William Yu-Kon Chang was born on Jan 1, 1916, in Honolulu. His father, William Sang Chang, was a merchant seaman; his mother, Kui Kyau Lee, was a homemaker. He learned to speak both Chinese and English fluently.
After graduating from high school in Honolulu, Mr. Chang left for Shanghai. There he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism at St. John’s University, an Anglican school founded by American missionaries.
He returned to Hawaii after war broke out between China and Japan in 1937, but went back to Shanghai three years later, when The China Press, an English-language newspaper, hired him as a sportswriter.
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, occupying Japanese forces in Shanghai shut the paper down, and Mr. Chang, though he was not incarcerated, had to wear an armband to identify himself as an enemy.
“I eked out a living buying and selling on the black market everything that had a value and demand, including firewood, rice, quinine, bicycle tires, mothballs and woolen yarn,” he was quoted as saying in “American Exodus: Second-Generation Chinese Americans in China, 1901-1949” (2019), by Professor Brooks.
The China Press reopened after the war, and Mr. Chang was hired back as its city editor and society columnist. But after flying to the United States on an advertising junket in 1947, he decided to stay and settled in New York, where he worked for government outreach groups and restaurants.
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