Celebrating the life of George K. Lo
On Tuesday morning, April 14, 2020, George King-Ling (Jing-Ling ) Lo 羅金陵 passed peacefully in his home with his two daughters Alice and Cathy by his side, after battling interstitial lung disease and pneumonia, at the age of 84. George was a fighter all of his life, mentally strong, and full of determination and perseverance. He had a passion for learning and knowledge, and achieved many accomplishments throughout his lifetime. George was a reliable son, brother, husband, father, and grandfather, who shouldered an enormous amount of responsibility, paved new paths for himself, and helped many family members come to the U.S. to achieve their dreams.
Born in Nanking/Nanjing 金陵, China, in June 1935 George was his parents’ first born child. George spent much of his childhood in hiding due to wars in China. Life was excruciating and tough for him and his family from 1937-1945. George told us of a memory where one time, his family lived in the dormitory assigned by the government to his uncles, his maternal & paternal grandmas, in a 3 bedroom house for a total of 12 people. There was no bath tub or shower, and no toilet; just a hole they dug in the ground. Life was poor and miserable. Those days were crazy with Japanese military forces bombing all around, a lot of hunger, and running away. One time, he and his Dad climbed over hills to a friend to receive raw, broken pieces of rice so they could share with the family. There was no food, no medicine, no doctors, and no hospitals, and his parents lost their two young sons and one daughter in the 1940s.
Starting at age 5 in 1940, young George had to move often, including hiding out in rural Sichuan villages, moving to Nanjing, and then to Canton, and finally to Taiwan in 1949. At one point in Taiwan, his family occupied part of a grade school classroom to live, sleep and cook meals. Even under these difficult circumstances, he studied diligently, had a strong work ethic, and was admitted to one of the best high schools in Taipei, Taipei Municipal Jianguo High School 建國中學. To get to school, he had to take a bus ride for 1.5 hours each way. Life became stable, for once, with 3 meals a day and a good education. Later George would go to college at the National Cheng Kung University in Tainan, Taiwan 國立成功大學 and graduated from the Civil Engineering Department.
It is through friends that he met his future wife, Lucy, in 1959. The following year, in 1960, George and Lucy were engaged. However, they agreed that George would leave first for the U.S. in April 1961 to take advantage of the opportunities for a better future.
As the eldest of 5 boys, George was the first to make the long journey from Taiwan to America to pursue his graduate work, and ultimately the American Dream. In April 1961 at the mere age of 25, he boarded a cargo ship with 11 fellow students at the port of Kaohsiung. As the ship departed, he had to say goodbye to his parents and Lucy as they waved to one another through tears. After over 30 days of rough, high seas, his small ship landed in Vancouver, Canada, and then docked in Seattle, WA. From there, he took a Greyhound bus south until he arrived in San Francisco. There were no friends to greet him.
Without knowing a soul in this new land, George took on the task of finding a new home and place for graduate study. After much hard work and determination, George was accepted by UC Berkeley. Though he was well-qualified for an office job as an engineering draftsman, finding work was difficult for immigrants for many reasons. So he ended up washing dishes in a Marin restaurant, working hard for
every dollar. That experience was one he took to heart for the rest of his life. And though he lived across the world, George dutifully sent money back to Taiwan every month to help support his parents, brothers, and the families of his aunt and uncle – no less than 15 people.
In August, 1961, Lucy was able to come to the Berkeley to join her beloved. In September 1961, they got married at Newman Hall in Berkeley near campus with just a few friends and Father O’Looney, and lived in a $65/month studio apartment on Channing and Shattuck. To get to school, they bought a tiny 3-horsepower scooter with their savings. Life was not easy on the academic front, especially learning engineering in a second language, but George graduated with a Masters in Civil Engineering after only 1.5 years.
In search of a job, George drove their used Corvair (purchased with a $500 student loan) to Los Angeles (LA) in 1963 with the few belongings they owned. They lived in Westwood/West LA and grew their family in that home – Alice was born in June 1964, and then Cathy in July 1968. After a series of moves, including a transition out of central LA due to the Watts riots, George settled his family in Northridge, CA.
In true big brother form, George moved his 4 younger brothers to the U.S. and paved the path for them to settle into a new country. His investment in his brother Robert’s All American Burger fast food restaurant business was the first step in providing security for his brothers, as all four younger brothers were subsequently employed there and able to then support their respective families. When George’s father came to the U.S. in search of more advanced medical treatment for stomach cancer, George was the one who took him to every doctor’s visit as his advocate and caregiver.
After experiencing low job security in LA, George relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1975 in hopes of providing a more stable future for his family. Walnut Creek, CA became their new home, where countless memories were created for George, Lucy, and their two girls. Both Alice and Cathy went on to raise families of their own, living close to their childhood home.
George worked for several engineering firms such as TY Lin International (10 years), Beyaz & Patel, Nakamura & Tyau, completed a lot of consulting work, and was still working with MGE Engineering at the time of his passing. He was very proud of the experiences he gained over his career of selling engineering solutions. A few of his memorable projects include the Taipei MRT (rapid transit & stations), Moscone Center in San Francisco, Highway 3 on Oahu, and most recently the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) extension to Antioch. Even in his final days, he was still working on new projects and had pitch books in his home. George was always eager for information, learning new ideas, and his brain was always in tip top shape. He had a memory like a steel trap; it was quite incredible.
Many knew George as a man who appreciated structure and planning – be it designing bridges and earthquake-proof buildings, or being prepared with life planning. But many also knew George as someone with great passion for singing, which he enjoyed for many years with Lucy. George and Lucy also enjoyed dancing for many years -- taking lessons, entering and winning competitions, and performing in exhibition shows.
George loved to share his knowledge, exchange ideas and discuss current events in both the U.S. and Asia, with his wide network of former classmates and colleagues. Just last October, he met up with old
schoolmates for a reunion which included a tour of Silicon Valley’s Google, Intel, and other technology companies.
George had many special moments with his daughters over the years. When both of his girls graduated from UC Berkeley undergraduate business school, the smile on his face and the twinkle in his eyes showed how proud he was of his girls. George also loved to partner with Alice doing international Latin Ballroom dancing competitions, and attend her Hawaiian dance group performances at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. Cathy remembers her father taking her to lunch many weekends during her first year of college, and surprising her with a sandwich for lunch on her first day of her first professional job after graduating from college!
George also had great love for his grandchildren, Lola (born 2004), Brady (born 2006), and Colby (born 2010). Grandpa/Gung-Gung looked forward to helping Lola with Mandarin homework on Sundays, and attending her music performances and scholastic awards. He also enjoyed joining Brady and Colby at school events and weekend soccer and baseball games.
The impact George’s life had spanned multiple generations, running broad and deep. To measure the beneficiaries of his responsible nature and generous spirit would be impossible. His sacrifice, leadership, and love is appreciated beyond words can express. He will be profoundly missed.
Preceding George in death was his beloved wife Lucy, and three of his brothers, John, Peter, and Robert. He is survived by his two children, Alice and Cathy, his brother, Sam, his grandchildren, Lola, Brady, and Colby, as well as many nieces and nephews.
A celebration of his life will be planned for a later date in light of current health concerns and risks.
Since florists are currently non-essential businesses, please wait until the memorial if you wish to send flowers. We will also provide an option for donations, in lieu of flowers.
And, if you wish to send a memory of our father, please feel free to email Cathy & Alice at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
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