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Charles Yu-di Yang
Service: March 24, 2018 (Saturday) at 10:00 a.m.
Location: Clubhouse 2, Activity Room, in Leisure World, 3300 N. Leisure World Blvd, Silver Spring, MD 20906

Charles Yu-di Yang, age 86, passed away on Monday, March 5, 2018 at his home in the Leisure World Retirement Community in Silver Spring, MD, attended to by his wife of 56 years, Pauline Y. Yang.  Charles was born on April 13, 1931 in Beijing, China.  He was the seventh of ten children, and the oldest son to have a son to carry on the Yang family name.   In his early teens, Charles overcame a 2-year long illness and traveled by himself to Tianjin when he was 14.  Escaping the Communist movement in China, he made his way to Taiwan where he attended Jian Guo High School and later graduated from Taiwan Provincial College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Plant Pathology.  He did graduate degree studies at National Taiwan University specializing in Plant Pathology.  He also completed two years of service in the Air Force in Taiwan.  With that under his belt, he boarded a freighter to cross the Pacific Ocean, then a Greyhound bus to cross half the US to study at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.  There, he earned both his Master of Science and PhD degrees.  More importantly, he met his future wife Pauline at one of Wisconsin’s famous “fish fry” events and they married while completing their respective PhD's.  Soon thereafter, Paul was born.  In 1964, the family moved to Kentucky as both Charles and Pauline were offered professor positions at the University of Kentucky.  After a couple of years, Isabel was born in Lexington. 

In 1972, Charles moved the family to Taiwan to pursue the opportunity granted by the Rockefeller Foundation to be the Senior Pathologist at the Asian Vegetable Research & Development Center (AVRDC).  In 1980, he moved to Thailand to lead the outreach program there, while Pauline, Paul and Isabel moved to the US so the kids could attend high school and college “on the mainland”.  During his 17-year stint in Thailand, Charles developed the outreach program literally from the ground up.  He got the funding to build the research center and training facilities; hired and managed the staff (who loved him so much that they called him “dieh” aka “Dad”); oversaw the construction of the buildings; and developed, implemented and directed the training program for nearly 400 scholars from 18 countries around the world.  Armed with knowledge gained from the training program, these scholars returned to their home countries to utilize the techniques and know-how to increase vegetable and other crops’ yields to help feed their countries.  To get the funding and international cooperation for these programs, Charles traveled to nearly 40 countries;  he jokingly called himself an “international beggar”.  Of course, he was no mere beggar – his unwavering integrity, humble leadership and strength of character fostered the trust that engendered governments and financial organizations to fund these valuable agricultural training programs.  One of his most personal highlights during his many travels was being one of the first US scientists allowed to visit China in the early 1980’s.  With this opportunity, he was able to reunite with his remaining brothers and their families after a 40-year separation.  What an amazing and long-overdue family reunion!  His steadfast dedication and prolific accomplishments were recognized by the many awards and honors he received, including an honorary Doctorate Degree of Science bestowed by the King of Thailand in 1997 and the highest honor of science award from the government of the People’s Republic of China.

After his retirement, Charles and Pauline eventually moved to the Leisure World of Maryland in Silver Spring.  Both of them got involved with various Chinese organizations such as CASSA and Golden Friendship clubs where they reunited with long-lost classmates.  The immediate Yang clan also got together every year or two – Maryland, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Florida, Hawaii and China – to share fun family times filled with mah jong, swimming, and exploring; and family dinners such as hot pot and home-made jiao-tze’s (dumplings).  Charles showed the kids and grandkids how to make dumpling skins from scratch!  In his golden years, Charles was able to pursue and enjoy his love of the Chinese language, culture, calligraphy, and stories.  He spent at least an hour every day practicing calligraphy and many hours reading books, both in Chinese and English, on a wide range of topics from agriculture to herbal medicines to the history of all different cultures.  He was virtually a human encyclopedia!  He never stopped learning and even moved into the digital age by learning to use the computer, search the internet, and forward/send emails full of humor, knowledge and pictures/stories.  

He is survived by his beloved wife, Pauline; son Paul (Paula); daughter Isabel (Dawn); grandsons Brendan and Bryant; older sister, older and younger brothers (in China); and many nephews, nieces, grand-nephews, and grand-nieces. 

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, March 24, 2018, at 10am at Clubhouse II, Activity Room, in Leisure World, 3300 N. Leisure World Blvd, Silver Spring, MD 20906.  

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations in the memory of Charles may be made to WETA | PBS Public Television and Classical Music for Greater Washington.

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