Remembering Anthony

We learnt from his wife that Anthony passed away peacefully on 4 May 2024 before 6 pm at the Hong Kong Sanatorium. We had left the hospital just after 4 pm, having learnt at lunch from our friend – another Anthony – that his conditions had deteriorated during the last week after an operation which did not go well.

Anthony was a perpetual and born optimist. He believed in living life to the fullest and would spend every second as happily and as meaningfully as he could, by his standards of course. He had a collection of doctor specialists whose tasks they were to take his pains and miseries away so that he could enjoy to the fullest the rest of it, so that he could indulge in the food and wine – which were all fine wines – and whatever he wanted to do. Nevertheless, he also followed a regime to have his constitution examined regularly – something like every three years – so that he could take any necessary follow up actions in case the reports reviewed anything unusual. It happened that he took the last one in March 2024 with a Dr. Wong who was a fellow wine connoisseur and with whom he had established rapport on most things including of course their favourite vintage wines. Dr. Wong asked him to return for another X-ray or inspection after which he referred him to another specialist who would conduct an operation to remove an organ that didn’t seem to be of much use in the scheme of things, but which might cause harm to his constitution in general. The doctors had planned the logistics carefully and in detail. He was to be admitted to Hong Kong Sanatorium on 13 April 2024 for a routine operation to have that specific organ surgically removed. Anthony didn’t think too much of the order from the medical doctor and told all his friends that he would be out of action for about a month, but that he was not sure whether he could enjoy his collection of fine wines afterwards. It would depend on the operation on 13 April. We last met at our regular luncheon at CRC on 6 April when Su ordered some birthday buns ostensibly for an early celebration of my ID card birthday that would fall on the next day. It was a happy occasion, but looking back, it was our last serious meeting – a reminder indeed of the impermanence of life.

We then went on a Rotary related trip to Taiwan – which was reported in another blog – and at the regular CRC luncheon on 27 April, learnt that Anthony was re-admitted because the white blood cells were working in overdrive. We didn’t think too much of that at the time, but a week later, which brought us to yesterday, we learnt of the seriousness of the situation over lunch and hurriedly gathered ourselves in Room 3501 at Hong Kong Sanatorium. He was rather weak, but alert. He was cognizant and tried hard to respond. The rest was history.

I would leave others to document what transpired between 13 April and yesterday, but let me try to recall what happened since September 1958 when I came to know of him.

My first encounter with Anthony would have been in September 1958 when the late Reverend Father Grogan who was then Prefect of Studies took me by the hand and led me into a classroom. This was what happened, as was recorded in my memoir. “To this day, many of my classmates can still recall the scene of my entry. They figured that a kindergarten boy had walked into the wrong classroom such that the whole class burst out in open laughter at the sight of me. I was ten, not more than four feet tall and weighing 60 pounds at the time. The disparity in age between students was quite common then. I was easily two years younger than my average classmate and the eldest was five years my senior.”

And so, it came to pass, Anthony somehow was moved to another class so that the other Anthony (Cheung) became the Monitor or Prefect, but that’s not the point. Anthony Fong had kept talking about what happened or what didn’t happen. I was ever conscious of him and indeed I had this to say in my memoir, there was one Anthony who was a natural leader by virtual of his age, size, charisma and sports genes, and who was a self-proclaimed bully, but who said he would stay away from me as far as possible for fear that I might inadvertently slip or fall when he was in my vicinity; because I appeared so fragile; in which case he would be branded a blatant bully preying on the meek and weak and worst he would have no defense whatsoever under any circumstance. I was therefore sort of an endangered species at school.

We didn’t meet up until the mid-Eighties. Hong Kong was thriving and the economy was in overdrive. I recall Anthony being the owner of a Japanese restaurant in Happy Valley where he educated me on how to drink sake properly – cold and in wooden cases – and of course the other rather expensive sashimi. He was a very generous friend indeed. In 1992 when I signed up for the Trailwalker charity for the first time, I sent him an innocent appeal for sponsorship and without question he sent me $10K which was a rather substantial sum in those days. He did the same for the subsequent walks and I was immensely grateful for what he did.

In subsequent years, we became involved in organizing reunion meetings of the boys of 1963. He was ever so generous and would never ask questions on how much he needed to contribute. Indeed, all those years, he would contribute, often anonymously and with no strings attached, to the Alma Mater, year after years.

His generosity was recognized and noticed by the School, but he chose to be anonymous always. He was active in organizing the reunion or anniversary celebrations. Over the years, he had sponsored the T-shirts, paraphernalia and most recently the whisky glasses, not to mention the red wines which were consumed during the reunion dinners and the regular monthly get-together lunches at Sports Club.

Over the past decade or so, he had acquired a premise along Leighton Road. It is a sort of club-house for us all after our regular Saturday lunch meetings, where we would have coffee and whisky and whatever and which we called Kau=Kee-Coffee-shop, situated on the 8th floor of a building we are now accustomed to. He had all our records there in his computer. He had all our music and vinyl records there, and he had kept our favourite wines there. We would miss the place dearly. I wonder when and how we could be there again, if at all.

And that is how we would remember each other. We would forever remember our dear friend Anthony, who has lived respected and died regretted.

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