Five-year-old Jimmy Chu likes to play with his toy garbage trucks and “go to meetings” with his Daddy.
When Henry Chu was Jimmy’s age, he and his family had just immigrated from Hong Kong to San Francisco and lived across from the North Beach Playground on Mason Street. A few years later, his parents bought a Chinese restaurant and they moved to the Mission district. Young Henry recalls hanging out with his Mom a lot and watched her cook the old fashioned way using a wok.
He attended Sarah B. Cooper, Sherman, and Starr King Elementary Schools; made the Honor Roll at Everett Middle School and got accepted into Lowell High School but rejected it to attend Mission High School to be with his “bad” friends. Luckily, Henry’s Mom took him to the movies and he credits “Bruce Lee” for leading him away from the gang life and towards fashion merchandising where he was the only guy in his favorite high school class. He impressed Wilkes Bashford with his enthusiasm and salesmanship, became his first intern and was later hired as a stock boy. Growing up with little means, Henry gravitated towards Brioni and Armani (before Armani was even famous) and liked to mingle with the rich and famous at the store.
It was during this time that he met a pretty young girl named Joyce. Joyce was one year younger than Henry and attended Lowell High School. After high school, her family sent her back to attend a university in the Phillipines. Henry was smitten and joined the Air Force as a means to stay close to her. He took the entrance exam in May 1982 and a year later, entered “Boot Camp” at Lackland Air Force Base, in San Antonio, Texas at about the same time the film“Officer and a Gentleman” was breaking box office records. He passed a series of tests over a 6 week period and was asked to list his “Top 10 Choices.” He happily recalls putting $40 worth of quarters in the telephone machine to call Joyce after hitting the “jackpot.”
Former Philippine Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr., , was assassinated on Sunday, August 21, 1983. Henry arrived in the Philippines the day after. His sponsor picked him up and brought him to Joyce’s uncle’s home in a gated community where she was in dressed neatly in her Catholic college uniform. Her relatives were suspect of this strange uniformed young man who brought his red 1970 1/2 Camaro RS/SS 396 with him from California.
Henry spent four years at Clark Air Force Base and kept extending his stay, waiting patiently for Joyce to graduate and return home to the Bay Area. Once she did, Henry quickly followed and got his first job at Beronio Lumber in San Francisco and then worked as a leasing agent for Trinity Properties. After a 10 year courtship, Henry was baptized Catholic so he could marry the love of his life. The Chus started their own lighting design business HALOGENS, INC. in Millbrae, CA and developed well known clients. They began investing in real estate and investing in different companies including the NPSL Sacramento Knights Men’s Soccer Team (2006 Champs) and Liquid Nitro Energy drinks. Henry was busily working seven days a week.
His life changed dramatically on June 1, 2006 at 11:30 a.m. when a woman drove her car into the front window of his showroom in Millbrae, barely missing his wife and nephew. Over the years, he had helped others financially and emotionally but no one was there to help him and his family after the accident. Henry started to accompany Joyce to the Church of the Highlands where he met a Pastor who he knew growing up a former “Joe Boys” gang member from his days in the Mission. The Great Recession hit in 2008 and the Chu’s started to see their life crumble (as did many Californians). Henry was 42-years-old and was not fulfilled; he sought purpose in life; he wanted to be a better person.
He attended a Men’s Retreat in Feb. 2008 at Mount Herman Santa Cruz, Ca. and got re-baptized born again. Two months later, after accepting he could not have anymore kids with Joyce, she became pregnant with their miracle child, James Henry. They also have a daughter Melanie who’s 18 yrs old and is a freshman at USF. His advice to Jimmy & Melanie: Life is not easy. There will be ups and downs, respect others, be humble, and appreciate what you have.
Money no longer tempts Henry. God and family comes first. He wants to serve and give back. He wants to see everyone working together and helping each other with their talents and passing it down. He turned 50 this past Sunday and promised to buy his son a present. Happy Birthday Henry Chu and many happy returns!