Saturday, February 10, 2007


Calgary lost another good man this past week. His name was Roddy Mah and he made a difference.

Born in Calgary in 1929, he returned to China at age 5 to attend school and learn Chinese. While in China, World War II intervened thus keeping him there until after it was over. He returned to Calgary, learned English, married Lillian, and went into the restaurant business. An outstanding businessman, he operated several restaurants, including the Jade Palace, a first-rate Chinese food restaurant on Center Street and 3rd Avenue, for twenty-five years. Over the years, he supported many causes. One of the most significant was the redevelopment of Chinatown, making that area one of the unique places in the City and one of the most dynamic downtown Chinese districts in the country. He was one of the first to start business relations between Canada and China, and whenever in China, tirelessly promoted Calgary and Alberta as great places to do business. He was involved in many enterprises and had many business partners, all of whom thought highly of him.

Roddy also loved politics. He was one of the first to encourage Ralph Klein to run for Mayor, and loyally supported Ralph in all of his political endeavors throughout his career. Ralph was his friend, and Roddy helped his friends. He also helped his Liberal friends, one of which was me.

In January 1980, Roddy owned a large banquet Hall on the corner of 3rd Avenue and 1st St SE called, as I recall, the Golden Nugget, or some such name. It was during the Federal Election campaign that brought an end to the brief Joe Clark Tory Government and returned Pierre Trudeau and his Liberals to power. The Liberals rented Roddy's place for a campaign luncheon. The hall had a capacity of about 500, and following the political principle of always renting a room smaller than the crowd one expected, Roddy and the Grits crowded about 750 into the place to hear Pierre. I was the Liberal candidate for Calgary North in that election and introduced Trudeau at the luncheon, where he was warmly received by the over flow crowd. So much over flow, that Roddy was charged under the Fire Ordinance for overcrowding. He gladly paid the twenty-five dollar fine. Roddy said that Trudeau, who loved Chinese food, soon made it up to him. While on his way to or from Asia, while Trudeau's plane was stopped in Calgary for refuelling, he called Roddy and ordered some Chinese food from the Restaurant, thus evening the score.

I enlisted Roddy's assistance in the first Chretien-Martin leadership race in 1990. Roddy was only too happy to help get out the Chinese vote in the delegate selection hunt for the Riding of Calgary Center. He recruited several from the Chinese community to sell the memberships, primarily to the older, retired people who lived in Chinatown Apartments. He recommended the strategy of meeting with them for a social evening prior to the delegate selection meeting so that I could address them on why they should vote for the Chretien slate. On the night of the meeting, a light luncheon was held for the new members at the Jade Palace, at which there were more speeches - all translated into Chinese. Buses waited outside to transport them to the polls. The Chretien slate, thanks to Roddy and his friends, handily won the contest. It was a revealing exercise of democracy.

A very colorful, rotund, affable, jolly but modest man, Roddy enjoyed a good martini and fine wine. He loved talking politics, both Canadian and Chinese. To have dinner with Roddy and his friends, was an event not to be missed. Great conversation, food, spirits and plenty of laughter.

He left a devoted family, and many admiring friends located in the four corners of the globe. And many fond and happy memories.


Raymaker said...

Very nice appreciation. The man sounds like a true builder.

rockfish said...

Nice tribute to a decent man. People like Mr Mah need to be appreciated while they are around, since they give so much to the community around them.