Obituary: Dr. Wen Yue felt, fought discrimination

  • Article by: MAURA LERNER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 27, 2011 - 8:21 PM

The physician, who moved here from China, went public in 1954 when neighbors in Plymouth tried to keep his family out.

Dr. Wen Yue was the kind of man who rarely showed anger. So his grown children can only imagine what it was like when Yue, as a young physician, was told that he couldn't buy a home in Plymouth because the neighbors objected to a Chinese family.

"My dad's nature was always kind of to shrug his shoulders," said Dr. Jeff Yue, his son. But not this time.

In November 1954, Yue threatened to sue the homeowner. He told a reporter for the Minneapolis Star: "We have finally decided to fight this thing as a matter of principle."

Yue won the battle -- and then the hearts and minds of most of the neighbors, who remained close friends for more than half a century. "He made so many friends while he was there," Jeff Yue said of his father, who died Oct. 19 at age 92.

The elder Yue, who was raised in Putian, China, came to Minnesota in 1948 to work as a physician at the old Glen Lake Sanitarium, a tuberculosis clinic in St. Louis Park. China was in turmoil at the time, and the young physician thought he would return when "everything calmed down," said his daughter, Rosina Yue. But when the Communists took over, "there really was no turning back." He and his fiancée, Nadine, a teacher who also was from China, married and set out to claim their share of the American dream.

"Minneapolis is now a very international city, but I don't think it always was," said Rosina, who was a toddler when her parents made a $500 down payment on the yellow brick house in Plymouth.

The day after they signed the purchase agreement, the seller tried to back out. He told the real estate agent that neighbors "had been pounding on his door until late at night, objecting to his sale of the house to a Chinese family."

Yue got a lawyer, and the dispute made front-page news. The seller relented, and the family was embraced by every neighbor but one, Rosina Yue recalled.

Her father went on to specialize in anesthesiology, eventually moved the family to a house on Lake Minnetonka and spent nearly two decades working at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center.

"He had such a strong idea of his identity in America as a Chinese man that he was going to be successful no matter what anybody said," his daughter said.

Late in his career, Yue set up a small acupuncture practice at his home in Deephaven. His son Jeff, who also became an anesthesiologist, said his father saw acupuncture as a sideline to his medical career.

"I remember asking him, 'Do you think it works?' He just shrugged his shoulders. He said, 'For some people it does, for some people it doesn't.' "

Yue also was an avid hunter and fisherman, and passed along his love of the outdoors to his children. As a tribute, Jeff and two brothers went to one of their father's favorite hunting spots in Canada this week and left some mementos: his false teeth and his shoes.

In addition to his daughter and son Jeff, Yue is survived by his sister, Dr. H.S. Chen; sons Franklin, Timothy and Andrew, and eight grandchildren. His wife, Nadine, died in 2003.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at Oak Knoll Lutheran Church in Minnetonka, followed by a private burial at Lakewood Cemetery.

Maura Lerner • 612-673-7384

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