Sunday, January 8, 2012

Valley civic leader Manny Wong dies

Manny Wong

Manny Wong, civic leader, newspaper founder and an immigrant who was vocal about his love of the United States and who sang at naturalization ceremonies, died Dec. 28 of cancer. He was 73.

"He really inspired other people to be active in the broader community through his infectious enthusiasm, confidence and his positive attitude," said Barry Wong, former state legislator and former member of the Arizona Corporation Commission. (Barry was not related to Manny.)

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Manny Wong, who lived in Tempe, was born Jan. 1, 1938, in Manila. He spent his early childhood in the Malacanan Palace, the Philippine White House. His father was personal steward to then-Filipino President Manuel L. Quezon, who was Manny's godfather.

Wong married his wife, Wai Ching, known in Arizona as Dennie, in Hong Kong in 1962. They moved to the U.S. in 1967. He ran nightclubs and restaurants in California and then moved to Chicago where he became an award-winning salesman for insurance magnate W. Clement Stone.

Wong moved to Arizona in the 1980s. In 1990, he started the weekly newspaper that became the bilingual Asian American Times. He was its publisher and later sold it.

"When he and his family moved to Arizona ... he brought his personality -- a very open, non-traditional-Asian personality -- to the community, and that motivated people to be more open about themselves," Barry Wong said.

"He was very popular and known as the singer at parties. ... He loved Frank Sinatra tunes."

At naturalization ceremonies for new citizens, he often sang patriotic songs, including "God Bless the USA."

He spent many hours voluntarily helping new immigrants achieve naturalization. Since he spoke Spanish and six Asian dialects or languages. he served an interpreter in the courts, his wife said.

He was committed not only to Asian Americans but to his broader community and enjoyed large networks in business and government circles.

"He's a people person," his wife said.

"He's involved with with many organizations, whenever they need help."

He was a fundraiser for prominent Republican politicians, she said.

Among the honors he received were the Small Business Journalist of the Year from the U.S. Small Business Administration, Asian Entrepreneur of the Year by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Hon Kachina Award from the Hon Kachina Council, a group of business and professional people who are active volunteers.

In 2006, he was elected to the board of the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Manny Wong is survived by his wife; two sons, Manny Wong Jr. and Bill Wong, both of Los Angeles; and his daughter, Lillian Wong of Scottsdale.

A memorial service is scheduled at 11 a.m. on Jan. 14 at Tempe Church of Christ, 2424 S. Mill Ave., Tempe. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Manny Wong Memorial Fund #7144242083 at Wells Fargo Bank or mailed to the fund at 998 E. Divot Dr., Tempe, 85283.

by Luci Scott - Jan. 8, 2012 02:39 PM The Republic |

Valley civic leader Manny Wong dies

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