Lisa Chow: A rich life that put others first

Lisa Chow, 1963-2024.

By David Scholz
Her husband (and Pioneer correspondent)

PLEASANT HILL, CA (May 12, 2024) — For 60 years, Lisa Chow brought joy and light to family, friends and coworkers as well as to the occasional stranger whom she would meet and strike up a conversation with in the shops.

Fighting cancer, Lisa battled to her final breath and peacefully passed away – on her terms – at home on Monday, April 22, where she so desired to be. Kissing her on that sunny morning and holding her tiny hand, I was reminded of the lyric “And thank God Your hand fits perfectly in mine” in the song by Kane Brown and Katelyn Brown that I heard on the radio and later wrote on a note that I left on her cereal bowl before I went off to work.

Born July 22, 1963, in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Harold and Ethyl Chow, Lisa grew up in the quiet community of Manoa Valley near the main campus of the University of Hawaii. I met Lisa as part of an informal Catholic singles weekend gathering at Yosemite in 2002, and we later married on July 19, 2003, at the Mission San Jose in Fremont.

A year ago, Lisa was the one who had suspected something was amiss. It was subsequently confirmed that the cancer she had previously fought valiantly had now spread, introducing the term metastatic to our lives.

Lisa wasted no time pressing forward – first with radiation and then various forms of chemo. Some treatment efforts seemed to help stall the growth in some areas.

As I saw, and close friends came to know too in visits and conversations with her, the side effects were taking their toll on her physically.

Always making time for others

Nonetheless, Lisa’s work ethic, dedication and commitment to her job and colleagues with Oracle was as strong as ever. She chose to work right through both the original diagnosis in 2018 and its chemo treatments and the latest round. She would rest in a nearby bedroom when it became difficult to keep her eyes open. And, when ready, she made her way back to the home office.

“Grace and grit,” as one colleague expressed in a heartfelt email to me upon learning of her unexpected passing, epitomized this dynamo whom I was blessed to call my wife for more than 20 years. When sitting became difficult, she came upstairs to the Lazy Boy in the living room, put her feet up and resumed the task on her laptop or took an online meeting. Just as Lisa worked, her personal time was all about enriching those around her and making their experience more enjoyable. Whether it was creating homemade desserts and a special entrée for a dinner with friends, or a sweet treat for me to share with my coworkers, or using her sewing talents to craft customized handbags and purses of various sizes and features with unique combination of fabrics, the focus was for others.

Counting down the states

Travel was among her other interests, something that was instilled early on by her father, Harold Chow, who had a long tenure with Pan Am.

While a student at the University of Notre Dame, Lisa was blessed to travel to faraway lands with him and mother, Ethyl. Life on an airplane would become the norm for Lisa post college and after working in the banking sector in Honolulu and moving to the Bay Area. As a computer consultant, she was a road warrior spending weeks or months living out of a suitcase in hotels and serving as the project manager on site for out-of-state clients from coast to coast.

In the process, Lisa started ticking off one state after another. When she was not working, she got in a car or boarded a plane to commence a multi-state road trip to visit even more states. We alone did four multi-state road trips, taking in all or parts of the Pacific Northwest, Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and states across the Southeast from Oklahoma to Georgia.

She even framed a map of the United States and we, alongside close friends, put colored stick pins to mark those states we had achieved, respectively, in accordance with the rules for earning a state. In the final analysis, Lisa pinned all but four states: North Dakota, Kansas, Virginia and North Carolina. But I will get her those – some in short order – so that dream is fulfilled.

To Europe and beyond

The times between gigs, “life on the beach,” as she characterized them, enabled Lisa to pursue some of her loves like travel and food. Not long ago she spoke again of an adventure before the time of cell phones – when she hopped a plan to Europe in 2000, armed with traditional travel guides, to meet up with a lifelong friend, Cor, in an Italian train station for a trip focused on travel, food and cooking. Such an experience encapsulated some of the passions of Lisa’s life. Her career as a consultant enabled the two of us to live abroad for several years as well, first in England and then Australia, thus allowing our friends and loved ones to live vicariously through our photos, postcards, and memories, including weekend jaunts to destinations around Europe, even North Africa, and later to parts of the land Down Under and countries in Asia as we returned home to resume life in Pleasant Hill in a more settled manner.

Other long-awaited trips to places like Alaska and Italy followed for us, offering still more opportunities to garner priceless memories. The last great trip came after a couple of Pandemic- induced postponements with her siblings and her father through Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland in 2022.

Hobbies at home

For all the fulfillment that travel provided, Lisa’s passions were also close to the home front. If the living room sofa was her haven for relaxation, recharging, reading and pondering what was next, the kitchen was among her creative domains. There was nothing Lisa ever feared exploring as a main entrée, side dish or dessert to punctuate a holiday dinner, a Saturday night social gathering with our close-knit group of friends, or an intimate anniversary dinner or holiday feast for just the two of us.

Her talents extended to sewing. The personal satisfaction of her first customized handbag seemed to set in motion a pursuit for the perfect fabrics to pair up to ensure the next bag was a job well done for herself and brought a smile as it hung on the shoulder of a friend. From sketching the idea to finding the patterns and measuring the various pieces for the proper cuts, she painstakingly crafted each individual purse no matter its size.

I often told her that we could sell her bags and my paintings at a farmers market when we retired. Of course, her creations would get top billing and draw the most attention. Handiwork with beading and a wide range of necklaces and jewelry also drew Lisa’s creative talents.

The care and beauty that Lisa brought to this world and those around her extended to growing orchids and various other plants. Her mother instilled the passion for orchids at the family’s East Manoa Road residence in Honolulu. Here, Lisa was active in the Diablo Valley Orchid Society. Along with a front walkway teeming with various species of orchids and geraniums, her efforts expanded to include a full-fledged indoor setup – complete with timed lighting to ensure proper exposure. She even set up automatic daily watering for hanging plants when we headed out of town.

Although cut short by cancer, Lisa’s life was one well-lived and one that brought immense pleasure, wisdom and joy to countless others who are the better for having known her and experienced her beautiful smile.

Preserving the memories

A brown album tucked away in a downstairs shelf provides a window into Lisa’s youth and her childhood friends who grew up alongside her in the Honolulu community of Manoa Valley near the main campus of the University of Hawaii. Each page documents her formative years, including family activities, special school occasions like high school proms and graduation – Lisa graduated with honors from Roosevelt High School, along with the sites, experiences with classmates and her graduation from the University of Notre Dame. The array of photos marks the times that Lisa reveled in with siblings, parents, extended family and friends. Though the pages have yellowed with time, not so have the memories evoked by the still vibrant colors of the images in the album.

Next to the albums are additional white and gray boxes containing countless more photos of a beautifully maturing Lisa, documenting the good times and memories forged with an invaluable network of new friends she gained after moving to Califiornia in the mid-1990s and settling in the East Bay, eventually buying the home in Pleasant Hill.

Lisa was born July 22, 1963. She is survived by her husband, David; father, Harold; three sisters, Leona, LiAnn and Linda; sister-in-law, Julie; Uncle Keith and Aunty Stella and Uncle Leonard (Awai) and Aunty Charlotte; two nieces, U’I Nani and Corie; nephew, Layne; two grandnephews, Elijah and Blayze; and a grandniece, Alysa. Lisa was preceded in death by her mother, Ethyl.

The celebration of Lisa’s life is slated for May 25 in Walnut Creek and continuing later in her hometown of Honolulu for family and friends there. In lieu of flowers, though she loved them, donations in Lisa’s memory can be made to:

Campaign to Conquer Cancer

Your gift in Lisa’s memory will support patient care at the John Muir Health Infusion Center of the new Cancer Pavilion. Go to or send checks to John Muir Health Foundation, 1400 Treat Blvd., Walnut Creek, CA 94598. Call 925-941-2155 for assistance.

Pleasant Hill Library

Either hand deliver or mail your donation to 2 Monticello Ave., Pleasant Hill, CA 94523. Include instructions that states the bookplates inside the new books should read “In memory of Lisa Chow.” Please contact Senior Community Library Manager Patrick Remer at or call 925-349-0885 with any questions.