Bernarda 'Bernie' Wong, Chinese community leader in Chicago, passes away

Bernarda "Bernie" Wong, who worked tirelessly for decades on behalf of Chicago's Chinese American community, passed away Monday night at the age of 77.

Wong co-founded the Chinese American Service League, in 1978. It started as a tiny storefront serving the needy and grew into the largest social service agency for Asian Americans in the Midwest. Bernie devoted her life to service. 

The agency fills the needs of families from birth through the elderly. CASL has pre-school and after school programs, assists immigrants who are trying to become citizens, provides housing, activities and meals for seniors, in addition to teaching English to new immigrants.

Paul Luu, current President of CASL, said, "Bernie was like a second mom to all of us and although she was fighting cancer, she was sick, she still had the power and energy to ask, ‘How is CASL? Are we serving the community? What are we doing new, what are we doing to serve our families?’ That spirit of Bernie will always forever live in CASL’s mission."

Wong grew up in Hong Kong and came to the United States to attend college.


She has been honored by President Barack Obama and just last week, was given the Chicago Mayor's Legacy Award during Women's History Month.

In a statement released Tuesday, Illinois Lieutenant Gov. Juliana Stratton called Wong "a trailblazer, a force of nature, a woman I so admired."

"Through the Chinese American Service League, Bernie worked to uplift Chinese American communities across Illinois and because of her leadership, CASL is the largest social service agency serving Asian Americans in the Midwest," Stratton said. "Now, in her honor, the work of justice and equity must continue to ensure that all people and communities have their needs met and are cared for just as Bernie worked for throughout her life."