RACHEL MEW YEE BOW CHUN
On the morning of August 31st, 2010, Rachel Mew Yee Bow Chun left home early in the morning to buy some green onions. She needed them to make Chinese pancakes for her sister, Margaret. Despite being in perfect health for her age, Rachel was suddenly taken by a heart-attack while waiting in her car at a stoplight. She passed instantly and without suffering. She left this world doing what she loved-driving to town on an errand for someone she loved.
Rachel Mew Yee Bow was born September 16th, 1923, to parents Chew Dung Bow and Ah On Lum Bow. With her brother, and four sisters Rachel grew up in a small home in Kalihi. Rachel was raised to be humble and without pretension and these qualities forever defined her personality. In 1942 she graduated from Farrington high-school and took a job in the office of the Hawaiian Gas Company. She worked there until meeting a man named Paul K.T. Chun. Paul was the son of Kim Chow Chun and Emma Kwock Chun, and had recently taken to the management of his family’s shoe store, Smart Shoe Shop, in downtown Honolulu.
On September 9th, 1945, Rachel Bow became Rachel B. Chun, and Paul and Rachel began the rest of their long lives together. From Paul and Rachel’s union came five wonderful children; they had Paula, Patsy, Randall, Pamela, and finally, Rodney. Alongside raising her five children, Rachel dutifully cared for Paul’s mother who lived with them till her death, and Paul’s father who stayed with them between trips back to China. The family started off in a modest house in Waikiki, but the family shoe store grew into a retail empire, and eventually the family settled in a more appropriately sized home in Aina Haina. Rachel and Paul would live there for the rest of their lives. As Paul’s health began to fail, Rachel was there to care for him before his death in 2007.
In 1962 the family opened the Waikiki Circle Hotel and Restaurant. Rachel managed the restaurant from the first day it opened its doors, till its closing, 30 years later, in 1992. To think back now, one cannot imagine a more perfect job for her. As manager, and occasional bartender, she was able to feed people, and listen to people, two things she was exceedingly good at. Her strong, calm personality made people feel safe and at home while they were within the walls of the Waikiki Circle Restaurant, and because of this she made many life-long bonds in her years there.
Rachel did not just make friends, she adopted people. Once you were part of her life there were certain things she would happily do for you. Not the least of which was delivery of her wonderful baked goods. The list of fantastic treats that came out of Mrs. Chun’s oven is long and mouth-watering, but it must be said that she made the absolute best chocolate cake. It is simply fact that her Midnight Chocolate Cake was the best in the world, and just one of your rewards for caring about her was the occasional delivery of this most wonderful of deserts. Near to the time of Chinese New Year you may have also been lucky enough to be given some of her Jai (the Chinese Monk food). It wasn’t too salty, it wasn’t too sweet, it had just the right amount of everything delicious; it was perfect and would grant you a whole year of good luck. However, the most significant thing that you could expect from Rachel once you were in her life was that she would always keep you in her thoughts, and she would never forget you. In her later years, without the restaurant to keep her busy, she would go shopping every day, and would keep a constant eye out for things that might bring joy to those closest to her.
To those who loved her, Rachel leaves her love, generosity, and strength of character. Over the course of her life Rachel became the center of a network of people who depended on her serene, always good-natured presence in their lives. In her immediate family she is survived by her 2 sisters, 4 children, 7 grandchildren, and 3 great-grandchildren. However, this does not begin to touch on the countless people who came to think of her as a surrogate sister, mother and grandmother. Rachel simply inspired this sort of devotion in people. Part of it was that she showed such unwavering loyalty to those she cared about, part of it was how freely she gave what she could to those around her, part of it was that she forced you to laugh off your sadness and enjoy life for what it was, and part of it was that she was always there to feed you your favorite food. Rarely does the departure of someone from this world garner the vast outpouring of love, respect, and heartfelt grief that Rachel’s has. To see it is beautiful, heartbreaking, and finally cathartic for those who were closest to her. Rachel Chun lived the sort of life that anyone could be proud of and we will remember her purely with joy, and not sadness.
Saturday, September 11, 2010; 11:15-12:30 PM – Viewing; 12:30-2:00 PM – Services; 2:30 – Burial at Manoa Chinese Cemetary, followed by a meal to honor Rachel to be held at the Happy Days Restaurant in Kaimuki.