Ted Leung, a retired grocer who stayed young at heart delivering meals to seniors for more than 30 years, died Feb. 11 of congestive heart failure, his family said. He was 95.
Mr. Leung endured a life of hard work with boundless energy, can-do enthusiasm and a commitment to serving others. As a teenager he worked on his family’s Placer County farm during the Great Depression. By the time he graduated from Placer Union High School in 1940, he was working in a local grocery store as the breadwinner after a tractor accident left his father blind and disabled.
In 1948 he opened a small store, Ted’s Market, at 65th Street and Folsom Boulevard in east Sacramento. He sold the business in the mid-1960s and went to work for Giant Foods until the 1970s.
In 1976, Mr. Leung embarked on second career as a part-time worker for Meals on Wheels, a senior nutrition program. Twice a day, he delivered hot lunches and dinners to clients in the midtown, Del Paso Heights and South Land Park neighborhoods until he was 88 – older than many of the frail, homebound residents he served.
“He was warm and friendly, and he always had a big smile,” Meals on Wheels dietitian Amanda Diaz said. “He did extra things for clients, like open mail or change a light bulb. His clients really loved their driver.”
Mr. Leung pushed himself hard, hustling past elevators at Pioneer Towers downtown to carry bags of packaged meals up several flights of stairs. Wearing a pedometer, he logged about 4 miles a day on two daily delivery runs – one in the morning, one in the afternoon.
He used a cane when a bout of peripheral neuropathy – linked to poor nutrition from his childhood in China – temporarily slowed his step. He switched to a different delivery area after a mugger robbed him in 2006.
“He had a very strong work ethic,” Diaz said. “He knew that if he didn’t show up, his clients wouldn’t eat.”
Theodore M. Leung was born Feb. 6, 1919, in Canton, China, where his father – who was born in Newcastle – traveled to the family village to marry. The family immigrated to the United States in 1932, settled in Auburn and struggled to grow plums and peaches in hard times.
“It was the Depression,” Mr. Leung told The Bee in 2001. “Lucky we didn’t starve. We had two pennies.”
He married Ruth Dong in 1948 and commuted every day from Loomis to their mom-and-pop store in Sacramento until they bought a home in the South Land Park neighborhood. He retired from Meals on Wheels in 2007 and was recognized for his service by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenneger.
“He worked all his life, and he didn’t want to stop,” said his daughter Stacey Leung-Crawford. “He wanted to keep going and help people. That was his life.”
While cherishing his Chinese roots, Mr. Leung was proud to be an American. He favored American cars – his first was a Model T – and collected news clippings about American presidents and U.S.-China relations.
An avid photographer and videographer, he recorded and cataloged hundreds of photos and videocassettes of family gatherings and his son’s softball games. He had excellent penmanship and produced exquisite Chinese calligraphy.
“He used to do all the window signs for grocery stores,” his daughter said. “He always used to say that in China it showed good character if you had good penmanship.”
Besides his wife of 66 years and Leung-Crawford, Mr. Leung is survived by another daughter, Marilyn Gee; a son, Jeffrey; a brother, Tedmond; and a granddaughter.
A private service is planned. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Chateau at River’s Edge or to Mercy Hospice.
Call The Bee’s Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Davila.