Jon's Story

Text size

LUBEC - Jon Wing Lum passed away, Dec. 18, 2015. "Wing" as he liked to be called, was a passionate and kind hearted soul, a devoted family man and maverick filmmaker -- a free spirit who played by his own set of rules. Wise and fool hardy, stoic and tender, whimsical and melancholy, open minded and set in his ways, frugal and extravagant, special yet ordinary -- a contradictory and complicated individual. He was genuinely curious about the world around him and before his eyesight started failing, would often read the Sunday New York Times in one sitting! He viewed what was happening to his changing mind and body through the detached and critical eye of an intellectual, and faced his health challenges with novel "out of the box" approaches in healing -- which was a brilliant strategy as he lived longer than all expectations. He loved his family, living close to nature in a small town but also longed for the authentic Chinese BBQ a city offers. He appreciated his solitude but also making music with friends, telling jokes, discussing politics, and the game of basketball. Even when money was tight, a Christmas ritual was taking his children to experience the magical grace of Julius Irving (aka "Dr. J") of the Philadelphia 76ers -- even though his home team was the NY Knicks! He grew up in Cinatown, getting into trouble and playing pickup ball on its concrete courts. Although his parents expected him to take advantage of their hard earned prosperity, he chose the life of an artist. After studying sculpture at Bard College, he traveled the world and found his future family in the artistic enclave of Cuernavaca, Mexico. He provided his children, and one of his grandchildren, with private progressive schooling, art and music lessons, personal basketball coaching, a summer home in Lubec to escape the sweltering NYC summers, and so much more than can be expressed in this announcement of his passing.

Before he created his own company in 1958, Wing Productions, he apprenticed with the editor of Fritz Lang's masterpiece "M". The first film he directed and produced was short-listed for an Academy Award. He was a pioneer in the field of documentary filmmaking, not only being Asian American but also due to his contributions to the groundbreaking approach of "Catalytic Cinema", when making a film not only serves to witness, but the act itself is an agent of change. He was deeply committed to giving voice to those who could not speak for themselves. One of many examples is the film "Save Chinatown" which prevented a small, largely immigrant community from losing their only church and community center. At the same time, throughout his career, he worked with luminaries such as Buckminster Fuller, Louis Kahn, Willem de Kooning and Jasper Johns. And for many years he mentored young filmmakers as an associate professor at the Philadelphia College of Art. For more information about his accomplishments go to: www.jonwinglum.com.

Yet, with all his professional success, he often shared that what he was most proud of was his children and grandchildren turned out to be "good people". For the last fifteen years he lived a quiet and modest life in an idyllic home a stone's throw away from the Bay of Fundy. Even though retired and dealing with several serious health issues, he continued to engage with and support the community he lived in -- not only other artists in the Lubec area, but members of the Passamaquoddy. He lived his last days as he lived before and during his illness -- with courage, resilience and dignity. He wasn't quite ready, but he was getting there. Those who knew him well could sense he was more at peace, calmly letting go. And since he lived so many years longer than predicted, and the history of his multiple remissions so unusual, his doctors chose to present his case at an international medical conference. So essentially, he was an outlier, a true original who chose the road less traveled--before it was fashionable or trendy -- who accepted and often embraced its inherent joys and sorrows.

He is survived by his wife, three children and four grandchildren. His family, colleagues, students and many friends will miss him deeply.

A memorial will be held on Monday, December 28 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Crow Town Gallery www.crowtowngallery.com located at 406 South Lubec Road, Lubec, ME 04652. Light refreshments will be served and some of his work will be shown. His family would like to honor his memory by celebrating his life. He was a great dancer who loved musicians -- and their music -- so this gathering will create a space and time for both!

For more information, please contact his family at 808-590-2007 or 845-332-6657. Condolences and memories may be shared at www.mcclurefamilyfuneral.com.
Published on  December 26, 2015
Send flowers
in memory of Jon
See more

Obituary published in

Arrangements by


Share this story with a friend.