MISSING CHAPTERS

Mary Kwong

mary-kwong

Mary Kwong is the wife of former Lieutenant Governor, Norman Kwong. She was originally from Vancouver and resided there during the early years of her life. Her family was prominent and well-involved within the Vancouver community. She, herself, won Miss. Vancouver and volunteered many hours with the local community doing fundraising and intermurals.

Her father was the Lee Association’s National President, and arrived in Canada at the age of 19. He knew little English and had even less money. Nonetheless, he spent his days laboring and learning at the local Presbyterian Church in Vancouver. ere he improved his language skills and was soon able to open his own shop in Vancouver’s Chinatown. It sold everything from herbal medicines to he y tea cups. Mary’s father eventually returned to China for a brief time in order to marry. Kwong says, “My father knew of my mom but it was their rst time o cially meeting. When he li ed up the veil over her face; he was awestruck by her beauty and her height.”

Kwong recalls her mother as, “Hardworking and dedicated.” She credits her family in instilling a sense of duty and responsibility within her and her siblings.

“I always think about the things she did. She never had a maid and did everything by herself. I remember she had to wax the wooden oors board by board while also changing diapers at the same time.”

For Kwong, her mother was an inspiration. She says, “We always had to do our chores and ful ll our responsibilities before we could have fun. My friend would be waiting out on the porch while I was still cleaning dishes before we could go see a movie together. And we never argued with mom; we just did it.”

Kwong fondly says she has lived an interesting life. In fact, she never expected to end up with Norman Kwong. Norman, or “Normie”, arrived in Vancouver with a bit of a fanfare. He was well-known in Calgary and that fame travelled with him to Vancouver as well.

She tells us with a laugh, “I was a cheerleader at King Edward High School and in Vancouver we had a lot of parties. One time a friend of mine was hosting a party and Normie was invited. I met him, said hello, and went on my way downstairs. I thought nothing of it. However, the very next day he phoned me and asked if I wanted to go out. I was surprised and even more attered when he continued to pursue me. He knew I had suitors and he decided that if he wasn’t quick I would be gone.” ey were married for over six decades.

Eventually, she followed Norman over to Calgary. Here she taught cooking classes at SAIT and various community centres in the northwest of Calgary. Kwong states, she had a teaching technique that was very e ective. She would hand out her recipes for the day but these recipes would not be fully completed; they would have blanks to be lled in. is ensured her students would pay attention in class. She also continued to play tennis; a sport she enjoyed frequently in Vancouver, going as far to win community cups.

Kwong says she enjoyed her time in the spotlight with Norman. “We would always go to functions together. He liked having me with him as he was reserved sometimes. However, between the both of us we kept the conversation going.”

For Kwong, the publicity was not self-serving. She saw it as a position that came with responsibility and it paired easily with her natural ability to connect with others. “I always made sure to acknowledge everyone. Not just the big shot dignitaries but people from all walks of life. e government is a diverse place and it doesn’t cost money to be kind and polite.”

Teresa Woo-Paw, former MLA, states that during her time in the legislature, “We were very proud to see Normie and Mary as Albertans of Chinese descent in o ce. We were so thrilled and proud to have them represent us. Even though the role was ceremonial; you were still the boss, our premier. I think Normie’s accomplishment being recognized made us all feel a bit taller.”

Indeed, being in the public eye meant many responsibilities such as attending a variety of banquet celebrations. Kwong says, “A er Normie became Lieutenant Governor he got invited to a lot of Chinese banquets. But culturally we’re boisterous and rowdy people, which is good and bad. Parties are a riot but if someone was giving a speech it would probably be swallowed by the noise. In this case, Normie would have to give speeches but he refused to just go through the motions of a speech and not have anyone listen to him. For someone so reserved, he would always be able to nd a way to break the noise with a self-deprecating joke or another one of his various jokes. One time a celebration banquet was actually the same day as my birthday, April 28th. It was a lucky coincidence.”

Nowadays, Mary Kwong spends her time gardening patio flowers and listening to classical music. After such an interesting life, a bit of downtime is well appreciated.

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