State leaders join 1,000 in bidding the Wongs farewell
Published on: Thursday, December 16, 2004
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Kota Kinabalu: Sabah prominent businessman Datuk Wong Tze Fatt, 84, and his wife, Datin Lee Bee Hee, 82, were buried at the Nirvana Memorial Park in Jalan Tuaran, here, Wednesday.Earlier, some 1,000 people, including State leaders, attended the funeral service at the All Saints' Cathedral here.

Among them were Deputy Chief Ministers Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat and Datuk Seri Joseph Pairin Kitingan, members of the State business community and workers of companies headed by Wong.

Last Thursday, a man, believed to be illegal immigrant, broke into Wong's house overlooking the city at Signal Hill here.

Police believed the man, known only as Den in his 20's, intended to commit robbery but attacked the owner and his wife when he bumped into them.

The man then set fire to the house in what police believed to be an attempt to cover his trail but his action entrapped him. He died of suffocation.

Wong was Chairman of Tong Hing Holdings Sdn Bhd, which has seven subsidiaries - Gardenia Catering Services Sdn Bhd, Gardenia Food Industries Sdn Bhd, Gardenia Beverage Sdn Bhd, Gardenia Marketing Sdn Bhd, Tong Hing (Sabah) Sdn Bhd, Tong Hing Supermarkets Sdn Bhd and Gardenia Classic Hotels Sdn Bhd.

According to an eulogy read out by Anglican Church Elder Peter Chung, Wong was born on June 22, 1920 on the island of Hainan, China.

In 1926, Wong, his father and other members of the family left Hainan to settle in Kota Kinabalu, then known as Jesselton. He met his future wife, Lee, in Johor, when she became his classmate at Chung Hwa High School in Muar.

"Wong began a successful business career at the age of 39 by opening Tong Hing Supermarket operations which was then the first purveyor of imported fine foods serving the growing western expatriate community in North Borneo," said Chung.

In 1971, Wong ventured into inn keeping with the management of the Jesselton Hotel here.

In the late 60's, together with Sye Slocum and Jim Humpries, both Americans with vast experience in bakery, he co-founded the Gardenia brand of beverages, bakery and creamery food products.

The brand has since successfully been franchised throughout Southeast Asia as a group of fine food manufacturing companies.

Wong was also the founder of Kota Kinabalu High School and had been the Chairman of Sabah United Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry for three terms.

An avid soccer fan and a keen golfer, he was a well-known figure around the greens of Kota Kinabalu. "Wong was known to be extremely adept with a chipper," said Chung.

He also loved ballroom dancing. The couple leave a daughter and three sons aged between 50 and 54 and seven grandchildren aged between nine and 28.


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