Norman Kwong is being remembered by family, friends and Albertans today at a state memorial in Calgary.
Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper told mourners he was touching on only a few highlights of a remarkable man’s remarkable life.
“Normie Kwong made an immense and historic contribution to Canadian sport, to Canadian business and to Canadian public life. He made an immense and historic contribution to the city of Calgary, our province of Alberta and our country, Canada.”
Harper remembered Kwong’s achievements as the 16th Lieutenant Governor.
“During his time in that office he brought a particular focus on sports and seniors, hosted the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh during their royal tour and presided over the province’s centennial, something which I should add would be inconceivable for a Chinese Canadian to have done 100 years ago.”
Kwong was known by friends and family as the “China Clipper” and was the first Canadian of Asian heritage to play in the CFL when he joined the Calgary Stampeders in 1948, holding on to more than 30 CFL records when he retired in 1960.
Kwong was one of the greatest players to ever wear the green and gold for the Eskimos, helping the team win three straight Grey Cups in 1954, ’55 and ’56.
His long-time friend, a former commissioner of the Canadian Football League, Doug Mitchell recalls how much Normie loved cars, and one time in particular when they were looking at a vehicle brochure together. “We both thought – ‘That wouldn’t be a bad one to buy’.
“A few weeks later, Lois and I drove up to Normie and Mary’s house in our new car, and there was HIS new car. Almost identical.
“When we went into the house, I said to Normie ‘So. We ended up buying the same car.’ He said, as he chuckled, ‘No we didn’t. Yours is the basic model. Mine’s the deluxe model.'”
Kwong’s son Randy remembers the lessons his father taught him about dealing with racism, something that Norman would face quite regularly on the gridiron.
“He told me that it fueled him to outperform that person, and he told me that he never responded in words, but he would make sure to run over that person on the field. And he found that shut the person up pretty quickly.”
Kwong died Sept. 3 at his home in Calgary at the age of 86.
You can watch the whole ceremony below.