Through a good part of 99 years, Helen Heu Ing of Nuuanu was a dedicated schoolteacher, a businesswoman, an avid volunteer in the Chinese community and a role model of integrity.
She died May 8 of heart failure, five months short of reaching her goal of living 100 years, said her daughter Beverly Ing Lee. She was born the eldest of 13 children in Honolulu. Ing’s father was a doctor of Chinese medicine, a tailor and grocer who believed, contrary to the custom of the time, that women were entitled to attend college, Lee said.
"She was so proud to have graduated from the University of Hawaii Teacher’s College with a fifth-year teacher’s degree. She often explained it was like a master’s degree. She always stressed education, and she even ran for the Board of Education but lost in a close race," Lee said.
Ing loved her first job as a public school teacher for $99 a month at Laupahoehoe on the Big Island in the 1930s, she said. Stints followed at Leilehua and Farrington high schools, and Kalakaua and Stevenson intermediate schools. She established scholarships at ‘Iolani School and the First Chinese Church of Christ in memory of her son Tim Ing, who died at 18.
"She always had to work hard, but she never complained. She was very humble and I admire her for that. She always tried to be fair and honest. She was frugal yet generous — she had her own welfare system. Once I told her to lock the car because we had groceries in it. She said, ‘If they need the eggs more than we do, let them take it.’"
Terence D. Lee remembers when his "Popo" (grandmother) accidentally backed into a parked car, and "left a message under the windshield wiper so the owner could later contact her about paying for damages. I believe that I learned all about honesty and integrity from her."
Beverly Lee added, "The insurance representative told me that in all of his years my mother was the only one who left a note."
Ing was an active member of the Hawaii Chinese Civic Association, American Chinese Club, Chinese Chamber of Commerce and First Chinese Church of Christ. She was a Narcissus Queen pageant volunteer in charge of tickets for more than 30 years, as well as its historian.
Terence Lee said, "It was eight or nine years ago when I took Popo to Chinatown to celebrate Chinese New Year. I was astonished when someone in every store stopped to thank her for all that she had done for the community. Many of the owners of the stores gave her small gifts. … Even in some of the stores we did not enter, the people came out to say hello to her."
Upon retirement she helped her husband, Tim S. Ing, build Tim Ing Real Estate on Merchant Street and develop the Coconut Grove area in Kailua. She carried on his work after his death, Lee added.
Ing is also survived by son Lowell Ing; sisters Bertha Hoy, Ruby Choy (Dr. K.L. Choy), Frances Onaga, Cornelia Tahara, Marilyn Law (Cleaveran), Sylvia Carruthers (Morris); brother Morris Heu (Gladys); and six grandchildren.
Services are at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Nuuanu Memorial Park.