Magazine article Insight on the News

Borrowing Inspiration from Life Lived Well

Magazine article Insight on the News

Borrowing Inspiration from Life Lived Well

Article excerpt

There comes a time in life when a newspaper reader turns to the obituaries after a scan of the ghastly events on the front page. This habit usually develops when muscles begin to defy gravity and telephone books require magnification.

Among those brief notices of mortality, a reader often finds affecting accounts of lives lived with purpose, fidelity and dignity--biographies that seldom publicly are noted elsewhere. These summings-up can be antidote to the cynicism that seems, mysteriously, to have become ubiquitous in this favored land.

Two recent obituaries are worth passing along.

Y.C. Chang, 87, a retired Navy chief petty officer, died at his Washington area home. He spent 27 years in the Navy in a career that included wartime service aboard the cruiser USS Marblehead, which saw extensive and fierce combat in the Pacific and later in the European theater.

Born in Nangpoo, China, he enlisted in 1931, a time, it should be remembered, when members of minority groups mostly were restricted to steward duty. The Marblehead was severely damaged in the grim early months of the war as the Japanese invaded the Dutch East Indies, and Chang helped care for the ship's casualties. He served aboard the cruiser for the rest of the war.

After 1945, Chief Chang was able to reunite his family--his wife, May, and his son, Ming E. Chang--who spent the war under the Japanese occupation of Shanghai. Both survive him. The chief's postwar duty included tours serving Secretaries of Defense James Forrestal through "Engine" Charley Wilson. After retiring in 1958, he continued to work at the Pentagon as a civilian.

In a routine sentence about his survivors, the obit mentioned his son, a retired Navy rear admiral. Well, that's hardly routine and prompted a few telephone calls.

In a long life, Chief Chang and his wife saw their son graduated from the College of William and Mary, commissioned in the Navy and in 34 years of service command a destroyer escort, a guided-missile cruiser and a carrier battle group, before himself retiring in 1990 as a rear admiral. He is a senior vice president with Raytheon Co.

Chief Chang also saw his grandson, Daniel, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1979 (now a commander and about to become captain of a destroyer) and his granddaughter, Donalda, commissioned in the Navy and attain the rank of lieutenant commander before resigning to raise her children. …

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