Bear Pause: Dayna WongPoe '76

Dayna WongPoe ‘76 has worked in the learning and development field for Alaska Airlines for more than 35 years. She asks everyone to have courage and to be kind every day. 

Q: What is the most important room in your home?
A: The kitchen. It brings family and friends together, lots of good smells, conversations, laughter and, most of all, fond memories. We had a family restaurant, John’s #1 Son, in Golden Valley until 1984. All us children worked there. Many of my and my sisters’ (Joni Wong ‘80 and Pamela Wong ‘84) classmates would remember it. We had many birthday parties there, and one time my parents volunteered at Northrop/Blake by demonstrating how to make Chinese food. It reminds me of my dad, who would be proud of all my cooking. 

Q: What did you want to be when you were small?
A: A nurse. I liked to help people when they were in need.

Q: How would your friends describe you?
A: Approachable, friendly, honest, loyal, sweet

Q: What is the best gift you have been given?
A: A robot vacuum. I can turn that thing on and do something else at the same time or go away and forget about it. My son gave it to me for my birthday. I felt spending so much money on a machine that I thought would not do as good a job as I do was ridiculous. I was wrong.

Q: What childhood activity do you wish you could still do now?
A: Run free with my friends from house to house without a care in the world

Q: What’s your go-to dance move?
A: Salsa. I love dancing. I used to take ballet lessons from kindergarten through college. I even did my high school senior project on dance; I wrote a paper on [ballerina] Margot Fonteyn and performed a jazz dance in the school auditorium. I liked ballroom dancing before the TV show “Dancing with the Stars.” In our 20s, my husband and I would go to senior dances, and we’d be the youngest ones there doing the foxtrot, East/West swing and other styles. When I started taking Zumba about 10 years ago, it meant learning to really move your hips and having more fun. Not too much dancing outside the house in the last year due to COVID.

Q: What’s the best concert you’ve ever been to?
A: Melissa Manchester. I went to the concert with my sister when we were in college. It was at the Northrop Auditorium on the University of Minnesota campus.

Q: What teacher inspired you the most? How?
A: Mr. Pollock (English) had a very calm and pleasant demeanor. He didn’t sit at his desk and teach, but he’d sit at the same desk chairs that the students sat in, and we were in a big circle. He was a part of us. He’d look at us through his half glasses/readers and smile at us. I was so good at grammar and dissecting sentences, not so good at prepping for the SATs. Because he loved what he taught, I could feel it in me, too. There was something about him that made me want to work harder and do my best in English.

Q: If you could have the answer to any question, what would it be?
A: What is the difference between an antigen and an antibody?

Q: If you are outside, what are you most likely doing?
A: Gardening. I never thought I would become an urban farmer. Egged on by my husband, it’s wonderful to grow your own vegetables and not have to go to the store and buy them. It’s good to know where your food comes from. We have a backyard that is all made of raised beds about 3’ high each, no grass. We only grow produce: (during the summer/fall) arugula, broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, all types of herbs, strawberries, asparagus, figs, pea pods, green beans, loads of butternut squash, (year round) kale, green onions.

Q: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?
A: Pig’s snout...ew. I cooked it in the Instant Pot. It was soft and gelatinous-like. I flavored it with sweet and sour sauce or black bean sauce (Chinese style), but I couldn’t/can’t get over the texture. My dad liked it, though—I must’ve done a good job.

Q: If you had your own talk show, who would your first three guests be?
A: Mother Teresa, Ellen Degeneres, Michelle Obama. I would talk to them about their joys in life.

Q: What are your three favorite smells?
A: Roses, baked bread, fresh air

Q: If you had one extra hour of free time a day, how would you spend it?
A: Doing tai chi. I haven’t been practicing very long. I’m a beginner. I knew about it in college and its philosophy when I went on an overseas program to Hong Kong and Taiwan in college. The movements are beautiful like in dance. There is discipline and inner peace with health benefits.

Q: What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
A: What I need to do for the rest of the day

Q: If someone rented a billboard for you, what would you put on it?
A: Watch out!