My great-grandfather, Ying Hsing Wen, was the first Chinese West Point cadet to graduate from the U.S. military academy. He is buried in West Point’s cemetery, and over the years my family and I have honored him by visiting his grave and attending the presentation of student awards in his name.
I’ve written several posts about my great-grandfather, and through these posts various people have reached out to me in connection to Ying Hsing Wen. I’ve found relatives, like the youngest sister of my great-grandfather who lives in China, and have also been contacted by The History Channel regarding an episode about West Point.
Most recently, a California woman named Susan Lee reached out to me through my blog. Her cousin, Jeffrey Chan, had found a signed photo from my great-grandfather addressed to his grandfather, Lee Sing Choy, while clearing out his late grandparent’s house. The dedication on the back of the photo is signed “Ying H. Wen, Cadet West Point 1907.” Susan Lee and her relatives wanted to return the photo to Ying H. Wen’s family, so she kindly mailed it to me.
As soon as I saw the photo, I knew it was my great-grandfather. It was similar to one of the few photos of him that my family possessed. However we did not retain anything with his handwriting, so this finding was a treasured discovery.
Lee noted, “My grandfather was an activist in San Francisco in the early 1900’s (he died in 1919). From stories we heard from my grandmother and elders from the San Francisco Chinese community in the 1960’s, he was a respected businessman and an elder at the Chinese Presbyterian Church of San Francisco. We were told that he was also the ‘unofficial’ mayor of Chinatown and met with City leaders as a go-between for the Chinese community.”
How did Susan Lee and Jeffrey Chan’s grandfather acquire a signed photo of my great-grandfather? Did Lee Sing Choy and Ying Hsing Wen meet through Chinese activism even though they lived on opposite coasts? Did they have mutual friends? Or did Lee Sing Choy simply request a photo from a fellow esteemed Chinese-American leader? We can only speculate.
Although both men have passed away, their legacies live on generations later forged with new connections formed through old ones. Susan Lee states, “We are glad that we were able to reunite you and your family with his photo!” My family thanks you and your family for your efforts to bring a piece of our great-grandfather back to us.