After a long and remarkable life, Rose Wang Pu, age 94, died suddenly the morning of August 5, 2022 at her home in Houston, TX. She had been looking forward to upcoming 95th birthday celebrations.
The youngest of six siblings, Rose was the darling of her family. She was born within the walls of the Forbidden City in Beijing, China. Her father Shiyi Wang, worked for the Bank of China, and her mother Kerui Chu, managed the household. When Rose was two, the family moved to Shanghai where Rose lived until emigrating to the United States. Rose enjoyed a privileged life until her father’s death when she was thirteen years old. The Japanese occupation of Shanghai in 1937 that preceded WWII brought hardship to China and the Wang family. Rose witnessed her widowed mother struggle to support and educate her four surviving children, all daughters, at a time when higher education for females was not the norm.
Rose became engaged to George Hsieh, a dashing, fun-loving, motorcycle-and-horseback-riding student at St. John’s University that she chose for love rather than by parental arrangement. In 1948, Baptist missionaries offered them the chance to join a handful of Chinese students to study in the United States. Twenty-year-old Rose came to the U.S. aboard the Marine Swallow in January 1948.
Her first stop was Wayland Baptist College (now University) in Plainview, TX where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1949. To pay expenses, Rose took in ironing and babysitting. She then joined George in graduate studies at Baylor University in Waco, TX. She married George in 1950 and was awarded a master’s degree in Business Administration in 1951.
George and Rose made their home in Waco for decades where they raised three daughters, May Beth, Georgia (G.G.), and Marina (Rina). The family was one of only a few Asian families residing in the area. Rose often sewed her daughters’ clothing and would sometimes make them identical outfits for Easter or Christmas. In her mid-thirties with three young children, Rose returned to Baylor University to study education because teaching was an accessible job, and high-level jobs for educated minority women with young families were scarce. For thirteen years, she taught at Parkdale Elementary School. Spanish was included in the curriculum there, and Rose spoke English (and Spanish) with a unique Chinese-Texas accent! She served as a delegate to the National Education Association and a committee chairperson for the Waco Classroom Teachers Association. After George left the family in 1972, Rose re-lived her own mother’s experience as she too became a single mother struggling to raise and educate her daughters.
In 1978, with her children well on the road to promising careers, Rose married restaurateur Dulit Lee and moved to Corpus Christi, TX, but was widowed after two short years. She again taught school, and in 1984, expanded her classroom to Bathgate Scotland where she taught as a Fulbright Exchange teacher. She returned to the United States to marry Dr. Pin H. Pu, a pathologist, in 1985. They made their home in Kennett, MO, until his retirement in 1987, when they moved to Tarpon Springs, FL. There, they were active with the Suncoast Area Chinese Association, for which Rose served as treasurer. Rose gamely learned tennis because Pin was an avid player, but her progress ended abruptly after a fall broke her wrist. They traveled the world, collecting many memories and friends until Pin’s death in 2005.
A couple of severe hurricane seasons convinced the 79-year-old Rose to leave Florida and the demands of home maintenance to relocate to Houston, TX, closer to family. She and her distant cousin Alfred Tsang of Toronto, Canada, became traveling companions. They loved ballroom dancing and taking cruises, even voyaging to Antarctica. After COVID arrived in 2020, about the only travel Rose was able to do was walking the shared backyard path to her second daughter’s home. However, other than her early childhood in China, Rose felt that her years in Houston were some of the happiest of her life.
Throughout the twists and turns of her life, Rose Pu remained stylishly elegant and beautiful, looking decades younger than her age. At around 5 feet tall and 100 pounds, Rose still packed a punch. Her sweatshirt that said, “Small but Mighty” described her perfectly. Rose identified with Scarlett O’Hara and considered herself first and foremost a survivor. She survived breast cancer in 2003 and was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer at age 93, despite never having smoked. Twice she defied attempts to begin hospice and fought her way back from debilitating effects of the disease and treatment. She was fiercely independent, living alone until the last six months of her life. Per her wishes, she remained in her home, and during better times, was able to direct her schedule, meals, and activities.
Rose maintained her sense of humor and tried to stay upbeat through the ups and downs of declining health. Until her death, she was mobile, emailing friends, playing online games, checking her stock portfolio, and hosting friends and family to play her favorite game, Rummikub, which she won with regularity. Rose had an almost religious belief in the benefits of tai chi, crediting the practice for her health and longevity. She practiced the yang style of tai chi daily from about age 60, when she first learned the routine, until she became too unsteady during her final illness. The Old Braeswood neighborhood in Houston was the beneficiary of years of her free Saturday morning tai chi lessons that persisted until January of this year (see https://www.youtube.com/watch…). Even after age 92, Rose did daily push-ups and sit ups and was a familiar sight walking the neighborhood. The Rice University Chao Center for Asian Studies interviewed Rose in 2018; that oral history is at Rose Pu oral history interview and transcript (https://haaa.rice.edu/rose-pu…)
Rose Wang Pu was a life-long learner, smart, engaging, creative, artistic, organized, resourceful, thrifty, and an astute financial investor. Once after complaining about an expensive dental procedure she needed, a daughter wrote her a check which she promptly went and invested in the stock market! She was able to make new friends and keep old ones for decades, even from her college days. Mostly though, Rose worked hard and was a devoted mother who loved her children unconditionally. She considered their success to be her greatest achievement. There was nothing she loved more than her three daughters — that is, until her three grandsons came along. She delighted in their accomplishments and thought none could be more handsome.
Throughout her long life, Rose was an inspiration to many. She was much loved, admired, and an example of aging well. Rose’s perseverance, spunk, and indomitable spirit will long be remembered.
Survivors include daughters May Beth Hsieh (m. Scott Williamson) of Phoenix, AZ, Georgia (G.G.) Hsieh, MD (m. the late Mark Hausknecht, MD) of Houston, TX, and Marina (Rina) Hsieh (m. Henry Shaw) of San Ramon, CA; grandsons Matthew Hausknecht (m. Man Liang) of Seattle, WA, Paul Hausknecht, MD (partner Erin Bowler, MD) of Chinle, AZ, and Harrison Shaw of Santa Clara, CA; and extended family in multiple countries. She was predeceased by her three sisters and two older brothers who died during childhood.
The family thanks oncologist Dr. Tri Vu and pulmonologist Dr. Justo Montalvo of Kelsey Seybold Clinic for their responsiveness and compassionate care. We also are grateful to cousin Ying Gu Sun and husband Jeff Sun for planning and hosting the early birthday party for Rose that became a comforting family gathering the day after her death. Our gratitude extends to all the friends and neighbors whose recent visits and attention lifted Rose’s spirits and made her final months more special.
Memorial contributions may be made to your charity of choice or favorite educational fund. The family welcomes your memories and photos here.