"SH" Ou died peacefully on the afternoon of Tuesday, April 17, 2001 at home in Palo Alto, California, USA, after reaching his 89th birthday just a few days earlier. His wife of sixty years, Jane T. (Chang Tze-Hwa) had died three years before, on May 13th. He leaves two sons, Tungching and Shukong, their spouses Annie (Wang) and Joan (O'Connor) and his grandchildren Tunhow, Tunlin, Katherine Mayling, and Michael Tunhwa. He also leaves relatives in mainland China.
SH lived a full life, having traveled around the world and accomplished many goals. Having earned his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin in 1945, he went to Iraq as a visiting scientist until their revolution, worked as a botanist for the JCRR (Joint Commission for Rural Reconstruction) in Taiwan, then for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Thailand, and later for the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines as Principal Plant Pathologist. He had the corner office, and guided many students to their own advanced degrees.
He wrote a comprehensive survey of “Rice Diseases”, first published in 1972, which was updated and published in a second edition in 1985 after he retired from IRRI and took a position as Adjunct Professor at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. It is the acknowledged reference work on the subject and can be found in libraries worldwide (ISBN 0851985450). SH also decided to request the lowest possible cost for the book so that it would be affordable by scientists who need the reference.
Two and a half years ago SH was diagnosed with liver cancer; which ultimately claimed his life. But he led an active life until about half a year ago, taking walks to the park, driving to the store, having meals with friends, catching the latest news, and checking his stocks daily. Since that time overall activity slowed, his energy and his general health gradually declined.
At all times, SH believed that the strength of a good education combined with hard work would be rewarded. Education was a goal for which it was worth going through much hardship. He spoke proudly of the family tradition of our family having established the first school in the region. At age 11, he left home to go to boarding school, and never stopped reaching for the next higher level. Later, the family supported his going to America to get his Ph.D., and he still remembers the difficulty of having just enough money for passage and meals, but had not anticipated amounts for the waiter’s tips. Although it could not have been easy, with Jane’s support and encouragement he moved career and family to Bangkok, Thailand, to work for the FAO, and then again to the Philippines to work at IRRI.
Education was not only to be gained from books and classes. A curiosity beyond the basic scientific interest led to his purchasing two prime durian from a student in Thailand whose family grew them. In 1960, these two fruits cost $28 US, quite a rare and special treat. These delicacies, with their custard and golden egg-yolk jewels of fruit, were so pungent that Jane would not let the items in the house, so SH and the boys ate them in the garage.
His devotion to Jane was such that every week since her death (until the last few months) he would go to the cemetery to visit. His devotion to family was such that no one lacked for essentials or for comfort.
He will be deeply missed by friends and family.