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A Doctor and a Patriot

Flickr / Creative Commons / Terry Robinson

A Doctor and a Patriot

The obituary for William Q. Wu in the Kansas City Star told scant details of his remarkable life compared to the autobiography he wrote in 1996.

In Monsoon Season, Dr. Wu tells of his birth in a Chinese peasant village, the son of an Imperial Scholar, and his departure, at age 11, from his homeland and parents. He immigrated to Philadelphia to live with an uncle in that city’s Chinatown, working in a restaurant. After graduating from the University of Michigan with undergraduate and medical degrees, he joined the U.S. Army as a doctor even though Asian immigrants were not allowed to become naturalized U.S. citizens.

Doctors from Allied countries, however, were allowed to volunteer, and he served in a field hospital during World War II. On his return, he married his college sweetheart, Cecile, practiced in Kansas City hospitals – the first non-white allowed to do so – and became a prominent neurosurgeon until his retirement in 1990. Several of his patients included Kansas City Chiefs athletes. His wife Cecile, who suffered from myasthenia gravis, died in 2009. Dr. Wu then moved to California.

Dr. Wu seems to have bridged two countries and cultures during a sensitive time, and throughout his life continued to exhibit skill and kindness in his professional and personal life. He and Cecile established a scholarship to promote U.S.-China student exchanges.

The Guest Book for Dr. Wu includes tributes from many who knew and admired this special man:

I got shot in the neck in 1986 with a spinal cord injury. Dr. Wu was the head of the team of Doc's that did all the planning for my care. He got sick & was hospitalized himself a little while later. Me and my family were so impressed with him, unfortunately we never saw him again. We often talked about him never dreaming he would make it to 2013!

Dr. Wu removed a brain tumor from one of my aunts in 1957. She is still living at age 88. I never had the privilege of meeting Dr. Wu but what a wonderful man.

Dr. Wu saved my daughter's life almost 30 years ago. He was such a caring and compassionate doctor. I saw him many times after her surgery at the hospital where I also worked. He always remembered my daughter's name and always asked how she was doing. She also has an autographed copy of his book. We loved him!

Susan Soper is the author of ObitKit®, A Guide to Celebrating Your Life. A lifelong journalist, she has written for Newsday and CNN, and was Features Editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where she launched a series called "Living with Grief."