James M. Wong was the second of eight children born December 25th, 1947 in Nanjing, China. In 1953, the family migrated to Hong Kong after the Communist Party took over China. When he was fourteen, the Wongs boarded a steamship bound for San Francisco. They then left for New York, surviving the 3-day train ride on bread and water. In 1964, James’s father was offered a job at the famous Polynesian restaurant Trader Vic’s in Saint Louis, so Jim also worked at Trader Vic’s as a bus boy and server. There he met a young cocktail waitress whom he would later marry in 1967. He was blessed with a son named Christopher.
James attended Washington University and upon graduation, he worked at his uncle’s long-standing restaurant, then opened his own restaurant called Wong’s Palace. One day a friend who frequented the restaurant told him he would make a great FBI agent. Thus, Jim attended the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, in the early 70s, graduating just in time to return to Saint Louis for the birth of his daughter Tracy the very next day. He became the 13th ever Chinese FBI agent in the history of the United States. For the next two decades, he moved his family frequently due to new assignments. He was the highest ranking Chinese-American Special Agent in the FBI during the late 1990’s. After tirelessly protecting the U.S. from high-profile criminals and counter-terrorism for over 25 years in the Bureau, James retired honorably in 1999 and continued to enjoy gathering with and keeping in touch with his faithful fellow retired agent friends and family.
In spite of the demands of his intense career, Jim made time for various interests. He could play rousing tunes on the harmonica by ear, he constantly tried to out-pun his daughter, and he was incredibly talented in woodwork. He loved buying, fixing up, and selling used cars. Weekends gave way to attending exciting auto shows and watching triple-feature Kungfu movies with his family while also enjoying dim sum in whatever city he happened to be living in. James was also very much into physical fitness while continuing to cook nutritious and delicious dishes. He visited, as well as generously hosted many beloved family members and friends over the years, often throwing decorated dinners all for the purpose of treating loved ones to a lavish dining experience they would never forget.
Jim divorced his first wife, and then he re-married in 2002 having many adventures with his second wife, Marilyn Burke. In 2016, she divorced Jim. Eventually, Jim found the love of his life, and together, Janis and Jim settled into a fulfilling journey of touring the world on fabulous cruise ships, making many memories and new friends while continuing to visit family and old friends. Jim relished both giving and receiving words of affirmation, particularly doting on every single grandchild’s many accomplishments.
James is survived by his loving wife, Janis Frantzen, son Christopher Wong, daughter Tracy Lee, grandchildren Jonathan Wong, Phoebe Lee, Apollos Lee, and Emmanuel Lee, beloved siblings: brothers David Wong, Steve Wong, Titus Wong, Peter Wong, and Edward Wong, sister Julie Toy, and the Wong family’s respective spouses, their children, and their children’s children.
James M. Wong passed away during a global cruise due to rapidly declining health at a port hospital in Angola, Africa, on March 28th, 2023; his casket was returned to the United States on April 14th, he was cremated by Integrity Funeral Care in Houston on April 24th, 2023, and his ashes were scattered in the ocean thirteen nautical miles off Galveston, Texas on May 11th, 2023. He will forever remain in our hearts.