by Mark Van Streefkerk
Last Thursday, right before the Mariners win over the Texas Rangers, there was a special pregame presentation in honor of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. As part of the presentation, the Mariners recognized important AAPI contributions to the region, honored the founders of Our Stories Are Your Stories, and in a special segment — Salute To Those Who Serve — the team recognized Gene Moy, a 104 year-old Chinese American World War Two veteran.
Moy is one of the oldest living Chinese American veterans and has lived in Beacon Hill since 1960.
At the end of March, Moy received the Congressional Gold Medal, Congress’ highest award for distinguished achievement. Moy and five other Chinese American veterans were honored with a virtual ceremony by the Chinese American Citizens Alliance. You can watch the ceremony here.
Moy was born on April 8, 1917 in Taishan County, Guangdong Province, China. In 1930 he settled in Lewiston, Idaho, and by 13 he was working alongside his uncle at a family-owned restaurant. In 1941 he was drafted into the U.S. Army. Moy was one of almost 20,000 Chinese Americans who served during WWII, in spite of the Chinese Exclusion Act, and other racist laws at that time. Starting as a cook at Camp Roberts, California, he was eventually deployed in 1943 to New Caledonia, advancing to Mess Sergeant at the Officer’s Mess. Moy cooked for a platoon of 120 officers. He was also deployed to Guadalcanal, the Philippines, and Japan. After his discharge in 1945, he made Seattle his home.
Moy embraced Seattle city life. “I used to live in a small city. There seemed to be nothing going on. I got tired of a slow town, so I decided to move to Seattle,” he said.
Moy opened two Chinese American restaurants in Seattle, New China Restaurant that he operated from 1946 to 1952 and The Market Cafe from 1952-1955. After his stint in restaurants, he worked for Boeing as a mechanic for 27 years before retiring in 1982.
In nearly all of Moy’s photos, the veteran is always smiling. When the Emerald asked him for the secret to a long, happy life, Moy laughed at first, “Ha! I wish I knew. One thing — I do eat a lot of Chinese food. At most dinners I have rice.”
In his retirement, and before, Moy has built a reputation as an adept ballroom dancer, something he learned while in the Army through the United Service Organizations (USO). Moy and his late wife of 68 years, Priscilla, have four children, nine grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren, all living within the Seattle area.
Though he was vaccinated earlier this year, Moy stays pretty close to his Beacon Hill home these days. “It’s pretty peaceful. I like it here very much,” he says of the neighborhood.
Reflecting on his time in the Army, Moy expressed pride in serving his country. Learning how to live alongside people from many different walks of life in the military is something that’s benefited the rest of his life. “I learned how to get along with people,” he said.
“It’s a good experience. You feel good that you’ve helped your country. I really enjoyed the time I was in the service.”
Featured Image: Mariners Chairman and Managing Partner John Stanton shakes Gene Moy’s hand at the Mariners’ Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Night. (Photo by Ben VanHouten/Seattle Mariners.)
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