Cover photo for Junrui Fang's Obituary
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1912 Junrui 2016

Junrui Fang

August 9, 1912 — February 5, 2016

Junrui Fang, age 103, died February 5, 2016 after a short bout of pneumonia.

She is survived by her son, Weifei Shi of Rockville, MD, her daughter Linfei Shi Brown, of Tulsa, OK, one grandson, Roland Zhongjie Brown of Minneapolis, MN, and a brother, Sheng Chung Fang of Corvallis, OR.

Given her venerable age, after the birth of her grandson in 1991, for most family members and friends she became ever after known as Wai Po (which in Chinese means maternal grandmother).

Junrui Fang was born on August 9, 1912 in Fuzhou, Fujian Province, China to Jiashi Fang and Wanfang Long. She was a hot item with the local young men, and remembered being simultaneously courted by three suitors. Her pick of the three was a bright young budding scientist, Jiazhong Shi. In 1939 they were married in Shanghai, where they had both moved during the Japanese occupation. She worked as an accountant at Zhong Shan Hospital, and he was a professor of Organic Chemistry at Shanghai First Medical College, now Medical College of Fudan University. They had two children which survived early childhood. Junrui was known among family and friends as a gregarious peacemaker and mediator. She retired in 1966, and lived in Shanghai with her husband until his death in 1991. In 1993 she came to Tulsa to live with her daughter, son-in-law, and her then two year old grandson. She was delighted to be able to watch her grandson grow and participate in his upbringing, and he benefited from having his only living grandparent intimately involved in his daily life.

Wai Po remained remarkably healthy until slowed significantly by the effects of a non-cancerous brain tumor, which began manifesting symptoms in July of 2014. Up until then her activities included many valuable daily household chores, such as looking after her little grandson, chopping meat and vegetables for family dinners, mending, folding, and repairing clothes, and keeping dishes and other things in their proper places. As she got older, like squirrels with their nuts she would sometimes forget where she put things that were left on the kitchen table by other family members. It would irritate her grandson when his homework would disappear and would not be easily found. (To a teacher "my grandmother put up my homework" sounds as believable as "the dog ate my homework.") He finally did learn, as every family member did, that if you did not want your article "put up" somewhere by Wai Po, then do not leave it out and make it a "putting up" target!

Wai Po loved to go outdoors, and self-assigned herself the task on almost every nice day of keeping the driveway and street in front of the house meticulously clean. In the fall this was a major project, because for many years there were two large, ancient elm trees next to the driveway. Over the years she wore out dozens of brooms policing her leafy domain. She also edged the grass next to the driveway and curb (while sitting on a stool with scissors!), so that this grass was always perfectly groomed. Once her push for perfection got out of hand. Son-in-law Charles was wondering what was happening to the grass seed he put down next to the driveway. The seed was going instead of growing. Could it be that an unseen flock of birds preferred to eat only the grass seed next to the driveway? It was soon discovered that the grass seed-thieving culprit was Wai Po herself, who, not realizing what it was and wishing to keep her near-driveway realm perfectly clear of debris, was brushing up the seed and throwing it away.

In Shanghai, Junrui liked to go to the local Shaoxing Opera, and in Tulsa Wai Po would watch Chinese movies. She kept up with family and friends in the US and China the old fashioned way -- several times every week letters would go out to distant points of North America and Asia. Everyone marveled how her impeccable handwriting never manifested the wavering effects of age.

After her family, her great love was the game of mahjong. Merely broaching the subject in a discussion would cause her eyebrows to leaven and a special sparkle to appear in her eyes. She would smile and circle her hands, simulating the shuffling of the mahjong pieces, entertained by the thought of their distinctively pleasurable clack and crackle. She would recall with animated pleasure some of her earliest memories of herself as little Junrui in the Fang family compound watching the games of her mother, aunts, and other ladies. She remembered with relish her childish delight when someone left the table and asked her to play a few rounds in their absence.

Upon retirement from her job in Shanghai, she played mahjong with several different groups. After coming to Tulsa, for many years she played once weekly. She maintained her accounting skills by keeping meticulous records of the weekly, monthly, and annual winnings and losings of each player. Her grandson learned to play just like his grandmother: by standing beside the table watching the adults. Her son-in-law joked that she was always a nice little old lady with one exception: when she sat down at the mahjong table she became a tiger! She played weekly with a group from the Tulsa area until due to age, distance, and family responsibilities the group fell apart. After this, the family noticed a decline in her memory. Her daughter bought a mahjong computer game, and on a visit to Tulsa her son taught her to play on the computer. Having been born close to the time of the first Model T and first radio broadcast, she finally joined the computer age! Shortly after she started playing again, the family noticed a significant betterment and return of her memory.

Her playing acuity, like her body, remained remarkably strong as she passed the century milestone, and she continued to do the indoor and outdoor chores she had assigned herself. Her abilities finally diminished under the effects of the brain tumor, but she was mercifully able to continue to play the game she loved until a few days before she died.

We, her family, mourn her passing, but rejoice in her long and healthy life, which positively touched so many people.

Family and friends are contributing to a charity of their choice.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Junrui Fang, please visit our flower store.


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