June 3, 1934 – December 19, 2014
On December 19, 2014, Pi-yu “Beatrice” Cheng passed peacefully in her Goleta home, surrounded by family. She was 80. She was a generous, devoted, diligent, and caring wife, mother, grandmother, sister, teacher, colleague, and friend.
The oldest sister of eight siblings, Bea was born in Nanjing, China in the chaos of the Japanese War. As a young girl she was invited by Christian missionaries Grace and Rev. George Snyder to their prestigious Eastview School in Hunan, a several day trip by boat and foot. She learned English from Grace, and a lifelong love of learning and passion for women’s rights emerged. Following World War II, the family fled the Communist regime to Taiwan. There Bea attended Taiwan Provincial First Girl High School and National Taiwan University, where she earned a B.S. with highest honors in Agricultural Chemistry.
Bea was awarded a fellowship to the U.S. for graduate school and left her family in pursuit of further education. She worked on food preservation methods at Florida State University in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition, and then transferred to the Biochemistry Department of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where she met Franklin Yih Cheng. On September 15, 1962, the couple was married by Rev. Snyder in a double ceremony, along with her older brother, Sidney, and Elaine Pardue, at the First United Church of Christ. After earning her M.S. and a stint in a biochemistry lab at Northwestern University, she was accepted to several Ph.D. programs, and at the encouragement of Sidney, the couple moved to the University of Wisconsin, where she conducted some of the early work on DNA and control of gene expression. She balanced motherhood with long hours in the research lab, and still managed to send what little extra money she had to help support her siblings.
After she received her Ph.D., the couple settled in Rolla, Missouri, where Franklin had taken a professorship. Bea was a proud and hardworking mother to her two children, playing a huge role in their personal, emotional, and academic growth. Although she was offered a position at the National Institutes of Health, and later did a postdoctoral fellowship at St. Louis University, she ultimately chose her family over career. She taught anatomy at Rolla High School, and managed the pathology and clinical laboratory at Fort Leonard Wood and the chemistry laboratory at the University of Missouri-Rolla.
An avid reader of biotechnology and financial news, she also took joy in a few of her childhood pastimes including sewing, crocheting, and also inventing puzzles and whimsical games. Above all she delighted in time with family. At birthdays and holidays, she was known for devising elaborate schemes to surprise her loved ones.
In 2001, Bea began her journey with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She fought courageously through multiple treatment regimens during the past six years. Through her illness, she continued to support her children in Santa Barbara and Toronto, providing strength and emotional support for her four grandchildren.
Bea was a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Rolla. She is survived by her husband, Franklin; brothers, Sidney, Hsu-kwang, Hsu-ming, Hsu-cheng; sisters Louise, Margaret, Mei-yu; son, George (Annie Pham-Cheng); daughter, Deborah (Craig Simmons); and grandchildren, Alex and Camille, and Natalie and Owen.
Special thanks to Dr. Daniel Greenwald, nurses, and staff at the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara; and staff at Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care. Funeral services and a celebration of life will be held at Santa Barbara Cemetery Chapel on January 2, 2015, at 2:00 pm. Online condolences may be offered at http://www.mcdermottcrockett.com/obituaries/Pi-Yu-Cheng-2/
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara with Sansum Clinic (Clinical Research Program) or the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Arrangements entrusted to McDermott-Crockett Mortuary.