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Found in Collections Friday: The Wings

For this week’s Found in Collections Friday, we’d like to share with you the story of the Wing family. Thomas Wing and Kathleen Kong Wing were both prominent community members in an era in which many minorities were barred from public service. Born to Chinese immigrants, Thomas Wing was a lifelong techie. He developed an interest in ham radio as a teen, building his own equipment from parts he was able to piece together. (He would meet the woman he’d marry, Kathleen Kong, through his amateur radio work).

He would later pioneer the radio technology that would lead to pagers, and even developed his own prototype to use in his offices. At this point, he had become a successful chiropractor with offices in Pomona and Los Angeles. His wife Kathleen worked by his side and was an integral part of his success. Dr. Wing’s accomplishments don’t end there; he also worked with the L.A. Red Cross to develop its Amateur Radio Emergency Control Station, critical for disaster response (especially if phone services went down). He also developed a microcurrent machine to treat patients without using acupuncture needles.

As brilliant as the Wings were, they faced racism and discrimination in the community. Kathleen’s father passed away after a car accident because no nurses or doctors would see him while he lay in the hospital. The Wings were initially barred from participating in social service organizations, until the Pomona Uptown Lions chapter was chartered specifically to admit them in 1950. They celebrated Charter Night in the Ebell Ballroom. Dr. Wing and the Lions would go on to establish drag racing at the Fairplex Speedway to encourage racers to stay off the streets.

The Wings’ daughter Carolyn went on to become a published author, which is the reason we know so much of the Wings’ story. Stay tuned next week for the stories of how Dr. and Mrs. Wings’ parents arrived in the United States.

Images and materials courtesy of the Wing family.

Thomas Wing and Kathleen Kong on their wedding day.

Dr. Wing was a tireless contributor to the community; here we see him helping Claremont students learn to operate a ham radio.

The apple didn't fall far from the tree. Here we see Carolyn and Adrienne, Thomas & Kathleen Wings' daughters, working on ham radio equipment in high school.

Pictured here are some items from our collection of Dr. Wing's radio materials. He learned to assemble equipment like this himself.

The Uptown Pomona Lion's chapter charter night in the Ebell auditorium. Thomas and Kathleen are at the center of the photo; a man is standing behind them.

Kathleen Wing at their Claremont home. Thomas called Kathleen "Cinderella." Their move into Claremont was met with racist backlash, but they made their home there and remained engaged citizens for decades.

Thomas, Carolyn, and Kathleen Wing.

Dr. Wing was featured in the local paper for his role in the establishment of a drag racing group at the Pomona Fairplex. This was a safer alternative to street racing and was a major benefit to the community.

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