ANNA CHENNAULT

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CHENNAULT ANNA CHAN CHENNAULT (1923-2018) Born in Beijing on June 25, 1923, Anna Chan Chennault (Chinese name, Xiangmei) was the second of the six daughters of Isabel Xiangci Chan (née Liao) and Samuel Yingrong Chan. She spent much of her childhood at her maternal grandparents' home in Beijing. Her grandfather, the diplomat Liao Fengshu, was a formative influence on her interest in works of the classical tradition and her love of writing. In 1937, under pressure of the Japanese invasion, Anna's family moved to Hong Kong, where she attended St. Paul's Catholic School. Her mother died in Hong Kong of uterine cancer. In the absence of their father, then serving as Consul in Mexico, Anna and her sister Cynthia took responsibility for their younger siblings. When Japan occupied Hong Kong in 1941, they relocated to Guilin. Soon thereafter, the sisters were able to rejoin their father in his reassignment to San Francisco, but Anna chose to remain in China. After graduating from Lingnan University, she worked as a wartime correspondent for the Central News Agency. She met her future husband General Claire Lee Chennault in 1943, when assigned by the agency to interview him. They met again in Shanghai after the war, and married there in 1947. In 1951, Anna settled with her husband in Monroe, Louisiana. They had a second home in Taipei, Taiwan to which they traveled each Chinese New Year with daughters Claire Anna (b. 1949) and Cynthia Louise (b. 1950). Anna's book A Thousand Springs describes her decade of marriage to the general as her happiest years. After her husband's death in 1958, Anna moved to Washington DC. She was an astute and determined woman with a large vision of meaningful purpose for her life. She was first employed at Georgetown University on a Chinese to English machine-translation project. Beginning in the 1960s, she worked as a contract negotiator and/or executive consultant to U.S. companies seeking to expand business in Asia (such as the cargo carrier Flying Tiger Line, the Northrop Corporation, and Fleishman Hillard). While struggling to advance herself, as a young widow into male-dominated spheres, she was very grateful for the advice and support of her late husband's friend James A. Noe (d. 1976), and that of her longtime companion Thomas G. Corcoran (d. 1981), who had been instrumental in Roosevelt's authorization (prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor) of an "American Volunteer Group" to be trained by Chennault in China. Anna was a top fundraiser for the Republican Party. She served as vice chairman of its National Finance Committee during Richard Nixon's 1967/1968 presidential campaign. During this period, her communication at Nixon's request of a secret message to the South Vietnamese government has been the focus of many news articles. She was again active in the election campaigns of Ronald Reagan. Foremost among her good friends in congress were Senators John Tower, Strom Thurmond, and Ted Stevens. During Democratic Party administrations, John F. Kennedy met with her and gave his blessing to the Chinese Refugee Relief organization that she co-founded to aid refugees who fled to Hong Kong during the Cultural Revolution. Her last presidential appointment was by Bill Clinton, to serve as International Chairman of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial Commission. After an absence of over three decades, Anna returned to China in 1981 at the invitation of Deng Xiaoping. The trip was the occasion also of a reunion with her great-uncle, Liao Chengzhi (d. 1983), then Minister of the Office of Overseas Affairs. In 1989, Anna led the first large delegation of business leaders from Taiwan to the PRC, which was followed by a second tour in 1990. She was a firm advocate of the "One-China Policy" who worked tirelessly to increase trade and investment across the straits. From the 1990s on, Anna was no longer active in politics, although she continued to write columns for newspapers in China and Taiwan. She last traveled to Asia in fall 2015, to attend celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the victory in the War of Resistance (1937-1945). She accepted medals of honor, on behalf of her late husband, from the presidents of both China and Taiwan. An important mission of her later years was to foster international understanding by establishing scholarships for teachers and students in the U.S., China, and Taiwan. Many of the awards she funded were specifically for the fields of international studies, journalism, Chinese studies, and teacher education. A devout Catholic, she attended the Sunday Mass at her parish church until disabled by a stroke in December 2017. She had attended services while in the PRC as well. She passed away peacefully at her Watergate apartment, with her second daughter at her bedside, on the morning of March 30, 2018. In addition to her loving daughters Claire and Cynthia (Pierre Sikivie) and grandsons Paul and Michael Sikivie, Anna leaves behind sisters Cynthia Lee, Sylvia Wong, and Loretta Fung; nephews Jon-Claire Lee, Cecil Fong, Herman Fong, Larry Wong, Christopher Wong, and Larry Fung; nieces Roberta Wong, Arlene Fung, Ramona Fung, and Ida Fung; godson Sammy Tse, and goddaughter Nancy Yang. Anna was predeceased by sisters Constance Fong and Theresa Kwan. Friends may call at DeVol Funeral Home, 2222 Wisconsin Ave. NW on April 6, from 6 to 8 pm (complimentary valet parking). A funeral Mass will be held April 7, 9:30 am, at the Church of St. Stephen Martyr, 2436 Pennsylvania Ave. NW., Washington DC 20037-1717. In lieu of sending flowers to the funeral home, donations may be mailed to the Church of St. Stephen Martyr.
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DeVol Funeral Home
2222 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 333-6680
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Published in The Washington Post from Apr. 5 to Apr. 7, 2018