Mom of three who loved to cook was killed in an attack in Monterey Park
Xiujuan Yu had never been to the Star Dance Studio in Monterey Park before Saturday night, but she accepted an invitation from two friends to celebrate the Lunar New Year there.
Yu, 57, immigrated from China’s Guangdong province in the 2010s to start a new life with her family in the United States. She and her husband settled in Temple City but spent much of their time in nearby Monterey Park.
“A lot of immigrants from China go to this area because there is a central hub here and a community has already been built here,” Yu’s niece, Kathleen Fong, 22, told the Times in an interview. “There is a strong sense of togetherness here.”
Known as America’s first suburban Chinatown, Monterey Park became a “safe haven” for the family, Fong said.
That changed on Saturday night.
Yu attended the Lunar New Year event at the dance hall with two of her friends and, according to Fong, had arrived just before filming began. One of Yu’s friends went to the bathroom. When she returned, the friend found that Yu and Lilan Li, 63, had been shot dead. Yu was lying on the floor and Li was slumped in a chair.
The portrait of Xiujuan Yu is part of a street memorial to the victims of Saturday’s mass shooting in Monterey Park.
(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)
Fong said Yu’s husband read about the shooting online and started calling Yu frantically, but she didn’t answer. He contacted Fong’s parents to ask for their help in finding her. The three went to different hospitals in search of Yu. Eventually they ended up at the Langley Center, which the city was converting into a crisis response center, looking for information about their loved ones.
The family found out on Monday that Yu had died in the studio and never made it to the hospital.
“I don’t know if she even spent an hour there, maybe less than an hour,” Fong said. “It’s really a feeling of wrong place, wrong time. Sometimes it still doesn’t feel real.”
They have since created a GoFundMe page to raise money for Yu’s funeral expenses.
According to Fong, Yu and her husband left their lives in China and started labor-intensive odd jobs to try to support their family. Yu had worked as a nanny for several families and her husband worked for a window manufacturer. You have also worked in the catering industry in the past.
“They were able to help their twin daughters go to college, which in and of itself is an amazing achievement,” Fong said, adding that Yu’s twin daughters are around 19 years old and are Cal State Long Beach and Cal State Los Angeles to visit. Yu’s son, the eldest, is in his thirties.
Yu also loved to cook, and some of her favorite recipes include duck with soy sauce, chicken with soy sauce, and sticky rice. Yu often brought food to her relatives without being asked. Because Yu knew that her father liked to read the newspaper and that he sometimes had trouble walking, she made every effort to buy him the newspaper and hand it in so that he didn’t have to leave the house.
“She was really diligent and diligent,” Fong said. “She was the type to put others before herself.”
Yu was the eldest of three sisters and Fong’s mother, the youngest, is dealing with the death of her sister. Fong said she had seen her mother cry more in the past few days than she had in her entire life. When pictures of the shooting first circulated online, Fong’s mother recognized a handbag in one picture and confirmed with Yu’s daughters that it was hers. They realized that the woman lying on the ground was their lover.
“She broke down and cried in ways I thought was indescribable,” Fong said. “I just felt the sheer sadness on the other end. It’s hard to hear your mom going through this.”
Fong said she last saw her aunt at a New Year’s Eve dinner a few weeks ago, and had she known it would be the last time she would see her aunt alive, she would have spoken more to Yu.
“I can’t imagine how far reaching it is for my family, at least on my mother’s side, that the family’s first child is gone,” she said. “The first child is always quite important. That was when my grandparents became parents for the first time.”