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Queen Jubilee Medal honours two Richmondites

Thomas Wong, 95, and Rosayln Ing, 73, both served with the RCAF

Thomas Wong was the first Chinese Canadian to be accepted in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).

It didn't happen easily.

In 1939, the Canadian-born Wong tried to join, but was rejected.

"I was told I had the qualifications and education but the recruiting officer told me I wasn't allowed to join," said Wong.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the RCAF reconsidered and because of his aviation experience, he was accepted.

After basic and technical training, he served in Canada.

"I wanted to fly but the air force thought I was better suited and educated to be an inspector," added the six-decade Richmondite.

For that reason, fellow Richmondite George Ing nominated the 95-year-old veteran for a Queen's Diamond Jubilee medal.

"It's quite thrilling and an honour really," said Wong. "I thought it was really nice to be recognized."

Ing added, "Thomas was the first Chinese in the air force to be promoted to sergeant and he rapidly rose in rank by becoming a qualified aircraft inspector."

Wong proudly points to a RCAF confidential document photocopy stating he "achieved the highest trade grouping on January 10, 1943 by becoming an A.I.D. inspector (Aeronautic Inspector Detachment).

"I'm very proud of this document," he said, his eyes brimming with joy. "At the time, I was the first Chinese to be allowed to study teaching to be a woodworking teacher and the only Chinese to graduate from college."

Another recipient is Richmond's Dr. Rosalyn Ing. The 73-year-old is being awarded for her work with aboriginal women, as well as for her work as a fighter control operator with the RCAF between 1957 and 1960.

Both Wong and Ing were set to receive their medals in a ceremony Thursday night.

"To be considered is such an honour," Rosalyn Ing said, adding she is from the Opaskwayak Cree Nation in Northern Manitoba. "I always admired the Queen and I had the privilege to meet her at the 1994 Commonwealth Games."

Her proud husband, George Ing added: "The Canadian Aboriginal Veterans national president asked her to be nominated.

"Her medal is being presented to her because of her impact on so many people who needed help," he added. "Rosalyn gave them hope and inspiration and many wouldn't have gotten their high school education, let alone university and some post-graduate work, if it weren't for her. Rosalyn has made more of a difference in people's lives than most of us ever will."

Ing received a doctorate in educational studies, a master's of education and bachelor of social work from the University of B.C.

The highly accomplished woman worked tirelessly at the Native Education College, teaching English, sociology and math to adult students.

"The last two years, I took over the community program and trained counsellors to work with battered women," said Ing. "Many of them had residual issues surrounding living in residential schools. Before I could teach them, they needed guidance."

Ing could empathize with the women - at five years old, she and her siblings were sent to a residential school where they all suffered emotional abuse.

"I come from a family of 15 and we were all separate in the residential schools," she added.

Richmond MLA John Yap was to bestow Wong and Ing their medals, which commemorate Queen Elizabeth's 60 years on the throne, during a ceremony to be held Thursday night, July 12, at Chinatown's Foo's Ho Ho Restaurant.

"Thomas is a wonderful British Columbian and Canadian and I'm so honoured to participate in his receiving his Queen's Diamond Jubilee medal," said Yap.

"Thomas is one of those really special members of his generation of ChineseCanadians who wanted to step up and serve his country even though they weren't considered Canadians at the time."

As for Ing: "She is a pioneer in academia with a PhD and she is a wonderful human being," said Yap. "My understanding is her medal is being given to her for all of her work with aboriginal people and because she is renowned for her knowledge of history."

According to the Governor General of Canada's website, the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal is a tangible way for Canada to honour Her Majesty for her service to this country. At the same time, it serves to honour significant contributions and achievements by Canadians.