Myrtle Lee Sui

A Chinese South African Immigrant to Canada

Myrtle was born in Kimberley, South Africa to Foo Kim Sing and Louisa Ah Soon. She is the youngest of 8 siblings. In about 1925, Foo and Louisa moved their whole family to Port Elizabeth, where the family thrived and grew into the large Kim Sing clan of Port Elizabeth.

Myrtle grew up helping in the family business (general dealer) and attended the nearby Chinese School, as well as the Chinese Anglican Church which was part of the same building. In February 1941, Myrtle married Edward Guen Sing Lee Sui. The couple had four children: Desmond, Clement, Stanton and Linda. They had a shop and home on Kempston Road, Port Elizabeth.

In November 1952, tragedy struck the family when Edward, still a young man, suddenly died of a heart attack. Myrtle, widowed with 4 young children at the age of 28, had to run the family business and did so with hard work, determination and perseverance. A few years later, Myrtle took the initiative of totally reorganizing the shop and introduced the concept of 'self-service'. It may not seem out of the ordinary today, but in the early 60s, that was quite a courageous thing to do with a small shop.

In 1966, Myrtle travelled with her brother and his wife to attend the National Cash Register (NCR) conference in Dayton, Ohio, USA. On the way back to South Africa, they stopped in Toronto for a few days. Her experience in North America changed her outlook and she started to think of brighter prospects overseas. Myrtle and her adult children decided to emigrate as a family unit. Between 1967 and 1970, they plus Sandra (Desmond's wife) and Lucy (Clement's fiancée) landed in Toronto. Myrtle herself arrived in July 1968 with Stanton and Linda. All her adult children found work in Toronto, and Myrtle decided she too would work. She found work at Simpsons, the department store (now The Bay), at Queen and Yonge Streets; first at the candy counter, then later in sporting goods invoicing in the Simpsons Tower, and eventually in the payroll department. She enjoyed the Canadian work environment and the camaraderie of her co-workers, and even went on social drinking outings with them after work, much to the concern of her adult children! Toronto welcomed Myrtle and her family with open arms, and she had no regrets about emigrating, except possibly if you asked her during a winter blizzard in February!

In the early years of her retirement, Myrtle was a regular participant at the Port Union Community Senior Centre, assisting in their activities, and going on numerous cruises with like-minded energetic seniors. She would often tag along with friends and relatives on overseas trips. In 1978, Myrtle and some of her family revisited the land of her birth and she was able to say a final farewell to Port Elizabeth, never to return there. Later she took trips to the Far East and vacationed with family to the Caribbean, United States and many other cities around the world.

Today, Myrtle lives with Linda in West Rouge and all the Lee Sui clan still live in and around Toronto, except for Desmond's son Jason in Vancouver, and Clement's son Kevin in Cupertino, California. As with most families, Covid-19 has hit Myrtle's family hard. For 4 to 5 months now she has not seen much of her 10 grandchildren (aged 49 down to 33), and 11 great-grandchildren (aged 21 down to 4). She inherited 3 step grandchildren and 6 step great-grandchildren when Clement married Lily Pon in 2009 (after his wife Lucy passed away) and has not seen them either. Myrtle has had to rely on seeing her family on Zoom.

These are Myrtle's golden years. She is the same calm, positive, confident, quiet-spoken and elegant person. When anyone asks her how she is, she always says with humility that she has a lot to be thankful for. She manages well, with a lot of help from Linda and her sons Chad and Mitchell, as well as from Stanton who does shopping and errands for the household.

Myrtle will turn 97 in December 2020. She is known to the community as Auntie Myrtle and CCASA wishes her many more birthdays!

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