Sylvia Chin Yamamura
(1969 - 2013)

Sylvia Chin Yamamura

Hong Kong
January 11, 1969

New York, United States of America
August 18, 2013

food, tea, movies, fiction
Please join with her family to celebrate the life and mourn the passing of our Sylvia.

Sylvia Chin Yamamura (maiden name Sylvia Pui Chee Chin) was born on January 11, 1969 in Hong Kong. She passed into memory on August 18, 2013 at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City after a diagnosis of peritoneal cancer the previous April. She is survived by parents Benny Chin (Wu On Chin) and Betty Chin (Lai Kuen Chiu) of Honolulu, Hawaii, older brother Steven Sei Hoa Chin of Brentwood, California, and younger sister Peggy Chin Evans (Peggy Pui Kei Chin) of Kenmore, Washington.

When she was eight, Sylvia and her family moved to the United States and settled in Honolulu where she grew up. She attended Kaiser High School and graduated as valedictorian with statewide honors in 1987. On a National Merit scholarship, she attended the California Institute of Technology and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering in 1991 while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. She earned her Juris Doctorate at NYU School of Law in 1995 and started her career as an associate at Davis, Polk, and Wardwell in New York. She served as Vice President at Goldman Sachs in the Structured Finance and Public Finance groups between 1997 and 2007 with an intervening stint as Managing Director at Telligent Venture Capital in 2000 & 2001, and later as Vice President and Managing Director at JP Morgan Chase between 2007 and 2011.

She met Alan Akihiro Yamamura in 1989 at Caltech, whom she married on June 8, 1992 in New Jersey. Their daughter Auryn Aiko Yamamura was born October 10, 2002, and their son Caleb Akimitsu Yamamura was born on February 7, 2005. Both children continue to live in New York City with their dad.

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Guest Book (9 entries)

I first met Sylvia in 2007 when working at JPMorgan and we became close friends over some of the most turbulent years that the financial services industry had seen. This was a time of great change for me from a personal and work perspective and Sylvia was always there to offer sound advice and friendship. She always had an uncanny ability to distill what was important and what was not and to put things into perspective. Sylvia always had a smile on her face and her laughter was infectious.

I'd like to dedicate the text below from Tono Bungay by H.G. Wells to Sylvia's memory:

"I got into this relaxed habit of living in spite of very real tendencies in my nature towards discipline. I've never been in love with self-indulgence. That philosophy of the loose lip and the lax paunch is one for which I've always had an instinctive distrust. I like bare things, stripped things, plain, austere and continent things, fine lines and cold colours. But in these plethoric times when there is too much coarse stuff for everybody and the struggle for life takes the form of competitive advertisement and the effort to fill your neighbour's eye, when there is no urgent demand either for personal courage, sound nerves or stark beauty, we find ourselves by accident. Always before these times the bulk of the people did not over-eat themselves, because they couldn't, whether they wanted to do so or not, and all but a very few were kept "fit" by unavoidable exercise and personal danger. Now, if only he pitch his standard low enough and keep free from pride, almost any one can achieve a sort of excess. You can go through contemporary life fudging and evading, indulging and slacking, never really hungry nor frightened nor passionately stirred, your highest moment a mere sentimental orgasm, and your first real contact with primary and elemental necessities, the sweat of your death-bed."

Whilst Sylvia had a short life I believe that she lived it to the full. She was not afraid to take risks and always made those around her happy. I last caught up with Sylvia in February of this year and, as always, she spent a lot of time talking about her family who meant the world to her and made her very happy, proud and content.

She was a great friend indeed. I will miss her and I know that she will be missed by many.

Tim Self (Friend)
September 2nd, 2013
I stand here before you with the impossible task of doing justice to the life of an extraordinary woman. Sylvia Pui Chee Chin was born on Jan 11, 1969 in Hong Kong to Benny and Betty Chin. She was the middle child of three, with an older brother, Steven, and younger sister, Peggy.

When Sylvia was eight, she and her family moved to the United States and settled in Honolulu, HI, where she grew up. Sylvia always loved the natural beauty and easy going Aloha style of Hawaii. Growing up, Sylvia faced challenges head on with her intelligence, determination, and competitive drive. Although she did not speak a word of English when she arrived in the States, Sylvia excelled at school and graduated in 1987 from Kaiser High School as valedictorian with statewide honors.

Armed with her natural curiosity, thirst for knowledge, and an amazing photographic memory, Sylvia’s successes continued throughout college and her multifaceted career. Sylvia matriculated at Caltech, one of the most competitive universities in the world, and graduated in 1991 with a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. Although she earned a full ride at Stanford for graduate school, she chose to join me here in New York and worked at D.E. Shaw for a year before going to law school. She earned her JD in 1995 from NYU School of Law, one of the top law schools. She started her career as an associate at Davis, Polk, and Wardwell, one of our nation’s top law firms. Sylvia later served as a Vice President at Goldman Sachs and Managing Director at JP Morgan, two of the most prestigious and well-respected banks in the world.

As anyone who has worked in the finance industry can attest, it can be a cutthroat world, and the success she achieved is a testament to her talent, perseverance, and competitive fire. But it was a world in which Sylvia managed to maintain her principles and humanity. She was a tremendous mentor who cared deeply about and was beloved by those who worked for and with her.

Sylvia possessed an uncanny ability to read people and connect with them on a deep and meaningful level. She was always ready to lend an ear and really listen to what you had to say. She always seemed to know the perfect thing to do or say to help you out or make you feel better.

Sylvia had it all, beauty and intelligence. Born under the Chinese sign of the monkey—she was also a mischievous trickster with a sly smile when her plans came to fruition. She did everything with style and grace whether it was how she dressed, how she decorated her home, or even how she arranged fresh cut flowers—her understated and classy style was perfection to behold.

Sylvia inherited a number of her passions from her family. Food, truly one of life’s great pleasures, has always played a central role in the Chin family. Although Sylvia never ate much herself, nothing made her happier than to see those she loved enjoying food she either cooked or helped select for them. Sylvia loved to cook, and her repertoire knew no bounds. She sought out new recipes, always tweaking them to perfection. Sylvia also grew up with a love for movies—she enjoyed everything from romantic drama to Kung Fu and loved action adventure most of all. Sylvia also carried on a family tradition of story telling. She was a natural and often regaled others with tales of her own making.

Over the last few years, following and trading the markets became an avocation for Sylvia. She read voraciously about the markets, talked excitedly about her latest trades, and stood ready to debate economic policy and world events.

Sylvia also loved to read ever since she was a child—a passion that only grew with time. She read everything: fiction and non-fiction; poetry and prose; classics, sci-fi, a good romance. She absolutely loved curling up with a good book and would often refuse to put one down until she finished it. She had recently decided to try her hand at writing a book, thus melding her passion for books and story telling, but this latest career was cut short all too soon.

Sylvia loved music--everything from Oldies to Rap. Some may be surprised to know how adventurous she was—she loved roller coasters, has gone bungie jumping and zip lining, had recently taken up hiking and skiing. She also loved exploring caves (check out the images of her you find when Googling her name).

Sylvia also loved to travel and experience new sights, smells, tastes, and cultures. She also liked to get in a little shopping (sometimes more) wherever she went, and always loved driving a hard bargain. Travel for both business and pleasure has taken her throughout our beautiful country, to the great cities of Europe, as well as to some of the world’s more exotic locales such as India, Laos, and Bali. Sylvia took great pleasure in the last several years traveling with her family including trips to Mexico, Costa Rica, and the Adriatic. She had the trip of a lifetime to China last Summer—a trip that she planned herself with great excitement, and one that fulfilled a longstanding dream of visiting the land of her ancestors with her extended family. In the spring, Sylvia completed a trip to Turkey that she greatly enjoyed. It was shortly after that trip that we received the devastating news of her illness. There are still several places on Sylvia’s bucket list (the great pyramids, Machu Picchu, and Angkor Wat) to which we intend to travel so that Sylvia can visit them in spirit.

As I mentioned earlier, Sylvia loved poetry. I will now read from one of her favorites, Funeral Blues with apologies to the author.

Funeral Blues
By W.H. Auden

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message '[She] is Dead'.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

[She] was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

When I first met Sylvia, I was struck by her beauty and intelligence. But more than that, she had a palpable charisma and spark of life that I had never felt with anyone before or since. Suffice it to say that meeting her was a life-changing event for me, and I, along with a host of other young men at Caltech, was smitten. Frankly, I never dreamed I would have a chance with her and only aspired to become her good friend so that I could always be near her. I will always remember the day when everything changed--April 15, 1990. After we had been chatting for a while, we decided to grab a bite for dinner. Sylvia was expecting something casual, but I took her to a fancy, French restaurant in Pasadena called Café Jacoulet under the pretense that I had always wanted to try it but had never had the opportunity. Over the course of that dinner, I began to sense that my feelings for her might actually be reciprocated, and the rest, as they say, was history.

Sylvia often asked me to explain why I loved her. I provided her with many reasons over the years: her wit and mischievous charm, her grace and beauty, her intelligence, her wonderful cooking, her fierce devotion to those she loved, her innate ability to connect with people, and her knack for knowing exactly the right thing to do or say, but none of these reasons ever seemed to satisfy her. After many years, I came to realize that the truest reason was simply that she was my soul mate, and my True Love, and all other reasons were but roots and branches of that singular truth. This analogy did not seem to satisfy her either, but I believe in her heart, she knew it to be true.

Sylvia has been the sunshine of my life, her very being nourishing my soul. She was my constant companion for 23 years, a loving wife, a devoted mother to our two beautiful children, Auryn & Caleb, all while juggling a career as a successful lawyer, banker, and aspiring writer. As I am sure her friends and family can attest, Sylvia was truly one-of-a-kind. An extraordinary individual whose life burned bright but ended in an all too short 44 years.

If I have but one regret, it is that I allowed my day-to-day responsibilities, working hard and raising the children, to crowd my time. I wish I had made more time to focus on Sylvia. I always thought we would have more time—decades more, but that was not to be. Yet I am grateful to have been blessed: to have met her when we were both so young, to have been given so many years together, and to have had two beautiful children by her. We have had the good fortune to have worked with amazing colleagues, gotten to meet and socialize with wonderful friends, and been surrounded by our two warm and loving families. Although I had far less time with Sylvia than I had hoped, the time I did have with her will last me a lifetime.

I would like to end with one of Sylvia’s favorite biblical passages, Psalm 23.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
Alan Yamamura (husband)
August 24th, 2013
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” from the book A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Dear friends and family, thank you for helping us celebrate Sylvia’s life today. The last time I saw Uncle and Auntie Yamamura was 21 years ago on Sylvia and Alan’s wedding. My, how they and my Parents have grown!

Sylvia lived a charmed life. Although she did work for the things she wanted in life, the BEST things seem to come easily to her. When we were young, Sylvia and I would always fight. After 5 years of me abusing Sylvia, the tide would turn forever. Sylvia gets a feisty little partner named Peggy. Both of them would team up and give me some pretty memorable (& frequent) troubles. To give you an idea, I woke up one day and walking around, I freaked out when I saw that all my toes were bleeding. It turned out that Sylvia and Peggy had painted all my toe nails bright red while I was napping.

In school, Sylvia was always an overachiever. An A was never good enough. She always did all the extra credits to lock in the A+. During the warm Hawaiian summers, Sylvia would spend all day reading and studying SAT vocabularies while I was out surfing.

School was a playground for Sylvia. As the high school Valedictorian, she easily got into all the best colleges. Little did she know that 2 years into Cal-Tech, she would meet her life partner, Alan. Like I said, Sylvia always has gotten the best. We knew Alan was a rare gem the first time we met him.

Here, I want to get off-track for a moment. I know this is supposed to be about Sylvia. Alan, on behalf of the Chin’s family, we want you to know that we are so lucky to have you in our lives. That Sylvia is so lucky to have you. You are a good father but perhaps more importantly, you are a patient husband to Sylvia. Thank you for taking care of Sylvia all the way to the end. We don’t say it much but we love you very much, Alan.

Armed with the best husband, success continued into work just as easily as it had been in school. Along school and work, she also made some great friends. For Sylvia, it was never about quantity, but the quality of friendship. Again, thank you to all the friends for helping us send Sylvia on her final trip.

Sylvia’s (& Alan’s) greatest projects are Auryn and Caleb. They constantly make me laugh and remind me of Sylvia when we were young. Auryn and Caleb, please listen to your Dad and make him proud of you guys every day.

I want to read you the last 4 lines of a poem by American Poet, Robert Frost.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Sleep well, Sylvia. Please save me a seat up in heaven. I figured the seat that you save me will be among the best seats in the house. I love you, Sylvia.
Steven Chin (brother)
August 24th, 2013
I’d like to begin with a phrase from the television show The Wonder Years:

"Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose."

Unfortunately, with things progressing as fast as they did, I had to write my last letter to Sylvia yesterday…

Dear Sylvia,

I’m so sorry that I didn’t get a chance to say “goodbye,” but I know you’ll be able to hear my words today…

I believe I was the first of the Yamamuras to get to meet you. I had come out to California to visit with Alan, and found that for the first time ever in his life, my brother was ABSOLUTELY SMITTEN. Somehow, a beautiful, young, intelligent woman had actually noticed my overachieving, focused, yet gentle and kind-hearted brother. I thank you for really seeing him, and giving him the opportunity to know there was much more to life than books, studying, research, education, and the Miami Dolphins…

Once he graduated, he was offered a job here in New York. I thank you for being brave enough to begin the “Big Apple” adventure, for coming across the country, and for being so supportive. I thank you for being open-minded when I, my husband (then boyfriend), and two kids came to visit, for making us feel welcome, and for accepting him for who he was, without judging his situation.

I thank you for being willing to join our family, and making my brother the happiest man alive. As to be expected, you were a breathtaking bride, and our families were joined through your union, thus beginning a new phase in all of our lives. I thank you for serving as my matron of honor the following year. I’m sure that part of you dreaded doing that, because although you were truly a beautiful person, you were always very camera-shy, and not one to want to be in front of the camera. But, my stepson, Rob, was so proud to be able to escort you back down the aisle since he was our best man.

I thank you for being an inspiration – a successful career woman, who obtained her law degree, and someone I can hold up to my daughter as a role model, to show that achievements are only limited by a lack of desire or willingness to work hard. Tied to that, I remember asking you one day what you did, and you said that you were working on a project to restructure the debt of the city of Houston, as I recognized that I just hoped to be able to balance my checkbook at the end of each month. Thank you for helping me to stay humble.

We all thank you for blessing us with Auryn and Caleb, although I knew my kids would never be able to hold a candle to the intelligence of your and Alan’s children. You’ve done a fantastic job of getting them this far, provided them with so many life experiences, and taken them to so many wonderful places. As a mother, I’m sure you were worried – for the many distractions that society now holds, for their futures, for their happiness; and, I’m sure you must have been immensely sad that you would miss so many of their milestones. I feel confident that they have bright futures ahead, because you have been instrumental in providing their core values, because they have been loved, because YOU are a part of them, and YOU are in their hearts.

Thank you for battling the cancer with dignity, in a gracious, yet courageous manner. The battle was hard, but as we reflect back, even though for us it was too short, we must try to be thankful that the illness wasn’t as long and drawn out as it could have been, and hope that any pain and suffering was kept to a minimum for you.

Thank you for teaching us life lessons, for helping us to realize that life is truly a gift, and should be cherished, never squandered; for providing yourself as an example of what family should be, and reminding us of the true importance of family and unconditional love; for showing us that we need to take advantage of each moment, especially with our spouses, our parents, our children, our friends, and remind them of how much we love them.

We thank you for putting up with Alan for 21 years of marriage, for being a devoted daughter, for being a supportive sister and aunt, for being a caring, involved mother, and for being a loving wife and best friend. We thank God for the time we had you in our lives, we thank God that He blessed us with your presence, we thank God for the love and inspiration you gave to each one of us, and we thank God for the memories that we hold close to our hearts, as we navigate our lives following your loss. We know that you will be watching over us; we will strive to persevere, and not let you down. Although I wish I was closer, and distance is a factor, as your sister, I pledge to do all that I can to provide support to your husband, and especially your children. We love you.

I’d like to close with one last quote from a headstone in Ireland:

"Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal."

Thanks for the memories, and all the love.
Eirene Ferguson (sister in law)
August 23rd, 2013
somewhere i have never travelled
e. e. cummings

somewhere I have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which I cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though I have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skillfully, mysteriously) her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, I and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(I do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands
Alan Yamamura (husband)
August 23rd, 2013
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