(Journal Entry: Saturday July 27, 2013, 5:43 pm)
By Jorge Antonio Vallejos
At 4pm today I found out that Sifu Richard Wong died. He smashed into a tree while riding an ATV. He was on the job.
Rich was 42 years old.
I can remember his laugh now. I can’t describe it but I can hear it.
All that has been coming out of my mouth for the last hour and a half is “good guy”: while eating, staring blankly at my computer screen, sitting at the edge of my bed, talking with my mother and brother, and now while putting pen to paper. I say those two words over and over.
Rich was one of the good guys.
I don’t think many people can say a bad thing about Rich. He wasn’t perfect. But that’s ’cause no one is.
Rich had a good heart.
I remember showing Rich the OPIRG office and First Nations House in 2004. I gave him a private tour. He was impressed. We talked Indigenous solidarity movements and colonialism for the rest of the night.
Rich was a lefty at heart. He had good politics and he cared about people. He’s one of them guys that would give you a ride. A real ride. Because in Toronto a “ride” means a lift to the subway. Rich would drive you home. He was a stand up guy. Honourable. Loyal. Forgiving. A man of character. They don’t make men like him much.
Rich didn’t subscribe to one form of spirituality. He invited me several times to visit Bhuddist monks who told him his future, and to see a Mohawk Elder in Guelph. I never went. I’ve got my own spirituality and he respected that.
One of the good guys.
Rich was a small man with a big heart. He was 5 foot 2. His heart and will stood out.
Rich was a trained warrior. He knew how to survive any weather condition and fight in any battle. When he committed to something he did well. And everything he was involved in saw 100% effort: Kung Fu, work, and his personal relationships.
If only everyone could be like him.
If I were to say anything at Rich’s funeral it would be: “There aren’t many men like Rich. He was a good person, a good friend, and a good example of how to live your life.”
I remember a quote at Kyle Scanlon’s (Toronto Trans activist) memorial last year: “He cared more about the cause than recognition for his work.” It was a big thing to have said about someone. And I think it applies to Rich too.
Rich was a forgiving person. He put aside history and hung with Japanese people even though his family disapproved; Nan King and its horrors are still deep wounds for many Chinese people. When betrayed by a Kung Fu brother and sister he put his feelings aside and continued training alongside them. “Kung Fu” was his simple answer when we talked about the difficult time. He understood the spiritual side of the art as well as of the mental and physical. Kung Fu was a way of life for Rich and it was more important than personal conflicts.
There’s an Indigenous teaching that says, “Good thoughts. Good words. Good actions.”
That was Rich.
He was one of the good guys.