Family members, friends and community leaders gathered at Lee Garden in Ipoh recently to honour the memory of well-known local businessman philanthropist Foo Yet Kai who was killed in his house during a robbery fifty years ago.
At the ceremony Dato’ Foo Wan Kien related in moving language how as a teenager in London he was rushed back to Ipoh with the message that his father had been shot. He described making the long journey back not knowing whether his father was dead or alive. Narrating the values his father lived by, he said that these values still continue to live in the family which remains totally united.
The tribute paid to Foo Yet Kai by the many who spoke during the ceremony bore testimony to the greatness of this man. Considering that his life was cut short at the early age of 55 it is truly remarkable how much he managed to achieve.
The story of Foo Yet Kai is an inspiring story of from rags to riches. Born in Batu Gajah in 1907, when his father died when he was three, he moved to Yunting village in Fujian, China, with his mother. He spent the next 15 years in the village in abject poverty. Even then he is said to have demonstrated boldness and leadership earning the title ‘big brother’ amongst his peers. There is the story of him during the civil war, when only 11, confronting soldiers attempting to pillage his house, earning their respect and saving his home.
In 1924, at the age of 18, he returned to Malaya and began working in a tin mine under his uncle. With the experience he had acquired he began his own mines. An entrepreneur at heart, soon after achieving success in mining he ventured into other businesses ending with significant investments in finance, property, timber and plantations.
He took great interest in the community, holding important positions in several associations. He was the first president of the Perak Yunting Association formed in 1947 and was the president of the Perak Kheh Association in 1955.
But most of all he was a philanthropist. He bought the Chung Thye Phin Villa and allowed the Sisters of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood to convert and run it as a hospital. Known as Our Lady’s hospital it operated between 1964 and 1983. It is now known as the Kinta Medical Centre.
In the field of education, in addition to making generous donations to several educational institutions in 1958, he led the setting up of Shen Jai High School.