One day in March, when Jennifer Leung walked in her parents' Wantagh home, she was met with laughter.
“Hi! We’re not supposed to hug anymore. We’re supposed to bump each other on the behind,” her mother said, erupting in another fit of giggles.
Jennifer Leung said that was the last happy memory she has of her mom, Wai Fong Leung.
Wai Fong, her family said, was a “beacon of light.” There wasn’t a moment when she didn’t have a positive attitude.
She died on May 29 due to complications from COVID-19 at the age of 70, shortly after getting a kidney transplant.
Wai Fong moved to New York from Hong Kong in 1968. At 19, she lived in a two-bedroom apartment with her parents and four sisters in Chinatown. She didn’t go to college so she could help the family, working at Dow Jones Newswire as an administrative assistant for over 30 years until she retired. On the weekends, she worked as an aesthetician.
Wai Fong met her husband, Paul Leung, in 1970 through a mutual friend. They married in 1974 and moved to Astoria, Queens.
“She’s a wonderful woman. I consider myself very lucky to marry such a pretty, smart and kind lady,” Paul said. “I will remember her not only as a wife, but as a friend. As someone who always helped me when I needed help.”
Wai Fong was scheduled to start dialysis in April, but instead was able to get a kidney transplant on March 14. At the time, the family expressed concerns over the procedure since New York’s COVID-19 cases were rising, but she decided to go ahead.
She contracted the virus a month later.
“There was no stopping her,” Jennifer Leung said. “We’re super heartbroken. With the new kidney, she thought she had a new lease on life.”
Wai Fong loved to travel, shop at places like TJ Maxx and Zara, go to dim sum and brunch and learn how to use new technology.
“She always wanted to learn things on her own. She asked me to teach her how to use Venmo a month before her passing,” her daughter said. After her retirement she learned tai chi. She was also on Instagram. “Only to stalk my family, not really to post on her own,” Jennifer Leung said.
“She taught me everything that I know,” Jennifer Leung said. “The importance of speaking up and never letting anyone prevent you from doing anything.”
For her husband of 46 years, Wai Fong lives on in the lessons she taught him, including those he says he is still learning.
“I am not a strong person. I consider myself very easygoing and don’t have a strong determination. My wife taught me to be strong,” Paul Leung said. “Sometimes, I lost my temper. My wife would always calm me down. I still cannot control my temper and it’s one thing I regret … I talk to my wife when I am praying that I am trying very hard to do it the way she wanted me to.”
In addition to her husband and daughter, Wai Fong is survived by her son, Christopher. Wai Fong’s funeral was held June 13 at Charles O'Shea Funeral Home in Wantagh.