Happy 88th Birthday to Madeline Wong!

Boston, August 22, 2015, — The evening banquet of the 25th national convention of Wong Family association was held at Empire Garden restaurant in Boston Chinatown this evening. Mrs. Madeline C. Wong,a well-known working woman pioneer in the state, attended the banquet along with over 500 members and guests of the Wong Family Association. Today is also Mrs. Wong’s birthday.
Madeline Wong with her son, State Rep. Donald Wong and her daughter Linda (photo by David Li).

“Both William and I were inducted to hall of fame,” said Mrs. Wong with a smile. Her late husband William Wong and her were inducted to Massachusetts Hospitality Hall of Fame in 2001, and Mrs. Wong was also inducted to John Hancock Hall of Fame. They founded Kowloon Restaurant in 1950 and it has become one of the largest Asian restaurants in the nation with 1,200 seats.

As a leader among Chinese Americans and women, Madeline Wong’s accomplishments include the founding of one of America’s largest and oldest Asian dining institutions, her extraordinary work in the insurance field, and her many contributions to the community and charity work. Born in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1927, Madeline later met her husband, William Wong, shortly after the War and started her family and career in the Boston area. With her friendly sociability, hard work, perseverance, and husband’s support, Madeline has gone on to become a living legend for all of her accomplishments.

Madeline grew up in a family of five daughters and two sons in which her father Chun-sau Chin and mother Tow See, restaurateurs who migrated from the Guangdong province, China, insisted on giving her and her six siblings a bilingual upbringing. After the War, she married William Wong, who was working with his parents at the Mai Fong restaurant on Massachusetts Avenue in Boston after a childhood spent in war-torn southern China. After giving birth to their eldest daughter, Madeline decided to embark on a professional career. Impressed by the financial security her parents and brother had achieved as Hancock policyholders and having identified an underserved market when she had to seek out an insurance agent to purchase an endowment plan for her daughter, she decided to give insurance a try.
Madeline Wong presenting her agency’s sales record to John Hancock president Paul F. Clark on his 60th birthday in 1952(from johnhancock.com).

In the 1950s, there were very few Chinese American insurance agents and even fewer female insurance agents. Her first attempts in the insurance industry were tough. Madeline first applied to and was turned down by both Sun Life and New York Life. However, as anybody who knows Madeline will tell you, she did not get where she is by giving up, and persistence is one of her strong points. Finally, she was hired in October 1952 by John Hancock Life Insurance. With her natural friendliness and hard work, she achieved the Quarter Million Dollar Round Table within her very first year. Over the next few decades, she racked up award after award and set new records in the insurance industry. She became the first and only woman in John Hancock to become a member of Top of the Table in 1983, and is a life and qualifying member of the John Hancock’s President’s Honor Club, the Million Dollar Round Table (qualifying at least 25 years), and the President’s Cabinet. In 1982, she led the entire John Hancock company in production and volume and is the only woman to be inducted into the most prestigious John Hancock Hall of Fame. She is also the only woman Knight of the Million Dollar Roundtable Foundation by contributing significantly to the foundation. Her record-breaking sales are only matched by her consistency; every year she has earned the National Quality Award and the National Sales Award. To this day, she still holds the record of being the leading woman producer for most years at John Hancock.

As anyone who has had the chance to dine at Kowloon Restaurant in Saugus knows, Madeline’s accomplishments are certainly not confined to insurance. After Madeline and her husband, William, purchased the small Chinese restaurant, the Mandarin House, from her parents in 1950, they renamed it the Kowloon. Over the next several decades, they built the 50-seat restaurant into a 1200-seat dining icon that is known by people throughout New England. They also established the Maui restaurant in Brockton and, most recently, a cocktail lounge and grill in Saugus named Maddy’s in Madeline’s honor.
Madeline Wong was the only woman amongst Hancock’s top producers at the Million Dollar Round Table retreat in Colorado Springs in 1965 (from johnhancock.com).

Beyond her work in the insurance and restaurant industry, Madeline always remained deeply committed to helping others and building the community. She first volunteered her time serving as an interpreter for Chinese immigrants applying for their citizenship papers and also as a notary public. She has been a long-time supporter of numerous organizations including the Wang YMCA, the Wong Family Association (her husband, William, was past national president), the Kwong Kow Chinese School, the Chung Wah Academy, the Chinese Women’s Association, South Cove Manor Nursing Home, Children’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, Massachusetts Eye & Ear Infirmary, and Lahey Clinic, and she has held fundraisers for Muscular Dystrophy, Cystic Fibrosis and many other charitable organizations.

In 1996, she received an honorary degree from Curry College for her success and her charitable donations and community work. In 2007, the Wang YMCA named her Outstanding Person of the Year. She is also Honorary Trustee of Belmont Savings Bank, and advisor for the Wong Women’s Association, past president of the Que Sing Music Club, and former director of the South Cove YMCA and Greater Boston YMCA.

If you ask Madeline, though, her proudest moments are being the mother of six children – Linda, Donald, Robert, Stanley, Elizabeth, and Andrew – all of whom have participated in the family business. Her civic mind and pioneering spirit has inspired her eldest son, Donald, who was elected chairman of the Saugus Board of Selectman in 2007, and late elected as State Rep. Never one to sit still, Madeline is always on the go. When she is not socializing with friends or working at the restaurant, she finds time to practice Tai Chi and take Mandarin classes. Madeline shows no signs of slowing down and continues to participate in many events in her beloved Chinatown community.