a criminal, a villain. What happened to her was inhumanly cruel. No-human being on earth could understand the criminal behavior. Our family was devastated. We were angry, we were furious. We demand justice. We couldn't justify why it happened to our beloved Popo. I believe God is observing this. And yet, grandma kept fighting, she fought so hard for a whole year like what she had been doing for her whole life. She wants to be with family, her children and grandchildren. But we couldn't endure to see her suffer more.
Today, Popo has left us all. At last, she's at a better place.
Live for a greater good.
If you ask me why my Popo could be so strong or where her strength came from? The answer is she cares deeply for her family. She's not living only for herself. She had chosen to live for a greater good and She had found meaning for her life.
With all these memories from Popo, I will set aside a quiet corner to place them in my heart. The courage and the love that she brought to us all. Images of smiling faces that she's always been putting on, the courage for fighting the toughness of life, your kindness and spirit will always be remembered and carried on for generations to come.