Obituary of Priscilla Lee
Priscilla Wong Lee was born in a rice growing village near Taishan, China, on December 20, 1927. This was a tumultuous time in Chinese History when millions died annually from starvation, civil wars and international wars, floods and the policies of a weak government--but a lifeline to Santa Cruz, CA greatly changed the trajectory of her life.
Priscilla’s father worked in Santa Cruz Chinatown, so he was able to send funds to his family so that they could buy food and survive—but things got worse, as the war advanced towards their home. Priscilla, her mother and one sister stayed a step ahead of Japanese forces as China collapsed. This part of the family escaped and barely made it onto a ship bound for America. Luckily, the family was able to get off the ship in San Francisco and be united with her father.
Priscilla then lived in the peaceful and wonderful haven of Santa Cruz from September 1940 until the day she died, March 4, 2018. Priscilla needed to learn English, so she took classes at Laurel School (now the Louden Nelson Center), Mission Hill Junior High (now Mission Hill Middle School) and Santa Cruz High School.
Priscilla worked many years at National Dollar Store in downtown Santa Cruz. National Dollar Store was the largest Chinese owned business in the country and had 50 branches at its peak. Priscilla enjoyed working with the public in downtown Santa Cruz and made lifelong friends there; among her fellow workers were Gloria Ghio Dellamora, Bessie Loero Bassano, Marie Loero Amin, Stella Loero Bible and Anita Pate.
Priscilla stopped working when daughter Patti was born and devoted herself to being a mother and homemaker. She supported the life of her family and husband of 49 years, George Lee, known as the unofficial mayor of Chinatown and who was a renowned photographer. She enjoyed working in her garden and loved to walk! When Priscilla had full mobility, well into her 80’s, you could see her walking to shop and visit friends and relatives many miles from her home.
In later years, Priscilla found satisfaction in picking strawberries for a few extra dollars and working on the canning lines at the Seabright Cannery. She enjoyed packing pears and she worked the mushroom line for Monterey Mushroom--the last canning runs at the building. She and her fellow workers were in their 70’s at this time.
Family friend and historian extraordinaire, Sandy Lydon, mentioned upon hearing about Priscilla’s passing, that she was an invaluable link to old China and helped him and others understand traditional practices and translated documents. It is Priscilla’s calligraphy on the plaque that commemorates the location of the last Santa Cruz Chinatown.
Priscilla is survived by daughter, Patti Lee; sisters, Jin Yu Kuang (Tian Yu Kuang) and Georgina Wong; nieces Felicia Lee, Kelly Chin and Terri Doskow; brother-in-law, Jun Lee (Carol Lee) and numerous nephews, nieces, grandnephews and grandnieces. Auntie Priscilla had a kind, supportive, gentle and generous spirit. She will be missed by so many.
Friends are invited to the viewing at Pacific Gardens Chapel, 1050 Cayuga, Santa Cruz, on Friday, March 16, 2018, 2-6 p.m. She will be laid to rest in a private ceremony beside her beloved husband George, at the Oakwood Cemetery. In celebration of Priscilla’s life, friends are invited to join the family on Saturday, March 17, 2018, at Takara Japanese Restaurant, 3775 Capitola Rd., Capitola, at 12:30 p.m. Burial will be private.