603 Walter Curtis Tong and Margaret Whitfield Tong

MARGARET TONG 4/30/1906 - 3/13/1993
WALTER TONG 8/13/1905 - 7/27/1988

Margaret Louise Whitfield was born in Knowlton, N J on April 30, 1906. Her family settled in Allamuchy, NJ, where The Whitfield Store became the trading center which featured a pot-bellied stove and radio. There, villagers gathered to learn of WWI casualties. Early on, Margaret was a student at the Allamuchy School and taught her younger sisters and brother for lack of teachers. All assisted in the store’s operation and grew to attend high school in Hackettstown, NJ -their eventual home. Margaret saved “every penny” from nearby jobs to attend Drexel Institute in 1925.

Walter Curtis Tong was born in New Haven, CT on August 13, 1905. He graduated from Hillhouse High School in 1924, and then focused on agriculture study at what is now known as the University of Connecticut. YMCA summer camp counseling led to mission work, then to enrollment at Yale Divinity School in 1928. What became a life-long partnership began in the summer of 1929 when Margaret and Walter met and worked at the City Missionary Camp for under-privileged children in Connecticut. Following Margaret's graduation from Drexel; they were married in New Haven, CT (6-21-1930) by Kenneth Scott Latourette, Walter's professor of missions at Yale. They honeymooned in the White Mountains of New Hampshire where they later retired.

Upon Walter's graduation from Yale the following year, the Tongs' dream of foreign mission work was realized when they were appointed by the American Board to serve in the Philippine Islands in 1931.

They were met by Dr. Herbert Brokenshire, the American Board doctor of the Mission Hospital in Davao, Mindanao. That close relationship led to the expansion of Walter's mission to the indigenous tribes of central Mindanao. His work reached out to the Bagobos, where friendships led to agricultural enrichment and schooling. Margaret's relationship with Filipinos at the Davao church developed opportunities for women to teach and for a number of men to pursue ministerial education at Silliman University. Their family grew to five with the births of Eloise (7-8-1932). Curtis (8-26-1934) and Annarae (10-10-1936). The Tongs were enriched by their Philippine experience through their work to improve the lives of Filipinos and surrounding tribes throughout the island.

Following the war that overtook the Philippines by Japan in 1941 and the imprisonment of the Tong family until March, 1945, Walter returned to Davao to restore the damage to the Mission Hospital, the church and many Filipino homes. During his absence, Margaret spoke to numerous groups in New England and monitored their growing children.

Returning to Boston in 1947, Walter was named Candidate Secretary for the American Board. There, he deployed young college graduates to mission throughout the world.

In 1956, Walter was asked to work for Church World Service in Taipei, Formosa, overseeing the distribution of supplies to mainland China refugees. Enroute to Formosa, Margaret and Walter stopped in Japan to reconnect with Rokuro Tomibe, their life-sparing commandant during internment in the Philippines.

From 1958 until retirement in 1969- Walter collected and distributed supplies for refugees throughout the world for the Congregational Christian Service Committee in New York City.

Only months later, again serving refugees, Walter and Margaret aided the suffering following hurricane Camille in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Outreach for the Tong twosome continued during retirement in their much-loved New Hampshire. There they organized aging groups to experience activities in the nearby communities.

Truly, throughout their lives, Margaret and Walter devoted their time, energy and love to the downtrodden and needy of the world.

  • Curtis & Jinx Tong
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