Born in 1925, the daughter of Chinese immigrants, Helen Chan grew up in Mount Holly, N.J., where she helped her parents with a family laundry business, according to an autobiography she wrote for her church, the Congregational Church of South Hempstead. She died Dec. 19.
She graduated from high school and moved to Philadelphia, where she met her husband, the late Kenneth Ng Chan, said her son, Jeffrey Chan of River Edge, N.J.
The two got married in 1948, moving to New York several years later. In 1951 they moved to Hempstead, where they raised three children.
Chan worked as a bookkeeper for several local businesses, including two home health agencies. But friends and family members say she poured her energy and soul into Chinese cultural and social organizations, and her church.
Chan was one of the founders of the Long Island Chinese Circle established in 1954 by a group of Chinese mothers who wanted to preserve their culture. She was among the teachers at a Chinese language school formed by the group.
In 1960, Chan was among a group of Chinese-Americans to form the Chinese Center on Long Island, now located in West Hempstead. She served as the group's treasurer for more than 30 years and was a member of the board of directors. In later years she worked with seniors. "She was the conscience and she was the soul of the organization," said Helen Chin, vice president of the center.
In 1952, Chan joined the South Hempstead church, where she also had a persistent presence.
Suffering from lymphoma and diabetes, Chan had been hospitalized for the past few months. "She was in the hospital and she was still trying to run this luncheon they do every year for patients from Pilgrim State," Jeffrey Chan said.
"Mom was just very mild-mannered, very generous and very faithful to her organizations and the church," said her daughter Phyllis Chan-Carr of West Islip. "She inspired a lot of people to do things."
Chan is also survived by daughter Pamela Lee of Syosset and one grandson. A funeral service was held last week at the Congregational Church of South Hempstead, followed by a burial at Greenfield Cemetery in Uniondale.