Obituary: Ruth Oakyung Chung

Trailblazing music teacher, singer, beloved aunt

Ruth Oakyung Chung, daughter of the Rev. Robert Chung and Kyong Sook Chung, and sister of Elliott Chung, Paul Chung, and Larry Jhung, (all deceased), died peacefully on the evening of June 19 at age 88.

Ruth was born in Seoul, Korea on April 9, 1935. She and her family fled Korea in 1950, during the Korean war. When her family arrived in the U.S., they settled in Lexington, Kentucky.

At age 16 she earned a scholarship to attend Cincinnati Music Conservatory, graduating in 1955 with a degree in music with an emphasis in voice performance. She often sang during her father’s church services.

She earned a Master of Arts in music from Florida State University in 1957, then taught choral music at Olivet Nazarene College and Broward County Public Schools until 1963. A progressive mover and shaker, she was an early person of color in her school system.

In 1964, she moved to Claremont. She taught music in the Rowland Unified School District until 1995.

“I went from classroom to classroom to bring music to the children,” she said. “I loved teaching children.” In her main classroom was a piano, where she sang and danced with her second grade students.

With her mother, Kyong Sook Chung, in 1977 she returned to visit her beloved home in Korea.

While teaching music, she enrolled at Claremont Graduate University, where she earned her doctorate in musical arts in 1990. She also taught voice and music theory as an associate professor at Nashville College of the Nazarene. She often remarked that she very much enjoyed teaching college.

She loved singing, and sang in numerous recitals, churches, and entertained at many parties and weddings. She also enjoyed porcelain painting and making jewelry, as well as spending time with family and friends.

She is survived by her nephews, Maurice Chung and Chris Chung; and nieces, Tamara Michicich, Shirley Chung, Kelley Jhung, and Lisa Jhung; as well as her grand-nephews, Benji, Zak, Anthony, Sam, and Ben; and grand-nieces, Emily, Jordan, Chiara, Ally, and Kaleigh.

“Ruth Oakyung Chung will be dearly missed,” her family shared.


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