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Chan, Belle May Shun.

by WayneTimes.com
February 13, 2024

September 18, 1937 – January 21, 2023

DENVER, COLORADO/WOLCOTT/SODUS POINT: Our beloved wife, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt and friend Belle May Shun Chan of Denver, Colorado, passed away in her home with her husband present on January 21, 2023 at the age of 85 years. Belle was an inspirational person who bravely battled bronchiectasis, a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, complicated by multiple infections for over 10 years before finally succumbing to it. She is survived by her loving and devoted husband Dr. Ming Cheong Derek Chan, her children Dr. Evelyn Chan of Brookfield, Wisconsin and Dr. Derek Chan of New York, New York, and grandchildren Christina Hong of Houston, Texas and Justin Hong of Brookfield, Wisconsin and their father Anthony Hong; Grace and Joshua Yee of Alhambra, California, and her son-in-law Bill Yee; and Ian and Victoria Chan of New York, New York and her daughter-in-law Dr. Chun Wang.  She is predeceased by her loving daughter Jeannie Chan Yee and brother James Chui. She is also survived by six siblings Annie, Alfred, Bernard, Colleen, Dorothea and Elizabeth Chui, and many cousins, nieces and nephews in Hong Kong, Canada and the United States. A visitation will be held February 19, 2023 from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm followed by a service and celebration of life at 4:00 pm at Olinger Funeral Chapel Hill located at 6601 S. Colorado Blvd, Centennial, CO 80121.  A private interment will take place on February 20, 2023 at 10:00 am.  Memorial donations may be made in her name to National Jewish Health, Bronchiectasis Treatment Program, 1400 Jackson St, Denver, CO 80206-2763 or by phone 303-728-6560 or online at www.nationaljewish.org/donate.

Belle May Shun Chan was born September 18, 1937 to Sau Fong Pang-Chui and Cheuk Sang Chui at Cheung Sha Wan Road in Hong Kong. Belle, which means “beautiful,” was so named by her father because she was a beautiful newborn.   Her father Cheuk Sang Chui was shot and killed during a robbery when she was age 13, leaving her mother Sau Fong Pang-Chui to raise her and seven siblings.  Belle was third among her siblings Annie Kam Shun Chui, Alfred Wing Man Chui, Bernard Wing Bun Chui, Colleen Yuk Shun Chui, Dorothea Lai Shun Chui, Elizabeth Wai Shun Chui in Hong Kong and the late James Wing Cheung Chui.  At the time of her birth, Hong Kong was a British colony which conferred her with citizenship in the United Kingdom specific to the colony’s status.  Her early childhood was marked by the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong which lasted for nearly four years until Japan surrendered in August,1945, at the end of the Second World War.  Belle would recount stories of sirens and bombs, of fear and hunger while food was rationed. Eggs which are so ubiquitous today, were in short supply and reserved only for special holidays and birthdays.

Belle was raised in the British educational school system which was strongest in the Christian schools in Hong Kong.  She attended one of the top schools, Heep Yunn School, with aspirations to pursue a career that would lead to financial self-sufficiency given the circumstances in which she had been raised.  With great courage and ambition, she left her family and friends for England at age 18 to attend nursing school.  Determined, disciplined and bright, she rose to the top of her class in nursing school and graduated first in her class with highest honors.  She earned degrees and advanced certification in nursing, midwifery, and tropical medicine while working at East Ham Memorial Hospital (now East Ham Care Centre) and at Hammersmith Hospital, a leading research and clinical institution in London.  She was widely admired for having achieved these milestones in English, her second language, among classmates who were native British.  Faculty knew they had a rising star.  Patients knew they were gifted with her care and compassion.

Belle returned to Hong Kong in 1960 to work at Kowloon Hospital.  While working there, Belle caught the eye of her future husband Ming Cheong Derek Chan, a graduate of Faculty of Medicine of the University of Hong Kong (now known as Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine) who was training as a surgeon in obstetrics and gynecology.  They married in 1963 and began a partnership that would last nearly 60 years. Soon after getting married, they moved to Glasgow, Scotland where their first child Evelyn, was born.  While her husband continued his residency training in different hospitals in the United Kingdom, Belle began a second career as a mother and educator.  By 1967 Belle and Derek had moved to Northern England, Wales, and then to Orsett, England where their second child, Jeannie, was born. 

Upon the completion of Derek’s training, Belle and Derek decided to forego returning to the homeland with their young family.  The traumatic experience of living through the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong figured heavily into this decision.  Hong Kong was destined to return to China in 1997 as part of a treaty that leased Hong Kong to Great Britain for 99 years.  This was a consequence of the conflicts between those powers during the First and Second Opium Wars in the mid-1800s.  Concerned about whether violence would erupt during the transfer back to China, Belle and Derek decided to move their family to the United States where there was better opportunity for professional and personal growth.

In June,1970, Belle and Derek and their children moved to a Wolcott, a small town in Upstate New York.  The region of Wayne County needed a physician and local representative Republican Frank Horton pushed a rider bill through the United States Congress allowing them to arrive in the United States before the preliminary steps for citizenship had been approved.  The means for the big move across the Atlantic was made possible by Belle’s savings, the local community and the United Methodist Church.  While her husband served the community as their primary care physician and obstetrician, Belle worked hard to adapt to American life.  She became a skillful chef, gardener, and community volunteer.  In time, Belle and Derek moved to Sodus Point, New York, a small town near Wolcott on the shore of Lake Ontario overlooking Sodus Bay and three islands. It was reminiscent of the waters of the South China Sea around Hong Kong and its islands.  It was there in Sodus Point that their third child, Derek Victor, was born.  

Belle began another career as the business manager for her husband’s private practice in Wayne County in obstetrics and gynecology while raising their three children.  She would drive 80 miles round-trip on Saturdays to take them to music lessons at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, and during the week to countless music rehearsals, athletic events, speech tournaments, community events, Sunday school and church service.  She created a fantastical home with vegetable, fruit and flower gardens, artistic décor, and Chinese cuisine. True to her name, she was widely known for her style and charismatic presence when hosting friends and family.  She had picnics on the beach, barbecues with backyard grills, and candlelight dinners. She created the environment that enabled her husband and children to flourish.  Her husband achieved fellowship in the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and a faculty appointment at the University of Rochester School of Medicine.   Her children were all valedictorians at Sodus Central High School in Sodus, New York and graduated with honors from Harvard, Yale, and Princeton Universities, Fuller Theological Seminary, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Boston University School of Medicine.  Her children went on to contribute as leaders in medicine, science, theology and community service as physicians, scientists, professor, and published authors in regional, national and international forums.  

In later years, after her children had married, she traveled with her husband to many countries in North and South America and Europe, took up ballroom dancing and eventually moved to Denver, Colorado to be closer to National Jewish Health where she received treatment for her lung condition.  She reveled in her growing family as grandchildren grew across the United States on both coasts and the South.  She was the cheerleader for every new opportunity that came along for her extended family, the sage who would offer suggestions to problems, and the role model for tenacity.  Imbued with the courage of her younger self, her faith in the potential within others to make a difference in the world, and her wisdom with roots in hardship and cross-cultural experience, she lived to see her impact grow exponentially.  By virtue of her optimism, faith in God, and steadfast support of her husband and children she was able to impact the lives of tens of thousands of people: patients, church families, research subjects, civic and community groups.  She left a legacy of courage, faith, vision and ambition for others to follow.  In her own words, “It’s not where you start in life, it’s where you end up that counts  - with Determination, Discipline and Drive.”

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