David Kuo, of Scotts Valley, has led a life with seasons of great joy and great challenges.
He grew up in Fujian, a province of southern China, before communists took over the country. Born in 1930, he was the oldest of eight children and was expected to follow the family tradition and become a physician like his father.
While in high school, Kuo recalls visiting the home of his English teacher and being overwhelmed by the modern conveniences — most of which he’d never seen. Soon afterward, he began dreaming of going to America in search of a better life.
After graduating from high school in 1948, Kuo went to Guangzhou to study pre-medicine.
“In pre-med school, all the professors taught in Cantonese. I didn't understand a thing and was so miserable,” Kuo said.
Then, during the winter break, he contacted paratyphoid fever. He wasn’t expected to live. He spent 40 days in the hospital, his mother at his bedside praying.
“The pain was so unbearable that I asked the nurse to kill me,” Kuo said. “Instead, she prayed. Miraculously, I was healed and suddenly realized that God answers prayers. This is what led to my Christian faith.”
In 1949, communists took control of the country, including Fujian. Kuo’s father fled to Hong Kong, taking David and his brother Moses to keep them from being forced to join the communist army.
“I remember escaping to Hong Kong by boat,” Kuo said. “It was very scary. There was fighting all around us, and the last boat was hit. We were in the ocean for two days before arriving. Our friends were at the dock to meet us.”
His father returned home to take care of his big family, leaving the boys behind.
Kuo found work in a pharmaceutical laboratory. Then, one day, he met his former English teacher and asked her to apply for him to study in America. After several unsuccessful attempts, Kuo’s American dream began to fade.
He attended a Chinese university in Hong Kong, working his way through college. In 1956, Kuo married Florence Chiang, a nurse. They had three children — two girls and a boy. He graduated in 1958 and taught high school chemistry, in addition to working in a pharmaceutical lab.
“In 1961, one of my brothers called me from San Francisco and told me about a special quota program issued for 7,000 Chinese refugees,” Kuo recalled. “I wasted no time.”
Finally, in January 1963, Kuo’s life changed forever. He boarded an ocean liner with his wife and their children. They spent 18 days at sea before arriving in San Francisco.
“When we left Hong Kong, I had no idea where we’d live or what I’d do,” Kuo said. “I went to Chinatown every day looking for any job I could find. We didn’t own a car, and I only had $20 left. However, I knew that the same God that healed me would somehow provide for my family.”
Ten days later, Kuo was hired as a research lab assistant. He eventually took on a second job as clinical lab trainee at St. Mary’s Hospital in San Francisco.
The couple had a fourth child, and in 1970, Kuo began working as a laboratory technician at Los Gatos Community Hospital. He became a fixture there, where he was well-liked.
On March 10, 1972, Kuo became an American citizen. He started playing tennis again — a sport he enjoyed as a teenager while living in southern China.
Kuo moved to Scotts Valley in 1979. Then, in 1987, he was hired as a clinical lab scientist at University of California, Santa Cruz, where he worked until 1995.
Today, Kuo, 82, places high priority on maintaining the family unit — including his four grown children, 10 grandchildren and other relatives. Many people know him as the patriarch of an outstanding tennis-playing family, having played in several tournaments with all of his four children.
In addition to playing tennis at La Madrona Swim and Racquet Club, Kuo sings hymns to hospital patients and is active in his church.
“I live to serve God and help others,” Kuo said. “God healed me and helped me reach my American dream.”
- Sandi Olson of Scotts Valley is a writer, speaker and teacher. She writes about interesting people in Scotts Valley and the San Lorenzo Valley. Email her at email@example.com.