letter to the editor

Letter to the Editor: Happy 100th Birthday to James W. Chow


Mr. James W. Chow, a longtime Richmond District resident, reached his 100th birthday on this earth this May 12th with the comment that the keys to his longevity are:  hard work, exercise, eggs, oatmeal, reading the newspapers, and “talking with people!” His nickname in school was Gabby.

Both Mayor London Breed and the SF Board of Supervisors  (via Supervisor Connie Chan’s resolution) , issued proclamations declaring May 12, 2021 as James W. Chow Day throughout San Francisco.

Mr. Chow, a graduate of Galileo High School and Chung Wah Chinese Central High School in San Francisco, was born on May 12, 1921 in San Jose, California, in the area of 6th and Market Streets, which was part of the old Chinatown, a small but vibrant community facing economic hard times and anti-Chinese sentiment.

At the age of 1, his parents made a difficult decision and took him to their home village in Hoiping, China to give him a Chinese upbringing. At the age of 12 he returned to the United States and survived interrogation at the Angel Island Immigration Station to gain admission as a native U.S. citizen in July, 1934.  It was the middle of the Great Depression.

During his 100 years, Mr. Chow was able to get both a Chinese and an American education, serve his country in World War II as a ship fitter in the U.S. naval shipyards at Hunters Point and Mare Island, own and operate four small businesses in San Francisco and Oakland – The Fashion Center, Sani-White Laundromat, Friendly Food Market and Jim’s Egg Distributor. That was a business he loved because he got to meet a lot of wonderful people from San Francisco to Petaluma in the North Bay to Escalon in the San Joaquin Valley, getting his supply of fresh eggs and distributing them to grocery stores, sandwich shops and restaurants. He retired from distributing at the age of 90.

Along with his late wife Arleen May Gong (whom he met while attending City College), James raised three children: Stephanie, Christopher and Lisa.  Christopher became the first Asian American television news reporter in the San Francisco Bay Area on KPIX CBS 5 (1970).

Currently, Mr. Chow is Emeritus Chairman of the Board of the Chung Wah Chinese Central High School Alumni Association and a five-term English Secretary of the Gee Tuck Sam Tuck Benevolent Association (an international family association), 

As alumni chair, he has led campaigns to raise funds to computerize the school’s classrooms as well as award scholarships to meritorious students for college.

Contributing to his success, he believes, are his core beliefs:  hard work, education, freedom, fairness, respect, compassion, and gumption to do the right thing in the right way at the right time.

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