only did we both enjoy sports, but I was also attracted to her strong Christian faith, kind spirit, and her wisdom. It wasn't long before she became my “spiritual mother.”
Born in Shandong province — located on China's eastern coastline — in 1934, Florence Fu-Yuen Jiang was the youngest daughter of a farmer. Although it was uncommon for girls to be educated at that time, she attended a school started by missionaries. Kuo's parents and teachers saw her potential and encouraged her to further her education.
In 1949, communists took control of the country. They confiscated her family's land and possessions. Her father and six siblings relocated in Guangdong. A few months later, Kuo and her mother also decided to leave. They pretended to go grocery shopping in the next village. Instead they escaped and joined the rest of their family.
Kuo completed nursing school in Macau. Next, she moved to Hong Kong and worked at a public health clinic. Here she met David Kuo at a local church. They were married in 1956 and started a family the following year. Their small apartment also housed David's younger brother, and eventually three small children — two girls and a boy. They dreamed of going to America in search of a better life. .
Finally, in January 1963, the lives of the Kuos changed forever. A special quota program issued for 7,000 Chinese refugees opened up. The family boarded the President Cleveland ocean liner and spent 18 days at sea before they arrived in San Francisco.
At first, times were tough. With only $20 left and no car or job, they relied on help from a local church. Ten days later, David was hired as a research lab assistant in Berkeley, and Florence eventually found a job as a private nurse.
In 1969, shortly after the birth of their fourth child, the Kuos decided to move to Santa Cruz – a more peaceful environment than Berkeley in the '60s. Florence had to start all over and take classes at Cabrillo in order to obtain her registered nursing certification in California. She worked full time as a nurse's aide at Dominican Hospital and later as a labor and delivery nurse.
Kuo helped friends and coworkers at Dominican coordinate home care for their parents. She often took her youngest child, Rachel, along to visit and play games with the elderly. Eventually Kuo's patients offered to pay for her services. Then in 1984, the Florence Kuo Home Care, LLC evolved.
After retiring from Dominican in 1996, Kuo traveled to various countries with her family and friends. She enjoyed learning about different cultures and helping anyone in need. Kuo was active at Santa Cruz Bible Church. She joined “Knit Wits”— a group that knits hats and scarves for the needy — and also cooked for church potlucks. It was clear to her that serving and helping others was her mission in life, along with sharing her faith.
Kuo was devoted to her family and loved to spend time with her ten grandchildren. I'd often see her at La Madrona exercising and socializing with her family. She enjoyed swimming, riding the stationary bike and watching her family play tennis.
Sometimes I would go to her for sage advice. And she'd often reply, “No matter what happens, trust in the Lord.”
After 57 years of marriage, Kuo's beloved husband died from lung cancer. Then in January, she too passed away from cancer.
All four of her children have followed in her footsteps. Her son, Francis and daughter grace are optometrists. Her other two daughters, Irene and Rachel, are partners in her home care service.
If you have elderly relatives or friends in Santa Cruz County, you may have been one of the thousands whose life she touched. Every time I go to La Madrona I feel her presence. And I ask myself, “How can I honor her?”
Sandi Olson of Scotts Valley is a writer, speaker and teacher. She writes about interesting people in Scotts Valley and the San Lorenzo Valley. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.