Francis Wei 1927-2018

On December 2, 2018, my father Francis passed away at the age of 91. He will be greatly missed. Below are a few thoughts that I shared at his memorial.

My father was born in 1927, in Shanghai China. He was an immigrant. He was fortunate to come to America to study at DePaul University with his brother Ignatius in 1948. Shortly after their arrival, the fall of communism cut off communication with their parents in Shanghai and prevented travel for decades. Sadly, after my father left China, he was never able to see his father again before his father’s passing.

Being married for 58 years sets another high bar for our whole family.

My father was a follower of Christ his entire life and instilled these values in his family, and this continues with my siblings and our children. Growing up, we attended church as a family, and it was central to much of our upbringing. I remember his unconditional love for everyone. He made it a point to ask everyone their name no matter who they were; wait-staff, servers, helpers.

I respected my father first as a painter and second as an engineer.

As a child, when I could barely see over the edge of his studio table I would watch him sketch and paint. When grandchildren arrived at his studio table-side, they did the same thing and he taught each one of them.

I gained greater admiration of his craft, his constant reading and note-taking; studying other painters and styles and old philosophies. Relentless and never waning, he painted to paint—

In the early 70s, his passion for nature as his muse emboldened him to travel from Chicago to Wyoming by bus, touring the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, and all of God’s nature. For over a week, he sketched and painted. This led him to create new works. Years later, our family retraced his adventure as we drove across the country for that shared experience. I remember our family making sandwiches on the trunk of the car on a tight budget—ah, Devil’s Food and liverwurst.

We children were blessed to grow up in a home that encouraged the arts. We were members of the Chicago Art Institute and later Los Angeles County Museum of Art. We went to exhibits and museums across the country. We traveled with my father to regional or out of state art fairs—a regular “Partridge Family”—helping to set up and pack up. It was just part of our family life.

Several times, he was the visiting artist at the Yosemite Valley Art Center. One summer, I met up with him in the national park for a few days, sharing meals, stories and sketching walks. We are finding many sketch books of this and other travels.

He influenced and taught so many people about Chinese watercolors. At those session he educated others on the culture and tradition that he wished to continue far beyond his time.

He was a master of Chinese Classical Painting that we are happy to share with you in a slide show (below).

One secret to his longevity was having grandchildren, and he really took that title of “Grandfather” seriously. My father and mother did not have grandparents. He loved all 8 grandchildren and it was mutual. His face would light up in their presence. I know each child has their own treasured memories of how their grandfather connected with them individually.

In my heart and mind, I visualize a humble, smiling man, pain-free and full of verve, sketching and hiking to the foot of a waterfall or mountainous path, guiding his beloved mother, father and brother beside him.