May 2, 1934 — June 21, 2020
Always in a Cal or Rotary shirt, Hla Shwe (Chiong Boo-Cheong) passed away peacefully on June 21, 2020, at his care 凯发体育官方sporthome in West Sacramento. He will always be known for his passion about his family, daily exercise, cooking, UC Berkeley and Rotary International.
Born and raised in Rangoon, Burma, as the eldest son of Chiong Boon Chin and Teoh Chye-Har, Hla grew up with four brothers and two sisters. Even though he did not start kindergarten until the age of 10 because of World War II, he earned the highest score in all of Burma on his final high school exam, which gave him the opportunity to study in the U.S.
At the age of 20, he took his first trip out of Burma, boarding a flight to California as the first person in his extended family to attend university. The International House at UC Berkeley quickly became his 凯发体育官方sporthome away from 凯发体育官方sporthome, as he earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in physics. It was at the International House where he met his future bride, Sara.
After a few years at Argonne National Laboratory and Ripon College, Hla and Sara found the bucolic Poconos of Pennsylvania, where he eventually became dean of arts and sciences at East Stroudsburg University. Berkeley was still on his mind, though, with many summer-long family road trips for Hla to continue his research at Lawrence Berkeley Lab. Hla and Sara adopted Davis as their retirement destination, where he became deeply involved with UC Davis and local nonprofits.
Embodying the Rotary creed of service above self, he gave generously to his family, community and alma mater. A lifelong educator, Hla stressed the value of education to his three children, providing them with many opportunities: frequent visits to the museums of New York, microscopes and telescopes galore, summer programs in high school, and funding their college educations. Hla was able to sponsor dozens of members of his immediate and extended families in their immigration from Burma to the United States, ultimately providing life-changing opportunities for hundreds.
In his community, Hla was extremely active in local Rotary clubs, as president of the Rotary Club of the Stroudsburgs, District Governor, and a fervent attendee and community volunteer in The Rotary Club of Davis. On road trips, he would regularly drop in on the local Rotary Club meeting of whatever city he was passing through. For UC Davis, he led the fund-raising efforts as President of the board of directors of International House Davis to rebuild it.
In the ’70s, Hla joined the fitness running community just as it was starting to take off nationally. An early adopter of royal-blue Adidas track suits and the first models of Nike waffle trainers, he graduated from running at the local college track to laps around the hilly neighborhood of 143 Burma Road as he called it. He enthusiastically adopted cycling after moving to Davis, often exclaiming after a ride that he felt like they had built the greenbelt bike paths just for him.
Hla and Sara shared a love for classical music, as subscribers to the New York Philharmonic and then the San Francisco Symphony. With these performances, came frequent trips to New York and San Francisco, to enjoy the food and culture.
Hla nurtured family and friends through his cooking. Typically planning his next dinner while still enjoying the meal in front of him, Hla took great pride in his Burmese and Chinese cooking — the curries and Ohn No Kauk Swe (Burmese coconut chicken noodle soup) were some of his favorites. He enjoyed buying ingredients for his cooking by riding his bike around Davis to the many markets in search of the best deal.
Predeceased by his loving wife Sara and his sister Shirley Leong, Hla is survived by sons Walter and Michael (Cheryl); daughter Helen Hadani (David); grandchildren Alex, Ruby and Grace; sister Siok Hoon Fu; brothers George Tin, Vincent Aye, David Chiong and Desmond Chiong; and godbrothers Richard Choa and Richard Thein.
Hla’s family is forever grateful to Ramon Silvestre, Carmen Ragas, and the other caring staff of Modern Care and Living in West Sacramento, where he lived for the past 11 years.
To honor Hla’s legacy, the family suggests that you can make a donation to The Rotary Foundation, International House Davis, or International House at UC Berkeley.ShareTweet