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Tuck W. Ng

March 31, 2012|By JANET HEIM | janeth@herald-mail.com
  • Tuck and Marge Ng pose for this picture taken in 1996.
Submitted photo

HALFWAY, Md. — It was education that brought Tuck Ng to the United States in the first place, then later to settle here with his wife, Marge, and young son, Michael.

The seventh of eight children, Tuck was born and raised on the outskirts of Ipoh, Malaysia, a city of about 250,000, Marge said. The family was of Chinese descent, where the culture valued sons more than daughters.

Tuck’s father became a Christian at age 18, and that conversion led him to see all of his children as gifts from God.

Although Tuck was the youngest of four sons and the seventh in birth order, he traditionally would have been referred to as the fourth uncle. But because his father valued his daughters as much as his sons, he referred to them in birth order, so Tuck was considered the seventh uncle, Marge said.

She said Tuck shared many of his father’s personality traits, including his kind and gentle ways. Tuck’s father was a master carpenter and worked in the business of tin mines, rubber plants and a furniture factory.

Tuck lived through World War II and the Japanese invasion of Malaysia, including the bombing of Ipoh. Longtime friend Charles Payne of Williamsport said he loved hearing Tuck’s stories about his hometown and growing up during the war years.

“He was just a good man to be around,” Charles said. “He was a prince of a fellow.”

Charles said Tuck had to work for the Japanese as a young man and one of his jobs was making bamboo toothpicks for the soldiers.

Marge grew up “dirt poor” on a farm in Garrett County, the daughter of a coal miner/farmer. She went to Alderson-Broaddus College in Philippi, W.Va., because it was one of the few colleges that offered a bachelor’s degree in nursing at the time.

After her college graduation in 1958, she worked in various places, then was accepted by the Methodist Board of Missions to serve as a missionary. After a year of training, Marge was sent to Sarawac in Borneo.

Tuck had done missionary work with the indigenous people there for six years starting in 1951. He returned home before Marge’s arrival, but it was during his time there that he decided he wanted to be a teacher, instead of a minister as other people were pushing him to do.

Tuck came to the United States in 1956. He earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial arts from Berea (Ky.) College, where he lettered in soccer all four years.

Then came a master’s degree in industrial arts education from Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. The U.S. government allowed Tuck to stay for two additional years to gain teaching experience, so he taught for a year in El Paso, Texas, and Louisville, Ky., before returning to Malaysia.

He worked as a principal of a school in Kapit, a town in Sarawac, where Marge was assigned as a missionary. They were introduced by a mutual friend and while Marge thought Tuck was a good-looking man, she was tired from the heat and had little interest in “letting a man interfere with my life.”

Three months later, they were engaged.

“I got to know him. I think we both knew pretty early on,” Marge said. “I liked his gentleness and though I wouldn’t have put that word on it then, his humility. He was a very unassuming person and very kind.”

The couple got married in Tuck’s home church in Malaysia in December 1965 and he continued working at Kapit, then was transferred to a school down river.

Marge said their parents supported their marriage.

“He loved my folks and they loved him,” she said.

By the time they made the move down river, Marge was pregnant and son Mike was born in 1967.

The couple returned to the United States for the education system in January 1969 and Tuck got a job teaching industrial arts with Washington County Public Schools. The superintendent placed him at Cascade Middle School because so many of the students were from military families who traveled internationally and he wanted a “foreign educator,” Marge said.

The Ngs have lived in the same home in Halfway since about 1970. Tuck became a U.S. citizen in 1972 and couldn’t have been prouder, always valuing the right to vote.

“I tell people, in our family, Tuck is the American and I’m the Chinese,” Marge said.

When the school in Cascade closed, Tuck went to Williamsport Middle School and worked there until his retirement in 1989. His son, Mike, was one of his students.

“According to Dad, he was tougher on me,” Mike said, although Mike didn’t agree.

Over the years, Tuck volunteered at Homewood of Williamsport, doing shop-related activities with the nursing home residents, Marge said.

Marge, who got a master’s degree in geriatrics and was a nursing professor at Hagerstown Community College for 25 years, said she was invited to Homewood to speak at a World Day of Prayer event and was introduced as “the wife of our Mr. Tuck.”

“That’s just the way he was loved wherever he went,” Marge said.

Tuck also was known for his voice.

“Every place he ever went from the time he was a youngster, he sang,” Marge said. “He had what one of our pastors called a ‘lyrical tenor voice’, so rich and beautiful.”

Tuck sang in the church choirs where he attended church, as well as with Hagerstown Choral Arts.

Education was important to Tuck and following the Chinese tradition of helping family, the Ngs have taken in several nieces and nephews so they could pursue higher education. A great-niece is living with Marge and Mike now, while she takes classes at HCC to become a radiation technologist.

Tuck also volunteered with the Literacy Council of Washington County.

The couple enjoyed travel. Tuck returned to Malaysia when he could, and Marge and Mike went with him when Mike was 8. They also visited one of Tuck’s brothers, who had settled in Australia, and traveled to California.

The mountains of West Virginia also were a favorite vacation spot.

Tuck was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1991, but after radiation treatments in 1992, he was cancer free. He had back surgery twice because of collapsed vertebra and Marge said he was able to do just about anything after the second surgery in 1998.

Then came an Alzheimer’s diagnosis in about 2000. The disease progressed slowly and he was able to live at home until August 2011. Marge said his Alzheimer’s was different than most in that he never forgot people’s names and faces.

Marge said although she and Tuck were opposites in many ways — she was loud, he was quiet; she was the organizer and he considered himself a follower — that’s part of what made their marriage work.

“I don’t know that there’s ever been a marriage that was better than that. We took care of each other. We complemented each other,” Marge said of their more than four decades of marriage.

She said part of his remains will be sent back to Malaysia for burial near other family members.

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Editor’s note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs “A Life Remembered.” Each story in this continuing series takes a look back — through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others — at a member of the community who died recently. Today’s “A Life Remembered” is about Tuck W. Ng, who died March 17 at the age of 88. His obituary was published in the March 20 edition of The Herald-Mail.

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