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.