Dr. Shao Hua He

Dr. Shao Hua He, a retired MU College of Agriculture research chemist, died Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011, at Columbia Manor Nursing Home. He was 73.

The chemist, who died after battling bile duct cancer, was devoted to his work, his church and his sons. He had been at home on hospice care until moving to the nursing home a few days before his death.

Tom Mawhinney, director of the Agriculture Experiment Station Chemical Laboratories, said Dr. He was a spectacular, top-tier scientist, especially when it came to genetics and analytical work.

Dr. He could orchestrate many different analyses at the same time, Mawhinney said.

"You had to get out of his way," he said. "Otherwise, you'd have to do what he was doing."

Dr. He was born Nov. 6, 1937, in Shanghai, to Zian He and Yun-Qing Li.

After graduating from Shanghai Light Industry School in the 1960s, Dr. He worked for Shanghai Beer Factory as deputy head of its technical department. In 1983, he came to the United States to pursue his doctorate in biochemistry, which he earned at the University of Georgia in 1987. Dr. He completed post-doctorate work at MU from 1989 to 1996.

Raji Subramani was a co-worker of Dr. He’s at the lab. "He was a very energetic man," she said. "He never walked; he always rushed around." But, she added, he smiled a lot.

He was the world's greatest optimist, Subramani said. "That's what gave him the energy to go."

She said Dr. He's optimism continued even at the end of his life. She saw him the day before he died. While they were visiting, a friend called. Although Dr. He couldn't talk then, he made plans to return his friend's phone call.

Raji Subramani said Dr. He adored his sons, Wei and Rong He.

Rong He, of Columbia, said his father "was a very hard worker and was very devoted to me and the family."

Wei He, now a mathematics doctoral student at MU, said his father was very supportive while he was studying at the University of Illinois. Dr. He drove to Urbana-Champaign, Ill., every two weeks to make sure Wei He was well care for and settled at school. Dr. He kept up this ritual for the entire eight years his son studied there.

"His sons were always on his mind," Wei He said.

Dr. He showed the same devotion to his religion. John Weaver, deacon at Columbia's Sacred Heart Catholic Church, said Dr. He had been a member of the church since he moved to Columbia in January 1989. Weaver said he saw Dr. He as a man of deep faith and religious convictions.

Rong He said that when his father was a high school student in China, he wanted to become a priest. But the political situation in his homeland "kind of put a stop to that."

If he had entered the seminary, "I wouldn’t be here," Rong He said.

Even though Dr. He had wanted to enter the priesthood, Rong He said his father enjoyed his job as research chemist.

At 73, Dr. He retired from MU's Agriculture Experiment Station Chemical Laboratories on Sept. 1.

"Most people would have retired before that," Rong He said. "Until the illness took over he was still working. He was very diligent."

Kathy Anthony, the administrative assistant the experiment station lab, said Dr. He was the most humble human she'd ever met.

"He always put others before him," she said. "If you gave him $5, he’d give you 10."

MU biochemistry professor Bill Folk was Dr. He’s first contact in the United States. Folk and Dr. He worked together for several years before Dr. He moved to the experiment station lab.

"I held him in the utmost respect and thought he was a real asset for to the community," Folk said. "He's just a very kind, gentle man."

Mawhinney said Dr. He was well loved by his co-workers at the lab.

"You would go in on the toughest day, and he would be smiling," Mawhinney said. "It was very useful for all his co-workers. I would go so far as to say that he was family here."

Kala Kumar, another lab co-worker, said she saw Dr. He every day while going to her work station. “I always wondered if he ever had a bad day,” she said.

Rong He said his father's only fault wasn’t necessarily a fault. Dr. He could be stubborn. "He made up his mind about something and wouldn’t change … It can be a good characteristic."

Mawhinney said Dr. He was traditional and reserved. He was respected for his dependability and honor. "He was real to his family and to us."

Dr. He is survived by his sons; two brothers, Joseph Ho of Atlanta, Ga., and Xin Du He of Shanghai; and three sisters, Bo Hua He of Shanghai, Xiao Li He of Naperville, Ill., and Ji Hua He of Shanghai.

Dr. He's wife, Qi Yang, and a brother, Zhenmin He of Shanghai, died earlier.

A funeral Mass for Dr. He will be held at Sacred Heart Catholic Church at 11 a.m. Saturday. A luncheon will take place after Mass in the church's activity building.

Tributes can be posted at

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be sent to Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 1115 Locust St., Columbia, MO, 65201, or to the American Cancer Society.