Lilly C. Tow Fund
Lilly Tow often expressed to her five children how thankful she was for living the American dream.
Her children illuminate, “Our mother lived an extraordinary life. She was a unique, modest individual who never wanted the spotlight. But she was an important part of a generation of legendary, Chinese American restaurateurs.”
Born in Boston, Lilly Chin married Yat K. Tow in 1939 and the couple had two sons and three daughters. Yat died in 1990 at age 78 and Lilly passed in 2015 at age 93. The Tow family has grown to include six grandchildren and six great grandchildren.
The core of the Tow family’s entrepreneurial efforts was in the hospitality industry, starting in the 1950s. “They were first in Rhode Island to see the popularity of Polynesian restaurants. Our mom was key in redesigning the Ming Garden, featured in Holiday Magazine as ‘one of the best Chinese restaurants in America’.”
The Tow family purchased and renovated the Great House in 1972. Here the family notes, “The Great House allowed our mom to really display her sense of style. It was an historic New England home which mom totally transformed by blending in a tasteful Asian décor, antiques, artifacts, and beautiful fresh floral arrangements. The Great House became a reflection of mom.....a classy, beautifully enlightened transformation of East meets West.”
In addition to her business success, Lilly Tow provided her five children with the best opportunities to succeed in life. The children proudly point out, “Mom always stressed that a good education was the key to success. She always sent us to excellent schools. We were the first Asian Americans to attend these schools. By being first, it helped other Asian Americans in Rhode Island find their voice and identity in the community.”
On their decision to contact the Foundation, the children explain, “Our mom was a gracious, determined lady. We want to keep alive her amazing spirit, sense of beauty, aura of class, and her courage to take on new challenges. We feel partnering with the Rhode Island Foundation is the best way to pay tribute to this legacy.”