April 2014

Helen Fong Woo

Uzuri Greene

July 21, 1922 — January 19, 2014
On January 19, 2014 Potrero Hill lost one of the finest ladies who lived and worked in the community. Helen Fong Woo—known as “Mama” or “Mom”—was born July 21, 1922. She was married to Jack Woo, who passed away some eleven years ago. 

Mama was a neighborhood icon. She and Jack opened a small grocery store on the corner of 23rd and Wisconsin streets in 1960, some 53 years ago. Mama continued to work at the market long after Jack passed away. Over the past several years, after she could no long staff the counter, friends, neighbors, and shoppers would still see her on her perch on a chair on the store’s right-hand side. 

Visitors were pleased to see her warm smile. Mama always had a kind word for everyone, unless you decided to act up, in which case she’d give you a stern scowl, shake her finger, and give you a few reprimanding words that would make you feel ashamed of how you were acting. Her presence made the store feel lively. When she wasn’t in her chair it meant that she was upstairs cooking, something she loved doing. 

Now she’s sitting in her chair next to her husband and God, looking down on all of us, smiling. Jack is glad to have her with him once again, and has probably asked her, “What took you so long,” like her daughter stated. She was loved by all who met her and will be missed all as well. Goodbye, Mama, we will see you again one day.

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