She continued her business after becoming a widow with 8 children. Now she gets a historical marker.

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PORTLAND, Maine – When Toy Len Goon’s husband, Dogan Goon, died at Togus Veterans Hospital in 1941, she was left alone to run their manual laundry service at Woodfords Corner.

Goon also found herself a single mother of eight children aged 3 to 16.

At this point, others may have given up or collapsed under the pressure. Goon didn’t. Instead, she kept all of her children in school, watched each one graduate, and then went on to graduate school. Goon was even named the country’s “Mother of the Year” and met First Lady Bess Truman in 1952.

Toy Len Goon works in his laundry on Forest Avenue in Portland in an undated photograph. His daughter, Doris, works in the background. Credit: Collections of Maine Historical Society, courtesy of MaineMemory.net

To honor Goon’s accomplishments and keep his memory alive, the Maine Chinese and American Friendship Association unveils a historic marker Sunday at 1:30 p.m. outside 615 Forest Ave., where Goon raised his children and led his business.

“It’s the exact same building,” said Gary Libby of the Friendship Association. “I’ve been trying to convince the various owners of the building to let us put a deal there for 10 years.

When the building recently came under new ownership, Libby said he tried again.

“I emailed them and they got back to me within an hour,” he said. “They said they would be happy to do it.

Libby designed a Portland Sino-American Historic Walking Tour several years ago and would eventually like to mark all of its locations. But Goon’s marker is special to him.

“Toy Len Goon is the most prominent Chinese-American to have lived in Maine,” he said. “She was featured in one of five episodes of the PBS 2020 series ‘Asian Americans’.”

Goon’s husband, Dogan Goon, was born around 1893 in southwest China. At one point he immigrated to the United States, arriving in Boston in 1917.

That year, he was arrested for violating the Federal Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The law prohibited all Chinese immigration under the pretext of protecting American workers.

Dogan Goon was somehow acquitted of breaking the law, but was then forced to join the wartime army, demonstrating his patriotism. He served in the Army Medical Corp from June 1918 to January 1919.

With her citizenship confirmed by military service, he married Toy Len Goon in 1922, bringing her to Portland from China, where she was born in 1891.

Toy Len Goon and her husband Dogan Goon watch from an undated portrait. When Dogan died in 1941, he left his wife a business to run and eight children to raise. Credit: Collections of Maine Historical Society, courtesy of MaineMemory.net

When Dogan died nearly 20 years later, city officials attempted to convince Goon to divide her large family, sending some of her children into foster care. She refused, keeping her entire family and her business buzzing.

Goon’s three oldest children helped run the laundry, taking turns dropping out of Deering High School. Eventually, the eight children – five boys and three girls – graduated. Each also pursued higher education.

A son became a doctor. The other sons received degrees in physics, electrical engineering, chemistry, and law. Goon’s daughters have made careers in court reporting, social work, and public service.

Goon was recognized for her extraordinary parenting role in 1952 when she was named “Mother of the Year in the United States” by the American Mothers Committee of the Golden Rule Foundation.

Goon received her award at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City where she gave interviews to national media and was the subject of Movietone news.

Next, she met First Lady Bess Truman at a reception in Washington, DC Goon also had lunch with the Speaker of the House while in town. On his way back to Portland, Goon even had a parade through New York’s Chinatown.

She lived to be 101 years old and died in 1993.

Two of his daughters are expected to be on hand for the unveiling on Sunday.

“And there may be up to a dozen grandchildren out there,” Libby said. “They come from almost everywhere.

Building owners, members of city council, representatives of the Consulate of the Republic of China in Boston as well as members of the Maine Historical Society and the Maine Unified Asian Community are also expected.

Libby has said her next target for a marker is Customs House Wharf.

“This is the site of Maine’s first Chinese restaurant,” he said.


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