Kwong Hom was born in China on October 24, 1929. He ran barefoot and carefree throughout the countryside with his friends playing in the fields. They would deliberately yell and scream as they ran to scare away snakes in their path. Kwong ran errands for his grandfather buying dried fish at the market and bringing the family’s water buffalo home from the stream at the end of the day. Kwong told his children and grandchildren stories about the water buffalo having huge horns so he would have to be careful not to get hurt while completing this chore. Kwong’s parents moved to America to build a better life for their family. Once established, his parents sent for him to come to America. Kwong had to leave his beloved grandfather in China.
The journey wasn’t an easy one; the boat was crowded and uncomfortable. He learned quickly to rush to the ship’s galley before the meal of rice and soy sauce was all gone. He was resourceful and very smart; knowing how to play cards he would save his winnings to buy bread and sugar to eat as a special treat. Despite the rough journey, he came to Los Angeles ready to learn and work hard. He was enrolled at Hooper Avenue Elementary School knowing only two words of English – “yes” and “no.” Looking back, he wondered if he always gave the correct response to his teacher. This is where his wife-to-be, Betty Hom, saw him dance in the school’s May Day Festival and wished that she were older so she could dance with him.
Kwong was a hard working and a charismatic young man. Every morning he would wake at dawn to purchase produce for his family’s grocery store, 55th Street Market. He needed to lie about his age in order to get his driver’s license a year early so he could drive the truck to pick up the produce. “A sack of potatoes under one arm and a sack of onions under the other!” he would tell his grandchildren later. After school, Kwong would rush home to work in the store until closing. He was strong and knew the value behind determination. He attended Polytechnic High School where he worked on the school newspaper and was president of the Chinese Club. He attended True Light Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles with his friends.
After graduating from high school, Kwong went to college and eventually took over the family business. His mother was very concerned when he introduced the new fangled idea of frozen food to the store inventory. He converted the store, which was no bigger than a three car garage, from an old-fashioned service “mom and pop” into a modern self-service grocery store. In 1960, Kwong purchased an old Safeway grocery store and established Kwong’s Market, which prospered until his retirement in 1992. In 1951, Kwong married Betty Wong and the two of them lived in a second floor apartment in Los Angeles. Betty recalls Kwong giving a huge eight foot Christmas tree to her mother and gifts for her entire family. Two years later they had their first daughter, Nancy, followed by Robert, Natalie, and Noreen. In 1971, Kwong and Betty moved their family from Los Angeles to South Pasadena where Kwong built them a wonderful home. He had always wanted to live at the top of the hill with a sweeping view. In 1985, they were blessed with the birth of their first grandchild. They have nine grandchildren in total: Mark, Scott, Noelle, Melissa, Nadine, Alex, Nicholas, Nathan, and Jonathan; and one great granddaughter, Cadence.
Kwong’s hobbies and interests were many and varied, including guns, cars and photography. With his signature hobby being trap and skeet shooting, he quickly became an expert shooter and earned his certification as an instructor in 1996. Among his many shooting awards, he accomplished a “Century” --100 targets with 100 shots, all in a row, no misses. He loved fancy cars, his favorite was his 1978 Porsche 928. Betty would pick up her children from elementary school in a blue 1959 Cadillac Coupe de Ville which according to a student, “looked like it could fly.” His motorhome was the center of many fun family outings, including overnight stays on the Rose Parade route on New Year’s Eve. He enjoyed all aspects of photography, from shooting photos to developing his own film and making his own prints. He shot home movies and eventually got involved with video cameras. He loved using his computer, researching investments online and emailing his children.
Kwong was physically and mentally sharp, strong and determined through to end of his life. He was the nursing home staff’s favorite and even negotiated a special recliner to be allowed in his room-- a businessman to the end! He will be missed by all whose lives he touched. His family will enjoy remembering and sharing his stories and wisdom for generations to come.
More photos coming soon.