NEEDHAM — Hundreds of mourners gathered at St. Joseph Church Thursday to pay their respects to Jenny Ching, a popular Needham mother who died last Friday, just days after being diagnosed with the flu.
Ching, 51, was remembered as a devoted mother of two young boys and a constant fixture at Ray’s New Garden restaurant in Needham, where she had worked for decades.
“What kind of dedicated, tireless, loyal person works for the same establishment — New Garden — for over 30 years?” said Jim Healy, Ching’s longtime friend and lifelong resident of Needham, as he delivered a moving eulogy at the funeral before the crowded church.
Healy said Ching worked her way up from being a waitress to managing the back and front of the restaurant, and proved herself so dependable and trustworthy that she ran the place when the owner was on vacation.
“To this very day, she served the best Mai Tai in North America,” he said.
Healy said Ching will be remembered for her hospitality and generosity, as well as her dedication to her husband, Matthew L. Ching, their two young sons, David and Dennis, her parents, sister, and her extended family.
“What a fantastic mom,” Healy said. “She absolutely lived for her two boys.” Healy said in Ching’s final days, when her own health wasn’t 100 percent, she went out of her way to pick up groceries for her husband’s elderly aunt because Ching didn’t want her venturing out in the cold weather.
Ching went to the hospital with cold symptoms last week and was diagnosed with the flu; she then came down with pneumonia and developed an infection, according to a GoFundMe page created by a close family friend.
“Jenny was a beautiful woman with a huge heart,” the GoFundMe page states. “She would do anything for anyone. If she wasn’t greeting you with a big smile at the New Garden restaurant where she worked, she was stopping you on the street to find out how you’re doing. She was a wonderful mom and will be truly missed by everyone who knew her.”
At the funeral Mass, the Rev. Peter Stamm described Ching as a hard worker who was both “very humble” and “very dedicated.”
She “always had a smile and a kind word and cared about everyone who came into her life,” Stamm said.
She “gave 30 years of her life to New Garden restaurant, which is such a part of our town. “I’m sure all of you who passed through those doors so many times . . . every time you did, there she was,” Stamm said. “Jenny was so faithful, so friendly.”
“She was one of the most important parts of this community,” Stamm said. “Her loss is felt by so many people.”
Healy said Ching was also a wonderful cook and great hostess, and most of all, she was a “good soul” with a “caring heart.”
“Once you met Jenny, you gained a loving, caring friend for life,” Healy said. Healy recalled how Ching immigrated to the United States from China as a teenager and forged a path in a new country on her own.
“Imagine this. What kind of person has the strength, confidence, persistence, and intelligence to come from China in her midteens and be so successful?” he said. “Jenny clearly defied the odds.”
Ching’s sudden death shocked her co-workers at Ray’s New Garden, said Christina Tyler, a manager at the Needham restaurant.
“She was like family to us,” Tyler said. “She came to all our personal events, birthday parties, weddings. The staff is all very sad. We’re trying to move one day at a time.”
Ching had worked at the restaurant since 1988, most recently as a bartender, Tyler said.
It was Ching’s generosity and care for others that Tyler said she will miss most. Lately, Ching had been urging Tyler, who is 7 months pregnant, not to overwork herself.
“She was like the mom of the restaurant, always reminding everybody to take care of themselves,” Tyler said.
But it was Ching’s two young sons who commanded more of her attention than anyone else, Tyler said.
“I know she loved her boys very, very much. Everything she did was for her boys,” Tyler said.