U.S. President Barack Obama invited the top Smithsonian Institution supporters to attend the “2014 Recognition of Smithsonian Benefactors” dinner held on April 6. The major benefactors from all 50 states were flown by commercial airlines to attend the event, held at the Smithsonian Castle in Washington, D.C. One of New York’s top Smithsonian benefactors, Siewchin Yong Sommer, who is a resident of Flushing House, was honored at the event.
Siewchin, as she’s known by the retirement home’s residents and staff, moved to Flushing House on Oct. 31, 2011, soon after her husband of 50 years, Guenther Sommer, had passed away. With Guenther gone, Siewchin was living all alone in her Queens home. Eventually, she decided to donate her home, valued at $1.5 million, to the Smithsonian.
Guenther and Siewchin are long-time supporters of the Smithsonian Institution. Previously, they gave $1 million to the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum, and $1 million to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
On July 4, 2004, Guenther and Siewchin made their initial gift to establish The Guenther and Siewchin Yong Sommer Endowment, at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. In 2005, an additional pledge increased the endowment’s size to $500,000. Today, the Sommer Endowment’s principal is over $540,000, making it one of the museum’s largest endowment funds. In appreciation of their generous contribution, the National Portrait Gallery named The Guenther and Siewchin Yong Sommer Gallery on the museum’s first floor. Since 2006, this gallery has hosted a series of “One Life” exhibits, using portraits to explore a single noted individual in-depth.
Siewchin was deeply moved when the Smithsonian paid for her jet flight to Washington, D.C., for her to be present at the April 6th awards dinner. She was awarded with a commemorative medal encased in a fine wooden box, a personal memento for their generosity over the years.
“Flushing House is extremely proud that Siewchin Yong Sommer is one of our newest residents,” said Rev. Douglas E. Kurtz, president of Flushing House. “Siewchin and her late husband Guenther have done much to enrich the cultural and historical treasures housed in America’s museum, the Smithsonian Institution. We are happy she’s found a new home here at Flushing House.”
Flushing House is located at 38-20 Bowne St. For more information go to flushinghouse.com.