There was something different about the American Mother of the Year for 1952. She was no daughter of wealth or from an American Pioneer family. She wasn’t even born American. The serene, small gray haired woman with the charming name of Brilliant Lotus had never gone to school at all, yet most of her eight children had finished college, one held a PhD. degree. Toy Len Goon couldn’t quite trust her English unless one of her children was around to interpret, but she received with quiet dignity the tributes of Mrs. Harry Truman, Ambassador Wellington Kool and Representative Judd of Maine as well as the receptions conducted in her honor by Chinese Americans in New York, Washington and Boston.
When Toy Len Chin was 19, Dogan Goon came from Portland, Maine to Canton, China, her home city, to find a wife. Toy Len and Dogan started for America and the laundry he established in Portland very soon after the wedding.
Portland had few Chinese families, but the Goons found a welcome among the sturdy New Englanders of the Maine city. They joined the First Baptist Church and there all the children participated in the activities. The Goons purchased war bonds and gave to civic causes even when money was scarce. They believed in America.
As each child grew old enough he was given small tasks in the laundry. Toy Len was careful to see that the children had time for sports and outdoor exercise, but study and work were done before play. She saw to it that they participated in civic activities and herself took over their share of work in the laundry in order to release them. None of the children ever gave her any serious concern – perhaps they were too busy to get in trouble. One son was elected Vice President of his high school class while another was President.
As a result of his voluntary service in World War I, Dogan was an amputee and Toy Len shouldered a great share of the work. Dogan died in 1940, leaving Toy Len with eight children to raise, the youngest only three. Though she knew very little English, she took over the business and made it successful. She made sure that the children would not have to give up their plans for schooling. As soon as she was able, she purchased machinery which cut down the work time by a third. Eventually, she purchased a three-story building which housed the laundry.
This meant constant work and no luxuries. Toy Len made her own and her daughter’s clothes. In the 12 years since her husband’s death, she had taken off only one week until her trip to receive the honor of American Mother of the Year, and had never visited New York or Washington.
According to her son, Richard, his mother’s favorite expression is, “I’m glad.” Perhaps this cheerful, persistent spirit is what has carried her through so many difficulties. She gives credit to family solidarity, quoting a Chinese proverb: “If there is harmony in the family there is food in the larder and peace in the country.” That gives us all something to think about.
Excerpts taken from Mothers of Men, by Lillian D. Polling