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Michael Yung-An Yu, owner of import-export firm, dies

Michael Yung-An Yu was co-founder of an import-export firm who was also a World War II veteran and a Maryland Senior Olympian.
Michael Yung-An Yu was co-founder of an import-export firm who was also a World War II veteran and a Maryland Senior Olympian. (HANDOUT)

Michael Yung-An Yu, co-founder of an import-export firm who was also a World War II veteran and a Maryland Senior Olympian, died Friday of heart disease and cancer at his Highland home. He was 94.

"He was very generous and always treated everyone like they were his family," said a nephew, Joseph M. Chang, an architect who lives in Great Falls, Va. "He had a large family but enjoyed sharing with his nieces and nephews."

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Mr. Yu, the son of Yu Yueh Zheng, a farmer, and Yu Ying-Chen, a homemaker, was born and raised in Hangzhou, China.

He dropped out of high school in 1937 and entered the Chinese Air Force Aeronautical Technical School. From 1938 to 1940, he studied aeronautical engineering at the CAF Technical Academy.

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From 1941 to 1946, he served as an engineering officer with the Chinese air force, attaining the rank of captain. He provided technical support to the 14th Air Force, better known as the famed "Flying Tigers" unit that was under the command of Maj. Gen. Claire L. Chennault, and flew in the China-Burman-India theater of war.

"He survived so many things in his life," said a son, James V. Yu of Avon, Conn. "There had been an overnight Japanese raid, and in the morning, as he made his way from the bunker to the mess hall, they turned around and saw an unexploded bomb on top of the bunker. That was just one of his many close calls."

His son said that Mr. Yu counted among his friends Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek, leader of the Republic of China from 1928 to 1975; his wife, Madame Chiang Kai-shek, a Nationalist Chinese political leader; and Gen. Joseph W. "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell, who commanded U.S. forces in the China-Burma-India theater of operations during World War II.

In 1946, Mr. Yu trained at the U.S. Air Force Air Training Command in San Antonio, and a year later graduated from the Air Force Aircraft Armament Officer School in Denver.

From 1947 to 1948 he was superintendent of Chinese air force cadets assigned to Lowry Field in Denver, then came to Washington as an armament and purchasing officer for the Chinese air force.

"When he came to the United States, he had $60, didn't know anybody and couldn't' speak the language, and went on to build a business empire," his son said. "He got married, had six children — two of whom became doctors — and all were college graduates."

Though he never finished high school or earned a college degree, Mr. Yu became a successful importer-exporter of military, aerospace and aeronautical hardware and supplies. In 1952, he was a co-founder of Universal Manufacturing and Supply Corp., and six years later, Tomike Corp.

He retired in 1995 from the two businesses, which are located in Beltsville.

Mr. Yu held patents for a method of treating solar cells and traffic detection and control.

From the late 1980s until the 1990s, Mr. Yu competed in the Maryland Senior Olympics competition held annually at Towson University. He competed in basketball, triple and long jumps, table tennis, shot put and the 100-meter run.

Family members said that during his years of competition, Mr. Yu earned 70 medals, many of them gold.

"Everyone at the Beltsville Community Recreation Center loved him," said Michelle T. Snider, a Beltsville resident who is a staff member at the center. "He always came in to shoot hoops and practiced all the time. In the Senior Olympics, he always won his age group. He was full of energy and always gave good life advice."

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Mr. Yu sponsored more than 20 Chinese friends and relatives who came to the United States seeking a better education and quality of life.

"He paid for them so they could go through college," said his son.

A nephew, Patrick Chang of Seattle, wrote in an email that Mr. Yu had sponsored his family when they left Hong Kong for the United States.

"None of us would be where we are today without Uncle Mike's selfless devotion to family and others," he wrote.

"He instilled in us the power of positive attitude and living positively. He challenged us to excel in everything we do," Mr. Chang wrote. "Our families have lost an incredible, charismatic, patriotic, God-loving individual."

Mr. Yu lived more than 50 years in Beltsville, then moved in 2011 to Highland. While in Beltsville, he was a communicant of St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church, and was the first Chinese-American to become a member of the Knights of Columbus Council 2809.

He was an avid fisherman and enjoyed pursuing the sport at a second home he owned in Leonardtown.

"He introduced all of his nieces and nephews to fishing, and we fished all the lakes in Montgomery County before he bought the house in Leonardtown overlooking the Chesapeake Bay," wrote Mr. Chang.

"Even though he grew up very poor without the opportunity for an education, he was the smartest man his family ever knew," wrote a daughter, Pattie Yu of Potomac. "He was determined and succeeded in seeing his six children go on to receive undergraduate and graduate degrees. He was extremely patriotic and proud to be an American."

In a telephone interview, Ms. Yu described her father as being able to "invent or create anything. He liked to fix things."

He was a communicant of St. Francis of Assisi Roman Catholic Church, 8300 Old Columbia Road, in Fulton, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

In addition to his son and daughter, Mr. Yu is survived by his wife of 63 years, the former Maria Chang; two other daughters, Bernadette Yu Kaiser of Highland and Dr. Angelita Yu Crowley of Abingdon; a brother, Dr. Yu ShanDe in Hangzhou; and 15 grandchildren. A son, Dr. Gerard V. Yu, died in 2005, and another son, John F. Yu, died in 2012.

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