‘Inspiration for many Canadians’ Norman Lim Kwong dead at 86

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Norman Lim Kwong, a prominent Albertan businessman, professional football player and commercial realtor has died in his sleep at the age of 86, according to his family.

“Our father was a great man who accomplished so much in his lifetime. A genuine family man, he also had tremendous success as a professional athlete, team owner, business executive and government official,” the family said in a statement.

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Former Alberta premier Ralph Klein, left, listens while then Lt.-Gov. Norman Kwong, right, reads Klein’s resignation letter during a swearing in ceremony for Premier Ed Stelmach on the steps of the Legislature Building in Edmonton on Dec. 14, 2006. (Jason Scott/The Canadian Press)

Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell said Kwong will be missed.

“[He] will long be remembered for the quiet strength, innate kindness and sense of humour that he brought to his duties as Alberta’s vice-regal representative and to his lifetime of sterling service and leadership,” Mitchell said in a statement.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said he gave a great deal.

“Mr. Kwong was proud to be the son of Chinese immigrants. He was an Alberta success story from an early age. From his storied career in the Canadian Football League to his later co-ownership of the Calgary Flames, he was a champion on the field of play and in life,” Notley said in a statement.

“He gave his time generously to non-profit and voluntary organizations across the country. His contributions to public life earned him many honours, including the Order of Canada.”

The Edmonton Eskimos tweeted their sadness at the loss.

“We’re deeply saddened by the loss of #Esks great Normie Kwong. Our deepest condolences to his friends and family,” the team posted.

Former deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk tweeted condolences.

“I’m sad to learn of Hon. Norman Kwong’s passing. It was an honor to have known him. My condolences to all his loved ones,” he wrote.

Kwong joined the Calgary Stampeders in 1948 to become the first Canadian of Asian heritage to play for the CFL, according to his Legislative Assembly of Alberta’s biography.

At the age of 18, Kwong was also the youngest player to win a Grey Cup.

Norman Kwong

Norman Kwong, at the age of 18, was the youngest CFL player of Asian heritage to win a Grey Cup in 1948. (ACCECanada/YouTube)

Kwong’s 10-year career with the Edmonton Eskimos starting in the 1950s had him rubbing elbows with future Alberta premiers Peter Lougheed and Don Getty.

Kwong married Mary Lee in the early 1960s and had four sons: Gregory, Bradley, Martin and Randall.

“Throughout his varied life he touched so many people with his humility, intellect, dignity, unforgettable wit and sense of humour. His unique ability to connect at multiple levels with all types of people is something few people possess,” the Kwong family said.

Kwong retired from football to become a stockbroker in 1962. Commercial real estate followed as Kwong became a vice president and general manager of Torode Reality.

He returned to pro sports in 1980 as one of the original owners of the Calgary Flames.

Norman Kwong

Norman Kwong was one of the first Calgary Flames owners in 1980. (ACCECanada/YouTube)

Kwong received numerous awards over his lifetime. He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1969, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1975 and the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame five years later.

In 1988, the Normie Kwong Bursary was established at the University of Calgary and awarded annually to needy medical students.

A gymnasium was dedicated to him at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing in the 1990s and in 1998 Kwong received the Order of Canada.

Kwong became Alberta´s 16th lieutenant governor in 2005.

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Norman Kwong greets guests after delivering the provincial throne speech in Edmonton in March of 2005. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

“Norman Kwong is an inspiration for many Canadians,” then-prime minister Paul Martin said at the time.

“His many contributions, as a professional athlete, as a business person and as a prominent figure in society, speak to his commitment to the people of Alberta. He will serve his province and his country well.”

He received the Association of Chinese Canadian Entrepreneurs (ACCE) lifetime achievement award in 2008.

When Kwong’s term as lieutenant governor came to a close in 2010 a portrait by Tag Kim was unveiled at the legislative building.

“I was deeply honoured by such a rare opportunity to serve the province and country,” Kwong said at the time.

His family says they will “miss him dearly,” but cherish their memories of him as a husband, father, grandfather and uncle.

Details on a funeral service are yet to come, the statement says.

“While it is incredibly difficult to say goodbye, we are comforted in knowing that he had a most blessed and fulfilled life and that our love for, and memory of, him will remain with us forever,” the family said.

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‘Inspiration for many Canadians’ Norman Lim Kwong dead at 86

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