Francis Hoy-Kee Wong
Born 22nd of October, 1926 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Died 20th of February, 2009 Sydney, Australia
Francis Hoy-Kee Wong, was born on the 22nd of October, 1926. As a little baby he was adopted by a woman who was acting on behalf of her parents. This old couple really wanted a son to keep the Wong name going. So they raised him. They called him their grandson but they raised him. Their daughter, who legally adopted Francis, already had several daughters. Francis never referred to her as his mother.
Years later his grandparents, who raised him, died. His adoptive mother, Lucy, felt that all the money should go to her, because she was the biological daughter. But Francis’ grandparents had other plans. They felt that because they had adopted Francis, he was as good as their son and he should, therefore, receive an inheritance. They were quite well off. They had several rubber plantation estates. So some of the property went to Francis when they died. Prior to their passing, Lucy had been in charge of all her parents’ money. Her parents told her explicitly, that specific estates were to go to Francis. And so he received a couple of houses. On a side note, because she didn’t give birth to any boys, years later, Lucy too, adopted a boy, this time treating him as her son.
Throughout his childhood there was no love with Francis’ adoptive family. So in his loneliness and search for meaning, he turned to the brotherhood - a new family. He joined the De La Salle brotherhood when he was fifteen or sixteen. As a brother he was called Brother Brazilian. Belonging to a brotherhood, Francis had to take the three vows of chastity, poverty and obedience.
Francis was given the job of being the Headmaster of an all boys school in Kuala Lumpur, St John’s. This is the same school that my brothers went to years earlier. He didn’t want to do the job but felt that he had to adhere to the vow of obedience and do what he was told. He didn’t enjoy the job and struggled with the administration that was involved.
In order to leave the brotherhood, he had to have approval from the Pope. During his time as Principal, he met Pek-Lin Chiew. She was working for the Ministry of Education and was a consultant for all of the secondary schools in the area, including St. John’s. Francis would phone Pek-Lin to talk about matters relating to his school. Over time he opened up to her about things he was struggling with in the brotherhood and in the role at st John’s. Finally, after permission was granted from Rome, Francis left the brotherhood and soon after, resigned from his position at St John’s.
Leaving the De La Salle Brothers left Francis feeling somewhat lost. He’d been there since he was a teenager. The Brothers had housed him and fed him. Nearly everyone he knew well were members of the brotherhood. So here he was at about the age of forty-three, very much feeling as though he was starting over.
His phone calls to Pek-Lin became more frequent and the nature of their relationship became more personal. This is how Pek-Lin remembers the time.
‘Every day he'd be phoning me asking, “What should I do? And then he got, I don't know from where, my home number. So we would talk often on the phone. One day I got so fed up with him. I said, “Why are you ringing me? Day and night you are phoning me.”
He said, “You’re the only person I know who can tell me what to do.”
“Then Marry me,” I said. “Do you want to marry me?”
Then I said, “Are you really serious?”
And he says, I might as well.”
Francis found a priest and we got married in a Catholic Church in Kuala Lumpur on the 19th of December, 1969.’
Soon after the couple married, Francis secured a position as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Kuala Lumpur. At this point he had already written three books on comparative education. Francis was actually very proud of those books. He had spent a lot of time researching for each one. Working at the University gave Francis great satisfaction. It was the job that he had wanted to do for years.
Two years later, on the 26th of August, Pek-Lin and Francis welcomed their daughter, Li-Chuen Wong into the world.
In 1976, due to the discrimination that all not Malayans were facing, particularly Chinese and Indians, the Wongs decided to move overseas. Francis put the word out and was offered several positions.
He was offered jobs with the University of Christchurch in New Zealand, the University of Sussex in London and a position at Sydney University in Australia. They chose Sydney because of it’s warm climate and because it was a place that had interested them for quite some time.
Upon arriving in Australia, Francis and his family settled in the Sydney suburb of Denistone. Francis started his job at the University of Sydney and he loved it. He worked there for many years. Francis was very reliable and a doting father. He would take Li-Chuen to school in the morning and then pick her up in the afternoon.
When Francis retired from the university, he began doing volunteer work at Mary MacKillop Place on Mount Street in North Sydney. Every day he’d take visiting school groups of children around and tell them about the life of Mary MacKillop.
Francis became unwell after he’d had a fall. Every day he travelled home by train. He’d walk through a park in Epping on his way to the house. On this particular day Francis fell. He got up and walked and fell again. Francis sustained a bleed into his brain following these falls. He was in hospital for quite a long time and after brain surgery, he went to a nursing home called Chesalon Care in Beecroft.
Francis deteriorated and never came back to where he was. Over time he began to lose his memory. Eventually Francis had to go back to hospital and he passed away. This was in 2009. He was 83.
Pek-Lin reflects on her time with Francis,
‘He was my best friend. As a person, Francis was a thinker. A quiet thinker. Half the time, you didn’t know what he was thinking. The thing was he didn’t communicate much. Even with me, he didn’t communicate much. A lot of our communication over the years was non-verbal. We did everything together. We married in 1969. We were married for forty years. We had Li-Chien together and she has brought both of us so much joy. We had a wonderful life together.’