© Garrett Ellwood
By John Freeman, special to USTA.com
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Rose Luh’s teammates call her "the Great Wall." She’s a fierce competitor who returns just about any shot from anywhere.
Turns out that Luh’s affectionate nickname first belonged to her late father, who died several months ago and was equally noted for his defensive on-court prowess. He was revered in St. Louis, along with Luh’s mother, not only as practicing physicians, but for their courageous escape some 60 years ago from their native China.
Soft-spoken with an easy smile, Luh is a favorite among her St. Louis-based teammates, who represent the Missouri Valley in the USTA League 4.5 Senior National Championships in Rancho Mirage.
"I couldn’t possibly put into words how we feel about Rose," said teammate Jane Wenzel. "She’s just a remarkable human being from a remarkable family."
Adds teammate Libby Sharp: "Rose is our queen."
The story of how Luh’s parents escaped has elements of fiction, except it’s true.
Her parents, both starting their medical careers, were part of a prosperous family in pre-Revolution China. But all that fell victim to the tyranny of the Communist Revolution of 1948. Eventually, through a complex escape scheme, they had relocated by the early 1950s to St. Louis, where he became a respected physician and she was a homemaker.
"My mother’s elderly now (94) and she doesn’t like being alone now that Dad’s gone," said Luh. "But I try to tell her, ‘Mom, you planned this amazing escape, remember? You were truly brave.'"
Luh was only three when her parents escaped China. Once in the U.S., they were forced to start from nothing. The values of hard work and education were taught in their home, quite successfully, over the generations.
Luh’s daughter, Andrea, is both bright and ambitious. Several years ago, she earned perfect scores in both SAT and ACT entrance exams, which earned her a scholarship to Stanford University. She will soon enter medical school.
"If I was really being true to my Chinese ancestry, I wouldn’t be telling this story," said Luh. "In our culture, we’re taught to be modest and not to talk about our feelings. There’s not a good word for ‘pride’ in any Chinese language, but I’m very proud of my family. I guess I’ve become Americanized."