From Island Girl to Citizen Ruby







by Ted Fong

People are living longer these days, thanks to modern medicine and healthier diets. Ruby Fong, however, has gone the distance largely on a positive attitude. Her daily intake of soy bean milk might account for the noticeable bounce in her step, but it's her young state of mind that allows her to conquer an unrelenting schedule. After all, she is the undisputed big boss of Sacramento's largest matriarchal clan. Frequent trips to China, outings to the Bay Area to see her children, and late night sessions in her home office would make anyone 50 years her junior fatigue like an old paper clip.

The youngest of four children, she was born in 1929 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Her mother was a homemaker, and her father was a shoe salesman who traveled to Mexico to buy supplies. At first glance, she was 100 percent island girl who could have landed a role "South Pacific." Scrawny but extremely nimble, she scaled coconut trees at lightning speed, went fishing in the ocean, pigged out on cracked seed, and ran as far and wild as the taro plantations would take her. Her older brother Alfred often picked fights with the Filipino and Samoan boys and was always there to protect Ruby from the unsavory elements of the wild, wild Pacific.

But there was more to Ruby than met the eye. At home she was the product of an old-fashioned Chinese and Catholic upbringing. Her father, a formidable disciplinarian, made her study music and catechism. Ruby endeared herself to the nuns in Catholic school. Rumor has it that she inspired the character Maria in "The Sound of Music" (Ruby's middle name is Marie). Just like Mother Superior, Ruby delivers a compelling "dirty lecture," a now obscure brand of discipline. Waving her index finger to drive home the moral of her story has become her trademark. "It's a must see command performance," says her oldest son, Curtis. "Two thumbs up," rate Randy and Johnny. "But she means it," warns Doug who, most ironically, is now an assistant district attorney for the Fed.

Ruby met William Y. Fong a handsome and eligible doctor while she was attending Smith College. The two got married in 1953 in New York City. In 1956 they settled down in downtown Sacramento. The rest is history. Today, Ruby is retired from raising children and spends days and nights arranging tours and cultural exchanges with China. She is well read an is not afraid to challenge pupular assumptions. Her command of particle physics, cancer research, and Y2K remedies make for lively conversation when her children visit on weekends, even though to them she's just mom.

Ruby is well liked by people from all walks of life. In her, the grass roots activists and Sacramento's upper crust find common ground. Happy 70th Birthday to a fine mother, a grandmother, and an outstanding citizen of the world.