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O'Hara woman says education, humility keys to success

Name: SingLing Tsai

Age: 45

Family: Husband, Shih-Fan Kuan; sons, Jeffrey and Kevin

Hometown: O'Hara

Education: Masters in computer science and nursing

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By Sharon Drake
Wednesday, July 10, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Learning from two cultures, Taiwan native SingLing Tsai uses her past to build a better future — for her family and others.

SingLing fulfilled her parents' wishes with some detective work, which reunited a Marine veteran with his class ring.

Her parents were jewelers in Tainam, Taiwan. Around 1968, a GI pawned his high school ring in Japan. Somehow it ended up in another country, another town.

The small store sold jewelry and the family business kept pawned items, therefore this class ring was kept in Sing's family.

When SingLing's parents died in 2007, their youngest daughter, now an O'Hara resident, started searching for the ring.

With the help of her Cornwall Drive neighbor, Jean Pascarella, SingLing tracked the ring to a Texas school with the help of an alumnae representative named Hilda.

Eventually, four decades after he pawned it, Daniel Gomez, a Vietnam vet, got his ring back in time for Memorial Day.

“It's kind of fate,” SingLing said about completing her parents' wish.

Sing came to the United States in 1982.

The petite woman worked as a nurse, met her husband, and moved around this country. She has lived in Chicago, St. Louis and Connecticut, moving as her husband progressed through his career as a physician.

As busy as the O'Hara resident is, she looks to the past and to the future in the United States.

“America produces ideas. I have hope for the future,” SingLing said.

Yet, she relies on her Chinese culture and what her parents taught her.

According to SingLing, the most important thing is education.

SingLing had a deep interest in psychology and her father told her to turn it into a lifetime hobby.

“Never give something up. It can become your lifetime (interest).”

SingLing emphasizes the importance of effort, too. It is one of the precepts she emphasized with her two sons, Jeffrey and Kevin.

Whether their grades were A's or C's, her important question was whether they were working at full throttle.

She made sure her sons had a chance to grow and learned how to deal with success and failure.

Her oldest son won a major math contest while at Fox Chapel. However, she made sure he entered a Chinese-speaking contest, where he wasn't as comfortable.

“Under my roof there is no smarter or smartest. It is important to be humble,” she said.

Once her son, Jeffrey, came home from college and told his mother about a discussion among the students about how they were spoiled.

He told his mother he was spoiled with freedom.

SingLing replied, “You earned it. If you are not responsible, I'll take it back.”

She reshapes an educational adage saying it doesn't take just a village to raise a child; it takes three villages — the school, the home and the community — all working together.

She feels one of the most important ideas her parents taught her was to be an individual. She empathizes with others, especially with mothers as they work with their children.

“It's not only academic; it's life education. Every religion and every culture says to treat everyone how you want to be treated. It's up to you to see the good in human beings.”

Sharon Drake is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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