by Jeffrey Lehman with editing by Eddie, Louise and Randy Jang
Lee Sun Lee was born June 15, 1922 in Courtland, California. Lee Sun Lee was known as Louise or AhLee to her friends. She was the second adopted child of Lee Lun Jung and Law Shee. Her older adopted brother, Roy Lee, was born in 1911. He was 10 years her senior.
When Louise was only three or four years old, a fire destroyed much of Courtland and scattered the community. She and her mother moved to San Francisco while her father and brother stayed in Courtland to rebuild. Mother and daughter returned to Cortland but found they had grown attached to life in the bigger city. They decided to return to San Francisco to live. Louise came to think of San Francisco as her home and developed strong ties with her friends there. Her father and brother continued to live in Cortland, making visits to see Louise and Law Shee in San Francisco. Louise remembered her brother taking her by the hand, walking through Stockton Street Tunnel, and shopping at Emporium to get a doll for her to remember him by, which she still has. Another time, the family took a portrait together in Sacramento when Louise was about 4 or 5 years old.
On October 31, 1930, Roy Lee died tragically in a drowning accident. Lee Lun Jung was devastated by the loss of his son. Without a son to carry on his name, this unhappy event lead to discussions of returning to China.
In March of 1931, her parents began preparing for this trip. This included the formidable task of completing and obtaining approvals for the required immigration paperwork. The paperwork comprised of forms 430 for father and daughter (as US citizens) and form 432 for the mother (considered a lawfully domiciled laborer). The forms would allow their re-entry into the US. For her adopted mother, being from Macau, it was the first trip back to Asia since her immigration in July of 1907. This would be the fourth or fifth trip to China for her adopted father.
They sailed for China on April 2, 1931. The trip took them to Siu Yun village, the hometown of her adopted father and birth mother, who were brother and sister.
Louise recalls the large family mansion with a moat that surrounded the house complete with beautiful gardens. She especially remembers the library, servants’ quarters, and one section of the house that was 3 stories high. “Waited on hand and foot,” was how Louise remembers the experience. She cried every night because she missed her friends and school in San Francisco. She was eager to return. Mother and daughter prepared for a return trip in late 1931. Her father remained in China where he took a second wife with the hope of having another son. For them, two daughters were born. The father passed away while his new wife was pregnant with a son.
In November 1931, Louise returned with her mother on the President McKinley. On arriving in San Francisco, they were detained for several days at Angel Island while issues with Law Shee’s papers were resolved. It seemed that the papers had been lost. Memories of that stay at Angel Island stayed with Louise all her life. She recalled watching a detained woman carving poems into the wooden barrack walls. Many of these women would not be granted entry and would be returned to China. Louise saw many of the women in tears.
When released, Louise continued to live with her mother at the New China Hotel on Clay Street in San Francisco. She attended Commodore Stockton Grammar School and later went on to graduate from Polytechnic High School located on Frederick Street across from Kezar Stadium. Louise did well at Polytechnic and earned a scholarship to Cal. Her mother did not believe a daughter should receive too much education but that her focus should be on finding a suitable husband. She was destined not to use her scholarship. Instead, in the early 1940’s, she met Edward Jang who would become that suitable husband. Edward came from a farming family of 10 children from Cortland. He was intrigued by meeting this young woman whose family was also from Cortland. Louise and Edward married and raised four children; Robin, Cheryl, Randal, and Kimberly. At the time of this writing they have 9 grandchildren, 5 great grandchildren, and 2 more great grandchildren on the way.
Louise and Edward made their first of many visits to China in 1978. In an interesting twist of fate, they were able to meet her half-sister and half-brother from Siu Yun village. This was the son her father did not lived to see. In subsequent visits, Louise and Edward brought a number of their children and grandchildren to meet her half-sister and many relatives in Sui Yun Village.
Place of Origin
Place of Settlement