Family celebrates father and his 'ideal companion' of 60 years

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 June, 2009, 12:00am

The exact date To Hoi-hung and his wife married is now lost in the 60 years that have passed since. But it was during the summer of 1949, in Guangzhou, at a time of immense change as the People's Republic of China was formed.

Since then, the To family has grown in size and wealth, with the couple raising five children in Hong Kong, managing to send them overseas to study in good times and lean, and now the Tos are the proud grandparents of eight.

Like many successful Chinese families, the Tos are scattered across the world, but on this Father's Day, they have gathered together in Hong Kong to honour their patriarch.

Mr To, 86, says the secret to success as a good father is having a good wife. And his children attribute their own success in life to the advantages provided by learning from their parents' ideal partnership.

May To, the youngest daughter, appreciates her father for encouraging the diverse interests of his children. She says he and her mother formed an inseparable team of support from an early age, and that both parents were the key to her pursuing her dreams.

When Ms To performed folk dancing at secondary school, both parents would be there to show their support, taking photographs that Ms To has now passed on to her own children. 'They would alternate - one holding the camera, the other cheering. We came to expect that kind of support as children, but looking around at my friends, I would see they didn't always have somebody there like that.'

Mr To, a stock broker, says he recognised from an early age that parental support is a rare gem to be treasured. In 1934, when he was just 11, his father died of heart disease. Having grown up with his elder brother serving as father figure to six siblings from his father's five wives, Mr To treasures his six-decade marriage and sprawling but close-knit family.

As a team, the couple continue to work wonders. With a long and happy marriage and now a successful extended family gathered around them to celebrate it, they plan to extend their arms to those with fewer opportunities; they will donate the gifts received on this anniversary to help schools on the mainland.

'Their children are now well-established,' says Grace To, wife of second son Henry To. 'They have given so much to their family, and now they want to give back to society.'

It is not his wealth or his success as a father that Mr To focuses on. He long ago achieved the most important factor in a happy life - it is all about finding the 'ideal companion', what he calls 'the No1 step towards happiness'. As a father, he hopes his children recognise the value of that companionship. 'I thank my wife,' he says. 'Without her, I would feel lonely and lost.'