Message from Dr Joseph Y K Wong
Yee Hong Founder and Chair of Yee Hong Community Wellness Foundation

With deepest sorrow, I announce the passing of Mrs. Florence Wong, the first CEO of Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care. Last Friday, January 19, 2024, Florence succumbed to her cancer at Yee Hong Peter K. Kwok Hospice – a place where she helped secure its first round of funding.

Florence retired from Yee Hong in 2012, after almost 18 years of service for the seniors, progressing from a novice in senior care, to taking care of four centres, with the abilities of a veteran.

Within her first decade with us, she transformed Yee Hong from a 90-bed nursing home, with 100 employees, to a four-centre 805-bed health care institution with 1,200 staff members.

She was the guiding light in the Yee Hong Family, leading us to win accolades from the community and from different levels of government — making Yee Hong a shining, exemplary model in health care. She left a lasting impression on all of us.

While death is brutal, we can take comfort and warmth in the fond and happy memories of Florence. A Celebration of Life for Florence will be held on Saturday, April 20, 2024 at the Chinese Cultural Centre for Greater Toronto. We will be recognizing Florence’s momentous effort behind Yee Hong’s success.

We would appreciate your help in creating a memorable final farewell. Florence’s last wish is to invite us to contribute to Yee Hong’s Hospice. So, we welcome you to make a contribution in her honour. Please donate with the donation form below. An endowment fund will be set up later.

In Memory of Florence Wong

Please note: Tax receipts will be issued for donations of at least $20.
Seven years after her arrival in Canada, as an immigrant from Hong Kong, Florence Wong became the first CEO of Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care. Within 10 years – under her stewardship – Yee Hong Centre became one of the largest, non-profit service providers for seniors in Canada providing care at four long-term care homes; senior housing; and offering a wide range of community support services across the Greater Toronto Area.

“I have no fear, no regrets, and no incomplete matters left to do,” was how Florence summarized her own life shortly before she passed away on January 19, 2024, surrounded by her beloved family at Yee Hong Peter K. Kwok Hospice – a facility that she helped build. Indeed, Florence’s fearless and unrelenting spirit, together with her immense wisdom led to achievements that few can attain.

“Hiring Florence is the best decision that I have made in my life. Her contributions to Yee Hong and her impact on the senior-care sector were unmatched,” said Dr. Joseph Wong, the founder and chair of Yee Hong Foundation, who interviewed Florence in 1994. “Even though Florence did not have any experience in long-term care, our interviewing panel was blown away by her astuteness, insight, and intelligence,” recalled Dr. Wong.

Florence relished taking on new challenges or pioneering jobs.

Born in Hong Kong on August 17, 1949, Florence excelled in school and graduated from Hong Kong University. She joined the Hong Kong Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) during its inception in 1974. In charge of community relations, Florence’s role was to raise public awareness and cultivate community relations at a time of rampant graft within civil service. Undeterred by general, public cynicism, Florence diligently built trust with small business owners to help them overcome their fear and reluctance to file complaints against those in positions of power.

Her work drew the attention not only from the Commissioner, but also from the Governor of Hong Kong, who specifically spoke to Florence during his site visit to ICAC.

Leaving her executive position at ICAC behind, Florence immigrated with her husband and two young children to Toronto in 1987. Like many other immigrants, her years of management and leadership in Hong Kong were deemed not equivalent to the Canadian experience. Even though she had no training in library science or secretarial duties, Florence applied for the library registration clerk position, at Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB). She impressed the manager at the interview so much so that she was hired to review and recommend improvements to the library system. Florence accomplished that in three months and was promoted as a trainer for the rehabilitation instructors. Within six years, Florence opened and managed a new site for CNIB. Her leadership in CNIB landed her a provincial government appointment to the advisory committee on restructuring community support services for seniors and people with disabilities.

For her contributions at CNIB and to the broader sector, Florence was awarded the 125th Anniversary of Confederation of Canada Medal.

Florence learned very quickly about senior care and was laser-focused on steering Yee Hong through tremendous growth and development. Under her leadership, Yee Hong achieved unprecedented milestones, such as first accreditation after merely 18 months of operation and subsequent, multiple accreditations with exemplary standing. She personally oversaw the development of 715 long-term care beds, across four homes and a 308-units senior housing – under budget and on time without relying on any project management contractor.

She ensured that Yee Hong would never waver from its commitment to delivering culturally responsive services while raising the standards in the whole healthcare sector, so that Chinese and other racialized seniors could enjoy appropriate and equitable care. Under her meticulous planning, Yee Hong realized its vision to be a renowned centre of excellence in geriatric care. Senior service providers from Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, and as far as Hong Kong sent delegations to learn the culturally responsive care model at Yee Hong.

“She was incredibly tenacious, brilliant and exacting all at the same time”, said Amy Go, President of the Chinese Canadian Council for Social Justice, who worked with Florence as the Executive Director of Yee Hong Markham Centre. “She was deeply empathetic to the needs of others and a world class problem solver. It’s these attributes that are part of her legacy, which has impacted thousands of seniors across Canada.”

For her outstanding contributions, Florence’s abilities were recognized once again with Toronto YWCA Women of Distinction Award.

Florence accomplished so much and maintained a great sense of humour. Even when working towards tight deadlines or meeting seemingly unsurmountable challenges, Florence always kept calm and managed to light up the room with her laughter.

Florence retired from Yee Hong after over two decades of unrivalled achievement in Canada. She finally had the time to satisfy her craving to learn new skills and was determined to excel in them as she did in other undertakings. She started cooking and making delicious desserts. Her black sesame and almond sweet soups were family and friends’ favourites. She picked up Chinese calligraphy and painting, and within a short time, she was mastering the art. Two years ago, she decided to teach herself piano and guitar. She was so proud to be able to play at family gatherings, especially in front of her grandchildren. It filled her life with so much joy.

Florence loved travelling. Every year since she retired, Florence went on cruises and trips with her husband, family, and friends. Apart from Yellowstone Park, she had been to all the places in her bucket list including three honeymoons with Sam, her beloved husband of 49 years.

Florence is leaving behind a legacy for senior care in Ontario – care that is more responsive and accessible. She will not only be missed by her husband Sam, her son Dennis (Ada), her daughter Iris (Lawrence) and her grandchildren, Chester, Portia, Nora, and Heather, but by the many whose lives were made better because of Florence.

A family funeral service will be private. A Celebration of Life for Florence, will take place on April 20, 2024 in the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Toronto.

The family would like to express their gratitude to the team at the Yee Hong Peter K. Kwok Hospice, for their compassionate care. In memory of Florence M. L. Wong, donations are welcome for the benefit of the Yee Hong Peter K. Kwok Hospice. To make a contribution, please use the donation form above.