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  • Writer's pictureBeltsville News

Obituary: Chen, Ming Yee

Ming Yee Chen

February 24, 1935 – May 17, 2021

Ming Yee Chen
Ming Yee Chen

Ming Yee Chen, beloved teacher and long-time resident of Beltsville, Maryland passed away peacefully in her home on May 17, 2021 at age 86. Mrs. Chen, as her former students still fondly called her, touched the hearts and minds of generations of community members as a second and third grade teacher in Beltsville for 24 years. It was not uncommon for her to have taught the sons and daughters of her former students.

Ming Yee Wang was born in Shanghai, China in 1935 and experienced a childhood directly affected by this difficult and turbulent period of Chinese history. Her father, a senator in the Nationalist government headed by Chiang Kai-Shek, moved the family to south China to avoid the Japanese occupation during World War II. In 1949, the family moved to Hong Kong just before China fell to the Communists. It was in Hong Kong that Ming Yee Wang learned English while attending New Asia College (1951-1955). She came to the United States in 1956 to attend Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. Upon graduation, she taught four years at the elementary and middle school levels in the state of Washington. During this time, she met and married John Hou-Shi Chen and had her first daughter, Teresa.

A few years later, the Chen family moved to the East Coast and settled in Beltsville. She began her teaching career in Prince George’s County as a second grade teacher at Holly Park Elementary in 1966 and had her second child, Terra, in 1967. In 1968 she began teaching second grade at Chestnut Hills Elementary and continued to teach as Chestnut Hills Elementary became Beltsville Elementary in 1981 and then Beltsville Academic Center in 1987. When Mrs. Chen retired in 1992, more than 300 people in the Beltsville community came to honor her. Her reputation was legendary. Certificates honoring Mrs. Chen’s teaching career were presented by various local and state government officials. Numerous tributes were given by families whose children had had the good fortune and privilege of having Mrs. Chen as their teacher. She always emphasized positivity and instilled a joy and love of learning in all her students. By integrating her Chinese heritage, customs, and language into the school curriculum, her students also received a rich, cultural education and appreciation of the world that went further than any textbook. An extraordinarily generous teacher, her commitment, enthusiasm, and dedication reached far beyond the walls of her classroom.

After Ming Yee and John retired, they took up ballroom dancing and discovered polka dancing, a European, predominantly Polish and German traditional dance. Without children or work, they developed a passion for polka dancing and related social activities. They became regulars at Blobs Park in Jessup, Maryland, often dancing every Friday, Saturday and Sunday to a live polka band. They also travelled extensively throughout USA to various polka festivals. Due to John’s dancing skills and Ming Yee’s friendly and social nature, they became well-known in the polka dancing circuit and were often photographed for the monthly polka newspapers.

Ming Yee Chen radiated positive energy to everyone around her, she loved to laugh, and she had a gift for encouraging and making others happy. We remember her small presents and notes decorated with her trademark smiley face to cheer us up and her beautiful singing, especially on our birthdays. She will be deeply missed by her family, friends, and former students but will live on through the many people she taught and inspired and the memories of those who loved her. She is survived by her children: Teresa (husband Andreas Bertsch) and Terra (husband Marc McClintock); her grandchildren, Kira, Leo, Klea, and Kiana; her sister Grace (husband I-Chung Chien); her brothers Tsien-Wu Wang (wife Mei) and Philip Wang (wife Phyllis); her nieces Shirley, Jeannie, and Ruth; and her nephews Stanley, Stephen, and Samuel. She is preceded in death by her husband of nearly 50 years, John Hou-Shi Chen.

Ming Yee Chen was a long-time member of the Abiding Presence Lutheran Church in Beltsville, Maryland and sang regularly in the choir. Her faith was always an important part of her life. Her children thank all of those who knew and loved her.

A Celebration of Life service will be held online via Abiding Presence Lutheran Church in Beltsville, Maryland on Saturday, July 10, 2021 at 11:00 am.

Email for details. A memorial website is available at:

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The Ming Yee Chen Endowed Scholarship Fund for Future Teachers at Pacific Lutheran University (

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