To mark Canada’s 150th birthday, we are counting down to Canada Day with profiles of 150 noteworthy British Columbians.
There are twice as many people with the surname Wong — an estimated 60 million globally — as there are Canadians, but this son of a tailor from Chinatown was one of a kind. Admired by just about everybody, Milton K. Wong was a man with the shrewd acumen of a financial wizard, the kindness, compassion, and generosity of a true humanitarian, and he saw the big picture like a visionary philosopher.
And, recalls his niece, Joanna, in Wong Family Feast, a warm narrative that tells her family’s rich history with a combination of recipes, recollections, and reminiscences, he baked a stupendous apple pie. It was so popular that he could — and did — raffle them to raise money for charities.
Born in Vancouver in 1939 to Wong Kung Lai and Chu Man Wong, he was the eighth of nine children. His father came to Canada in 1908, compelled to pay the discriminatory $500 head tax for which Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized on behalf of the nation in 2006. Milton’s dad opened a shop he named Modernize Tailors in 1913. Sons Bill and Jack took it over when they discovered engineering degrees from UBC weren’t sufficient to qualify them for work at a time of racial prejudice.