Women’s History Month
The eldest of 10 children born to William Ling Chung and Margaret Ma, Josephine was born in 1932 in Suzhou, China. The family moved to Chungking when the Japanese invaded China. Constant loss of homes due to bombing forced them to move 13 times. They moved to Calcutta, then to Bombay where Josephine and her mother and sisters remained in a hotel for six months while her father went to the United States to prepare for moving his family.
Following a month long journey on a Swedish liner, they arrived in New York harbor in July 1945. Four of Josephine’s sisters had died in China.
The family settled in Washington, D.C. where her father became an attache. Another daughter was born to the family, Constance “Connie” Chung, who became a well-known TV journalist. Josephine graduated from Theodore Roosevelt High School in Washington and had to go to work rather than further her education. It took her 32 years to get a college degree.
Josephine and William T. (Bill) Chen married in 1955; both became American citizens. While Bill worked as a chemist in Washington, Josephine worked first for Liberty Mutual, then the Department of the Interior of Land Management.
Bill switched careers and became a chef, which eventually led them to Kissimmee, Florida, in 1970 where they bought the Four Walls Restaurant on Hwy 17-92. They kept the name of the restaurant but changed the interior to an Oriental theme and menu. The family, including their three daughters (who graduated from Osceola High School) had found a new home.
Once the girls left home, Josephine joined the Chamber of Commerce. Her civic-mindedness and eagerness to express her opinion got her appointed to the Commission on the Status of Women. Josephine was elected to serve on the Osceola County School Board, a position she held for two terms, from 1984 to 1992. In 1991, she founded the Kissimmee Chinese-American School and co-founded the Kissimmee Chinese-American Center.
Bill and Josephine retired from the restaurant business in the early 1990s. She stayed active by speaking to women and church groups as a way to introduce others to Chinese-Americans. She also served on the Board of Goodwill Industries in Central Florida and was a nominee for the Florida Governor’s Women Hall of Fame.
Josephine passed away on March 17, 2008.
Written by Anza Bast
Sources: “Orlando Sentinel” August 24, 1971, December 28, 1997, January 4, 1998; “Washington Post” March 29, 2008