Alberta's oldest person dies
Raised children alone in wartime China,
finally joined husband here in 1958
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
CREDIT: Chris Schwarz, the Journal, File
Mrs. Fong Ping Mah, who died Sunday, lived a long
and varied life.
EDMONTON – Fong
Ping Mah lived in a bamboo hut at the end of the 1800s. She wore silk dresses
in the '20s and hid her family in caves when the Japanese occupied China during
the Second World War.
she died Sunday after nearly five decades of living in Edmonton,
she was 110 — Alberta's
members sat by her bedside at Capital Care Norwood on Sunday, recounting
their favourite stories of grandma and holding her
hands as she slipped away due to pneumonia.
stylish woman until her last day, Mrs. Mah would get weekly pedicures and
never left her Norwood
room without her lipstick and compact, said her granddaughter, Winnie Mah,
look your best and do your best,” Winnie said, recalling her
grandmother's advice. She said her grandfather used to take his wife shopping
to Eaton's to keep her in the latest styles.
a little fashion plate, Granny was,” Winnie said with a laugh.
Mah was nine years old when Alberta
became a province in 1905. Last September, she met then-prime minister Paul
Martin during Alberta's
centennial activities and fell asleep during the speeches.
said her grandmother's greatest advice was just to have faith.
Mah was born on Sept. 28, 1895, in Kwangtung province of southern China. Around
1920, she married Lip Gar Mah in an arranged marriage.
had emigrated to Edmonton
in 1910, doing menial jobs to make a living that would have been a small
fortune in China.
He was forced to pay a $500 head tax under Canadian law and leave his new
visited his wife only every few years, but on those trips he built her a
brick house, dressed her in style, fathered two daughters and adopted a son.
were considered well off,” Winnie said, since most houses in China were
built from wood or straw.
1923, the year their first child was born, Canada's
Chinese Immigration Act barred all Chinese immigrants from Canada and
extinguished any hope of Mrs. Mah joining her husband.
Winnie said her grandmother never gave up faith. “They just thought one
day they will be together,” she said.
Mah was left to raise her children alone.
the Japanese invaded China
in the 1930s, she hid her family in nearby caves.
could hear the bombing and they would flee to the mountains to hide,”
Winnie said. “A lot of times (they) went hungry.”
political turbulence in China
grew, Mrs. Mah's husband stayed in Canada,
fearing conscription into the army.
communists took control in 1949, they confiscated Mrs. Mah's
brick house. Her son, Jack, feared his mother would be put into forced labour and insisted they move to Hong
their wealth, they were branded as capitalists,” Winnie said.
Mah's daughter-in-law sold 100 silk dresses to pay
for safe passage.
Mah was finally able to immigrate to Canada
in 1958 and reunite with her husband in Edmonton.
The two had not seen each other for 19 years.
just became one long honeymoon for them afterwards,” Winnie said.
said her grandparents lived a simple life in Edmonton. She would stay overnight and her
grandmother would set the table while her grandfather made waffles for
breakfast. She always gave Winnie a special blue cup.
had a way of making us feel she loved us the most,” Winnie said.
“Little did I know, all us kids used that special
her husband died in 1985, Mrs. Mah lived alone until age 99.
shared a room with her son, who had been partially paralysed
by strokes. She fed him and made him comfortable each day. He died in 2001 at
the age of 72, said Winnie.
was the poster-mom for single moms at her age,” Winnie said. “She
reminded us, don't be so busy. Don't forget what's important.”
Mah has 15 grandchildren, 27 great-grandchildren and 17