Juliana Young Koo died peacefully on May 24, 2017 at her home in New York surrounded by her family. She was 111.
I was fortunate enough to be on hand to document Mrs. Koo’s 111th birthday, an annual soirée at The Pierre in New York that has been given in her honor since she turned 90 in 1995.
Mrs. Koo encountered many challenges during her long life, which she faced with courage and optimism. Her motto was “every day is a good day.” An admired beauty in Shanghai, she married a young diplomat, Clarence Kuangson Young, and moved to Europe. She embarked unprepared on the demanding life of a diplomat’s wife, a role she filled with energy and style.
Left a widow with three young daughters, Gene, Shirley and Frances after her husband was imprisoned and executed at the end of World War II, she chose to come to the United States, where her children would have greater opportunities.
Having to support the family, she found a job as a Protocol & Liaison Officer at the United Nations, and was a cherished colleague there for thirteen years. She married Wellington Koo in 1959, and made a comfortable home for him in The Hague, Netherlands where he was a judge on the International Court of Justice, and in New York City upon his retirement.
Always a wife and mother first, she brought together all the members of her extended family of three daughters, seven grandchildren, eighteen great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren, as well as the members of the Koo family.
Beyond family, she also was the focal point for her many friends, with mahjong games and sumptuous dinners, serving as inspiration as well as a beacon of optimism. A fervent believer in the value of education, she supported an excellent education for her daughters as well as for the children of her extended family and household.
She is survived by her daughters Genevieve Young, Shirley Young, and Oscar L. Tang, husband of her deceased daughter Frances Young Tang. A memorial service will be held on June 21st from 4:30pm-5:30pm at Church of the Heavenly Rest (2 E. 90th St, New York, NY 10128). Funeral services and interment will be private, for the family and close friends only.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Juliana Young Koo Scholarship Fund at Phillips Academy, Andover, MA. Please make checks payable to the Trustees of Phillips, Attn: Gift Services, 180 Main Street, Andover, MA, 01810.
Lia Chang is an award-winning filmmaker, a Best Actress nominee, a photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.
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