Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Harry Yee from Labasa passes on

from Peceli,
I read in today's Fiji Times that Harry Yee, the elderly man from Labasa, 101, has passed on. His grand-daughter had told us last week (in a comment on our earlier blog posting about Harry Yee) that this had happened. I knew Harry as everyone did in Labasa over those years.

Centurion passes onSERAFINA SILAITOGA
Thursday, June 12, 2008

PIONEER businessman and oldest surviving Chinese businessman of Labasa Yee Foon Gau or commonly known as Harry Yee, who died a fortnight ago, was laid to rest last week. Mr Yee died a month away from his 102nd birthday. And even at the age of 101, Mr Yee, who arrived in Labasa in 1929, continued to do business from his Yuen Hing Store, which sits in the heart of Labasa Town.

Mr Yee arrived in Fiji in 1927 from Hoi Ping, China and worked in a vegetable farm in Tamavua before attending Saint Paul's Chinese School in Suva to learn English for about a year. During his young days, he worked for Kwong Tiy's in Suva, Labasa, Lekutu and Nagumu in the North where he was a bread delivery boy walking miles to Vuo Village outside Labasa Town where the government hospital sat. He also walked to the Vaturekuka prison and town area to deliver bread which he carried in baskets tucked under his arms.

Mr Yee, in a Sunday Times profile interview last year, mentioned how Labasa Town had no vehicles at all when he arrived and only four wooden buildings in the town area. He said in the interview that people those days only travelled by boat or on horseback to do their shopping from the four shops in town.

Mr Yee also mentioned how there was no telephones, no electricity, no market and no nightclubs. He labelled the town of the early days as an innocent town that did not care much about alcohol and night life but about the welfare of the people.

Mr Yee, who is survived by his four children, was the founder and president of the Labasa Chinese Community and started the work of the Chinese cemetery which led to its construction outside the town.

He was a member of the Fiji Red Cross Society and Old People's Home.

Business people, chiefs and community members of Labasa gathered at his funeral to farewell the last of the pioneer businessman of Labasa who saw the town's fortunes and wane through the years.

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