Hwei-Hsien (HH) Cheng, devoted and loving husband to Jo, passed away after a brief illness in St Paul, MN on January 24, 2021 at the age of 88, with Jo at his side. He is preceded in death by his parents Chi-Pao and Anna, and a brother George. In addition to his sons Edwin and Tony and their respective families, he is survived by his brothers Francois Cheng (Paris, France) and David Cheng (Cupertino, CA) and their families.
HH lived an epic, full life. He was born in Shanghai, China, and spent his formative years during World War II in Chongqing, Sichuan Province. He left China with his family in 1949, attended high school in Oxford, England, graduated from Berea College, KY in 1956 and received his PhD in Agronomy at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana in 1962.
It was in Urbana where he met and married the great love of his life Jo, a classical voice soprano and choir director. Together they spent a year in Ghent, Belgium on a Fulbright scholarship, moved to Ames IA for a post-doctoral fellowship and eventually settled in Pullman WA, where HH began his academic career as a professor of soil science at Washington State University. While in Pullman, he and Jo raised their sons Edwin and Tony, and on Sundays HH sang bass in the choir at Simpson Methodist Church where Jo was the music director.
After 25 years in Pullman, HH moved to St Paul MN to become professor and head of the Department of Soil, Water and Climate at the University of Minnesota. In St. Paul, Jo and HH were welcomed by numerous new friends in the the Twin Cities. Their activities included participating in a local Chinese choir where HH sang bass and Jo was director.
HHâs research interests, academic experience and consulting expertise took him and his family all over the world during a 40+ year career, culminating with being awarded an honorary degree from the University of Minnesota in 2004.
In his post-retirement years HH and Jo continued to travel the world, and he took special enjoyment in hosting family and friends for winter vacations in California and Florida. He and Jo also spent time in Colorado with Tony and his wife Christine, and in the Bay Area visiting Edwin and Ai and he could be seen documenting the growth and development of each of his four grandchildren Jasmine (15), Leo (14), Miya (13), and Emma (11) with an ever present video camera.
His final three years were contentedly spent at Gable Pines in Vadnais Heights where he made more new friends, and, again, sang bass in the residentâs choir directed by Jo. His cherished morning routine was a hearty breakfast, reading the paper by the fireplace and taking inside and outside walks around the building.
In addition to his professional accomplishments, HH will be remembered most fondly by his family and friends for his ready smile and easy going personality, his hobby of photographing his meals, and finally, for his unwavering devotion to and love of singing for his wife of 59 years, Jo.
To view the video from HH's graveside service follow the link below: