(Written in 1990 when I got home from the funeral of a friend.)
Today we laid to rest a fine man. I write this in the fond hope we do not lay rest the tradition he represented.
Most people called him Mr. Joe Wing, but he came from China in the forties a Toy Wing Joe. He and his dear wife ran the corner store in Spring Forest, a cozy subdivision off of Rayford Road north of Houston in Spring, Texas.
When we moved to Spring in 1972 we started the search for a home in natural surroundings to raise our sons while we stayed in an apartment in Houston. We ventured north and fell in love with the northwoods of South Montgomery County.
We stopped at Wing’s Grocery at the entrance of a subdivision for a soda and met Mr. Wing and his fine family. It was to mark the first of many visits.
The next two decades saw his children and mine grow up. We have kept up with trips to the corner several times a week. (Sometimes we needed to buy something but even when we didn’t, we still found a reason to stop by for a small purchase and the visit we always came to expect and enjoy).Over the years, my boys and all the other neighborhood children made a request regularly: “Can we go to Mr. Wing’s?”
His store was not just a “corner store” – it was a place where you could visit with Mr. and Mrs. Wing and other friends, learn what was happening in the neighborhood, and find encouragement after a hard day.
We had no local relatives since we were Texas Transplants, like many, and came to think of the Wings as family.
He was a guardian of our community spirit. He served as an anchor for our family in bad times and good. His funeral was packed with neighbors who drove across Houston to visit with Mr. Wing one last time. (I noticed several young adults who used to play basketball and make the trek to Mr. Wings when they were much shorter. . .)
I can’t help but hope that we in this fine community do not forget what Mr. Wing taught by the example of his life – that one can do business in such a way that the neighborhood is uplifted.
Bully for the idea of a corner store, or other local businesses where they know your name, care about your kids, and your lives.
Mr. Wing had time for people – time to laugh, listen, and care. I will miss stopping each Sunday for the paper and a creme soda and the many short visits when we filled up the gas tank. But I will always treasure and try to follow the example of the way he did business. Maybe the tradition can stay alive in those of us who remember to care. May we all live so well.
I was so sad to hear of the passing of Mr. Wing. It will be some time before I’ll be able to sing.
We will miss him so, all his many friends know what a truly fine man he was.
My sons and I thought of him as family – neighbors’ kids for years have looked up to him regularly.
He gave my sons their first Texas trick or treat. He and his wife, in our hard times, saw that we could eat.
He’ll live on and on in our heart’s special place. His deeds in our community, and his friendly face.
Memories of Joe Wing, or really Wing Joe
Will always be with us, and through our hearts flow.
Copyright by Hildra Tague. Contact the author for permission to use in print or online. All except the poem was first published at People Scene (a local magazine) on May 15, 1990 in Hildra Tague’s column Celebrations of Learning.