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Tuesday July 17, 2018

DR. GORDON JOSEPH CHONG


October 28, 1943 - July 13, 2018

Dr. Gordon Chong, father, politician, grandfather, dentist, community builder, committed public servant, newspaper contributor, athlete, runner and all around outspoken and opinionated character, passed away peacefully in his sleep in Toronto, this past Friday, July 13, 2018. He will be missed by all who knew him, but particularly by Shirley Hoy, his wife and partner of 18 years, and his loving children, Russell, Jeffrey (Tara), Wendy (Andrew) and his grandchildren Samantha, Evan, Joseph and Melanie. Gord loved his children dearly and cherished every moment he spent with his four grandchildren. Gord was in the vanguard of Chinese Canadian participation in politics and community activism. He was a successful dentist who decided to heed the siren call of politics. He was fiercely proud of his heritage, and he became one of the pioneers in electoral politics for the Chinese Canadian community. In 1979, in his first election attempt, he successfully became an Alderman (City Councilor) of the downtown Toronto Ward (Ward 6 at the time), that housed his childhood neighbourhood and where he was practicing dentistry. His City Council seat from 1979-1982 was the launching point for a political career that would span decades, demonstrating his unwavering dedication to Toronto. He went on to hold seats on Metro Council, serving a Ward in North York, and the amalgamated Toronto Council from 1994-2000.
Beyond electoral politics, Gord's focus on transit, housing, and municipal affairs led to a myriad of directorships and chairmanships including, among others, the Toronto Transit Commission (Vice-Chairman), GoTransit (Chairman), Metro Toronto Housing Authority (Chairman), Social Housing Services Corporation (Founding Chairman and CEO), Toronto Police Services Board (Member), ParticipACTION (Board Member), and the Greater Toronto Services Board (Chairman). These positions are emblematic of his pride for Toronto; he had a great desire to serve the public in ways to make his home a better place.
Gord was also very passionate about Chinese Canadian concerns as well as other civic-minded and race relations activities. He served on the Board of Governors for the Mon Sheong Foundation, he was a Founding Director of the Federation of Chinese Canadian Professionals and was a Charter Member of the Toronto Cathay Lions Club, the first Chinese Lions Club in Toronto. He was also a founding member of the North York Mayor's Committee on Community and Race Relations. Finally, he was also proud to serve as a Citizenship Judge in the Canadian Court of Citizenship. In 2012, in recognition of his significant contributions to public service and leadership, Gord was awarded the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal by the Office of the Governor General of Canada.
Born to a father of Chinese ethnicity and a mother British ancestry, he was an island unto himself in a way. In the mid-1940s, very few children looked like him, so he had to learn how to be resilient, tough and tenacious in a world that was not always so accommodating. He bootstrapped his way out of his conditions on the back of a strong work ethic and the support of family, including Joseph Chong, his hard working father, and his cousins and close friends Harry and Susan Chong. His first wife of 31 years, Lorinne (née Matsui), was also a significant pillar of strength for Gord from as early as high school, as both partner and then mother to his three children, during a highly accomplished and extremely formative period of his life. Gord also relied on another institution throughout his life for support and community; the Central YMCA in downtown Toronto. If Gord had a place of refuge and happiness throughout his life, this Y was it. He worked tirelessly to support the Y as an institution throughout his adult life, culminating in his privilege to serve the YMCA of Greater Toronto as Chairman of the Board.
After graduating from Jarvis Collegiate as an accomplished student and standout athlete ('All City' basketball and football player), he went on to University of Toronto and became a dentist. He then began a family in North York while continuing to work downtown. Later, he met his kindred spirit in Shirley Hoy, another dedicated public servant who rose to the position of City Manager for the City of Toronto. They shared a love for public service, political issues, golf and quiet reading time, to name a few. They spent the better part of the last two decades in a loving relationship with each other. Gord was diagnosed with congestive heart failure in 2011. The last few months he persisted courageously despite rapid deterioration. Despite the failure of his physical body, his mind continued to work as he penned columns for the Toronto Sun whenever an issue so moved him (and there were many). The family would like to thank the entire staff at Toronto General Hospital, spearheaded by Dr. Heather Ross, whose excellent care and personal counsel to Gord enabled him to enjoy these last seven precious years, and the wonderful and compassionate team at Baycrest Hospital, where he spent his final days. He was with his family and close friends most of the last few weeks, and while his health was fading, his mind found peace. There will be a small, family-only funeral, to accede to Gord's wishes. A broader memorial service to celebrate Gord's life will be announced later, to take place in the month of September. In lieu of flowers, we would humbly request and appreciate donations, if desired, to the YMCA of Greater Toronto, Test Your Limits at Toronto General Hospital (committed to heart disease and failure research), or Baycrest Hospital.
Condolences, photographs and memories are welcomed and may be forwarded to GordMemorial2018@gmail.com.

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