Ruth Chow Lee, 90, of Orinda, CA, passed away peacefully at home, on July 18, 2020, after recovering from surgery in mid-June. Ever a resilient fighter, she survived a 3 week stay at the hospital during the COVID pandemic to come home for the last two weeks of her life, on her own terms. She is survived by Andrew, her husband of 67 years, sons Andrew Jr and Vincent, daughters-in-law Ding Yue, Katrina, and beloved granddaughter, Elizabeth, and grandson-in-law Jeff.
Born in Shanghai to a Christian pastor, she was the youngest in the family with 6 brothers and 1 sister. She was very close to her mother, who had bound feet, and from all accounts inherited her kindness and love of cats. A prodigy in music, she taught piano to help put herself through school, and graduated from St Mary’s Hall in Shanghai, and then Soochow University. In Hong Kong, she took up classical singing and became one of the top alto soloists in the city, performing regularly with professional singers. When Yehudi Menuhin guest conducted the Hong Kong Philharmonic with the Hong Kong Oratorio Society in the 1970’s, she was one of the soloists.
After graduating from College, she worked briefly for an American firm in Shanghai, before moving to Hong Kong in the early 1950’s, where she got her first job as an executive assistant in a trading company, utilizing her skills in English and shorthand. After the trading company, she worked in a multinational bank, involving herself in loans to textile and shipping industries, at one time serving as the conservator for a textile manufacturer. Retiring from banking, she was immediately hired by one of the world’s largest shirt makers located in Hong Kong to oversee manufacturing.
In 1988, she moved to Northern California to welcome the birth of her granddaughter, and to join her sister, Esther, who was married to Andrew’s brother, Timothy. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, she lived as a retiree, became active in her church’s choir in Walnut Creek, and sang with other classical music enthusiasts in the East Bay. Like she had in Hong Kong, she hosted many pot-luck parties with friends in the Bay Area and travelled all over the world with many of them - she greatly enjoyed the company of people. But towards the later years of her life, health no longer afforded her the stamina needed for frequent gatherings. She instead spent her spare time studying the Bible, reading emails from friends, talking on the phone, watching the news, and watching Animal Planet with her cats and husband by her side.
There will be a short ceremony at 10 am, Friday, July 31, 2020 held at Oakmont Memorial Park, 2099 Reliez Valley Road, Lafayette CA 94549 as we lay her ashes to the ground. In lieu of flowers, please donate to any animal welfare organization or to Contra Costa Gospel Church 2460 Buena Vista Ave, Walnut Creek, CA 94597