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Li-Chieh “Li” Szema, 88 years, died on November 16th at Millennium Memory Care in Holmdel, NJ.

Born on January 3, 1930, in Hunan, China, to the late Hsiang‐Shin Szema and C.Y. Lee, he was the youngest of five children and was predeceased by his 3 brothers Li-Wan “Yung Pien”, Li-Wu, Li-Gin, and sister, Li-Chen.

Li fled to Taiwan in 1948 on a ship with his oldest brother’s family during the Communist Revolution and served in the Taiwanese Air Force before graduating from Taiwan Provincial Cheng Kung University. He came to the United States and earned master’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering from New Mexico State University and Applied Mechanics from Drexel University and attended Columbia University.  In NYC, he met and married his wife of 54 years, Alice Hsiu-Yun Liu, a doctoral student at NYU, on June 6, 1964.

Li started his family in Endicott, NY and worked for IBM, the Franklin Institute, Westinghouse, and retired at the age of 70 from General Electric as a Senior Mechanical Engineer having worked in both the Schenectady, NY and Cincinnati, Ohio locations.  He held patents pertaining to the design of gas turbines used to provide electricity in Dublin, Ireland, and jet engine turbines for aircraft.  When flight 587 crashed on November 12, 2001 in Far Rockaway, Queens, GE called Li out of retirement as a consultant, where he determined the cause of the crash was turbulence from the wake of another plane.

A proud “papa”, he relocated to Long Island, NY (Mount Sinai, Commack) to be closer to his family enjoyed basketball, singing, ballroom dancing, talking long walks, and swimming with his grandchildren. Li was a poet and commissioner of a rare Huang Junbi painting and cultivator of the Tan Hua flower as depicted in the movie “Crazy Rich Asians”. He had a fondness for bananas, vanilla ice cream, spicy food, loose leaf tea, handkerchiefs and wore an expert necktie.  He is remembered for always sharing his food and his loud voice which softened when he was with his beloved grandchildren.

Li and Alice endowed the Szema Yung-Pien Scholarship Award, in honor of his eldest brother who was Chief of Staff of the Ministry of Education in Taiwan.  The annual award is presented to a top student during Stony Brook University’s School Of Medicine Commencement. They also endowed a mentoring award at Gettysburg College and a scholarship at Albany Medical College.

Li is survived by his wife, Alice, of Holmdel, NJ, children, Dr. Anthony Szema (Dr. Denise Monte) of East Setauket, NY and Dr. Katherine Szema (Dr. ChongMin Kim) of Shrewsbury, NJ, grandchildren Preston and Grant Kim, Allison and Austin Szema, numerous nephews and nieces, great nephews and nieces, and great-grand nephews and nieces.

Private funeral services were held on Sunday, November 18th at Thompson Memorial Home, 310 Broad Street, Red Bank, NJ.

Memorial donations in memory of Li may be made to: The Stony Brook Foundation, Szema Yung-Pien Scholarship Award, School of Medicine, P.O. Box 1511, Stony Brook, NY 11790-0590.


Bruce S. Thompson, Owner & Manager, NJ LIC #3740