Banker became Mississauga's prized citizen
David Au-Yeung began seniors' club and raised thousands for hospitals
December 22, 2006

Staff Reporter

David Au-Yeung never really got the hang of retirement.

After leaving his job as a banker in Hong Kong to retire in Canada, he saw the need for a group to bring together other Chinese Canadians living in Mississauga and co-founded the Chinese Golden Age Club.

Then, for his leadership in philanthropy, he was named Mississauga Citizen of the Year at age 73.

"He would do anything for anybody," said Leon Eng, current president of the Golden Age Club.

The organization has welcomed hundreds of members since its 1983 inception, many of whom turned to the group from lives of isolation. Au-Yeung was 62 when it was founded and was president for 13 years.

When Eng moved to Mississauga to begin retirement himself, he took a job as a cafeteria worker with the club, hoping to fill his time and meet new people. One of the first people he met was Au-Yeung.

Soon, Eng joined the club, became a member of the board of directors and then, when Au-Yeung fell sick, became its president.

It was a quick climb from solitude to community leader, with the help of Au-Yeung.

"He was my teacher," Eng says. "He showed me how it all worked."

Au-Yeung's club, which operates inside the Square One Older Adult Centre, offers its 160 members a series of events and classes, from Tai Chi to belly dancing, for those 55 and up.

With such success, and after raising thousands for Mississauga hospitals through the club and on his own, Au-Yeung was named Mississauga Citizen of the Year in 1994 – 15 years after his presumed retirement.

"He said, `I don't really deserve it.' ... He didn't see what the fuss was about," said his daughter, Grace Au-Yeung.

"He's not comfortable under the spotlight."

Au-Yeung moved from his Chinese home of Chung-shan to Hong Kong when he was 14, and worked as a bank teller soon after high school.

He worked his way up to administration in his 32 years of service before retiring to Canada in 1979. Only after 17 years of running the seniors' club with his wife Maisie, did Au-Yeung leave Eng to run it and finally retire.

"David was perhaps the most humble man I have ever met, and yet, despite this, he has been one of the most revered community leaders in Mississauga's Chinese community," said Lewis Lawrence, a long-time friend and colleague, and also a former Mississauga Citizen of the Year. "He liked to see that everyone else was looked after royally."

Au-Yeung's selflessness showed again during his wife's terminal illness.

Not wanting to burden the family during her battle with lung cancer, Au-Yeung hid his own struggle with the same disease.

Once his wife died, he hid it still. It was a doctor who told Grace Au-Yeung that cancer would take her father, just three months after claiming her mother. Au-Yeung died Dec. 4 at age 85.

"When I heard the word `chemotherapy,' I was shocked," his daughter said. "I guess he just did not want to stress out the family."

During her final days, his wife, who was Catholic, prayed for a peaceful end. Suffering in silence, Au-Yeung took note of her prayers.

"My dad, not being a Catholic before, actually listened. She convinced him," Grace Au-Yeung said.

Au-Yeung decided he wanted to die a Christian. Father Edwin de Souza performed Au-Yeung's baptism and last rites in the same visit – three hours before he died.

"My mom had passed away, and I don't know, maybe there was a wish to join her. They were very, very close," Grace Au-Yeung said.