As he lived, George died peacefully with dignity and grace. He was surrounded by what mattered most to him, his family, gathered together by chance, in the midst of a pandemic and record-breaking heatwave.
George will be lovingly remembered by his daughter Yvonne, son Tom and grandson Christopher as well as his brother Chuck, nephew Yuck Soon, grand-niece Leanne, and grandnephew Alex. He was predeceased by his two older brothers and two younger sisters in childhood, and his wife Susan in 2000.
George was born in the district of Taishan, China in 1933. He was always grateful to his uncle Harry and aunt Lilly for bringing him to Canada in 1952 to work with them at the Hollywood Café in Whitehorse. Although his hometown was known for its volleyball players, George soon became a lifelong fan of the B.C. Lions and CFL football. Perhaps that was because Norman Kwong, the son of Chinese immigrants from Taishan, was a four-time Grey Cup winner. But how did George, who never attended a football game and before football was on TV, figure out how the game was played? George learned all about the game of football from the customers at the Hollywood Café who gathered around CFWH Radio. Listening to the game, they would draw on napkins to show how the play-by-play was developing on the field.
In six years of working at the Hollywood Café, George saved enough money to bring his wife-to-be Susan from Hong Kong. They were married in Vancouver in 1958. Then in 1961, tragedy struck twice. George’s uncle Harry died, and the Hollywood Café burned down on Christmas Day.
After that, George worked in the Whitehorse Hospital kitchen, and then operated the Casa Loma Circle Café, Dixie Lee Fried Chicken, and the Kopper King kitchen before moving to Vancouver in 1971. At the Kopper King, he became a fan of Hank Karr and his band. George said nobody has a voice as smooth as Hank.
George always found work in Vancouver, but never gave up the dream of running his own business again. George realized his dream in 1977, when Susan's nephew Sonny called to tell George about a restaurant-tavern for sale on the Alaska Highway in Whitehorse. George bought it and operated McCrae Restaurant from 1977 to 1995, when he retired due to health issues. From 1995 to 2012 George leased McCrae first to his nephew Yuck Soon (Edson) and his wife Janet, and then to Wing and Su Lee. In 2012 he sold the property to McCrae Petro-Canada.
After his retirement, whenever George visited Whitehorse, he would be stopped on the street, in the grocery store greeted with "Hi George, good to see you!", given a handshake, a hug or both, even a shout-out from Hank Karr who had spotted him in the audience at an Arts in the Park concert. George felt like a rock star in Whitehorse.
George never imagined he would outlive Susan by twenty-one years. She rarely caught a cold and never had to see a doctor. He carried on looking after his family and house in his steadfast way, taking in what life brought and trusting heaven to look after him.
In his later years, George would often look southwest out of the glass sliding doors that opened onto his back deck in Burnaby before heading out for his daily walk. He was checking the sky over Victoria. Growing up in China, one of his childhood chores was to anticipate the possibility of rain and bring in the rice that was drying outside. Children were taught to check the horizon for the formation of rain clouds. As a result of this early training, George's probability of precipitation (POP) was more accurate than the official Vancouver weather forecast. If we left the house without an umbrella and came back soaking wet he would say we should have listened to him! We will dearly miss hearing him say that, as well as "Be good!" and "Cheers and to good health" his favourite toast.
Thank you to Team George for over ten years of continuous coverage getting us into the end zone over and over again: quarterback Dr. Jessica Chan, wide receiver Dr. Zalunardo, running back Dr. Tsang, guard Andy (Metrocare Pharmacy) and the recently acquired Dr. Straatman, Dr. Hubert and Dr. Chapman.
A small, private service will be held for the family. The graveside service will be Saturday, July 31st at 11 a.m. at Ocean View cemetery.
Memorial donations may be made to:
• Burnaby Meals on Wheels
• Saint Michael's Hospice Burnaby
• VGH Foundation: Renal Program
or a charity of your choice.
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