Anthony J. Wong, retired Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector and Chinatown Civic Leader, dies at 93

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Retired Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Anthony J. Wong, 93, of northeast Philadelphia, who served in the police force for 50 years, died Wednesday, September 8 at Holy Redeemer Hospital of Meadowbrook, Pa.

Chief Inspector Wong retired from the police force in 2003 as the most senior officer of Asian-American descent, said John Chin, executive director of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corp. (PCDC).

He joined the department in 1953 after serving in the United States Army. At the time, he was the only Chinese-American force officer, his family said.

“He was something to aspire to in the Chinese-American community,” Chin said. “All the elders in the community knew him and knew him.

Mr. Wong was a founding member of the PCDC and Executive Director Emeritus. He also served on the board of directors of On Lok House, an apartment building for low-income seniors.

“He was very loyal to Chinatown,” said Cecilia Moy Yep, the founder of the PCDC. “He was active in the meetings, especially on the On Lok house. It was her baby.

The Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corp. was founded in 1969 after the community of Chinatown in 1966 began fighting plans to demolish the Holy Redeemer Church and Catholic School to build the Vine Street Freeway.

Mr. Wong was then a police captain and could not participate in the street protests, but he attended meetings and offered his expertise. “He was respected,” Yep said.

“Tony is part of a closing chapter in the progress of Chinese Americans in Philadelphia and the generation that saved Chinatown from the Vine Street freeway,” Chin said. “We will miss him.”

Mr. Wong was born in Philadelphia on April 17, 1928, the only child of Chinese immigrants, who owned a restaurant in Chinatown.

After high school he joined the military and served in the occupation forces of World War II in Europe. He also served in the Korean War, his daughter, Ana Mai Wong-Trainor said.

In the military, he served in counterintelligence, as an interrogator, translator and in the military police.

World War II had just ended when Mr. Wong was posted to Germany. However, IOF soldiers could still face fighting.

One incident in particular persuaded him to study foreign languages, Wong-Trainor said, and he became fluent in German and Russian.

This incident occurred while his unit was on a security patrol in Germany. The American soldiers there encountered a group of soldiers from the Soviet Union, also part of the Allied occupation forces, but were unable to communicate with them due to the language barrier and nearly engaged in a conflict.

Wong-Trainor said his father tried German and some French in high school, but none worked.

“Finally, an international patrol arrived and saved the day,” she said. “He swore at that point that he would learn Russian.”

Mr. Wong attended the University of Vienna, Austria; the Fels Institute of Local and State Government at the University of Pennsylvania; and the Universal Language School and the Translation Bureau.

He has taught criminal justice, criminal investigation, law and procedure at Community College of Philadelphia. He also used his German language skills to help Jewish concentration camp survivors who moved to Philadelphia.

In the police department, he served in narcotics, vice-enforcement, and the patrol bureau.

He twice headed the Training Office and commanded the Community Relations Division and the Patrol Office, which included contingency planning. His last posting was as Commander of the Police Training Office at the Police Academy.

As one of the first Asian Americans to serve in the Philadelphia police force, Mr. Wong did not dwell on racial slurs, Wong-Trainor said.

“He didn’t insist on discrimination. He believed that you should do everything in your power so that you are not denied. So that you are the best.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Wong is survived by a son, Anthony Wong Jr., three grandchildren and a great grandson. His wife Dorothy and daughter-in-law Bonita Mariano died earlier.

A visitation will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, September 16 at John F. Givnish Funeral Home, 10975 Academy Rd., Philadelphia, PA 19154.

Another visitation will take place from 9:15 am to 10:15 am on Friday, September 17 at St. Matthew’s Catholic Church (Upper), 3000 Cottman Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19152, followed by a funeral mass at 10:30 am. am Interment will be in the cemetery of the Holy Sepulcher.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Mr. Wong’s name be made to the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation, 301 N. Ninth St. Philadelphia, PA 19107; the On Lok House Inc., 219 N. 10th St. Philadelphia, PA 19107, or the FOP Lodge # 5 Survivor’s Fund, 11630 Caroline Rd. Philadelphia, PA 19154.


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