Leong Shu Bong (Leong Way) was born in 1880 and began working at a young age. By 21, he married his first wife, Ms. Lee, to satisfy his mother’s request for a grandson. Funds from family farmlands helped Leong travel from Hoi Ping on April 27,1901 to Vancouver, arriving on May 2nd. Earning low wages and working long hours, Leong realized he needed to work smarter. He began by leasing spaces for his businesses, then purchasing real estate for them. Despite being an astute merchant, Leong suffered bankruptcies and hardships during World War I and the Great Depression, but he continued building businesses as his family depended on him.
While it was common in China for men to extend lineage by marrying multiple wives, Leong’s wives were akin to collaborators who recognized their important roles. Ms. Kwok, his second wife, was a Canadian but voluntarily relocated to China to care for his aging mother and sons after Ms. Lee’s passing. Florence was Leong’s fourth wife. She relocated from China to Canada in 1921 to help with Leong’s businesses. By 1928, Leong and Florence had established a Chinese medicine shop called Bow On Tong (BOT) in Lethbridge, Alberta.
BOT was also a home for the Leong’s 13 children for over a century. It was a social hub where Chinese folks supported one another as well as a gambling establishment, which was illegal at the time. Authorities overlooked this as the proceeds went to support older Chinese Canadians. Over the years, Leong sent home over $260,000 HKD and purchased over 10 acres of farmland for them. He also sponsored one younger brother, two sons, and one grandson to come to Canada.
Leong Way passed away in 1967, followed by Florence in 1983. By 2010, the family lineage had close to 200 descendants in North America.