Old Esquimalt Village – DND

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Everyone Liked Soue Kee; But how many really knew him?

Known as ‘Soue Kee’, the Chinese laundry man, Tang Kam Chew cleaned and delivered laundry in the old village of Esquimalt for 50 years, most of them for the Navy. Soue Kee endeared himself to those he served as a kind, happy, honourable and sharp business man who worked very hard. Originally coming to Canada in 1909, sponsored by a family friend in the laundry business from the same village in China, Tang Kam Chew hoped to earn a good living to support the wife and children he left back home. After a short time in Esquimalt, he was in business for himself opening ‘Soue Kee’ Laundry, meaning something like prosperous and happy. He was later joined by his brother, Tang Kan Hey, who after some years in Canada returned back to China, however, Tang Kam Chew never did see his family again. Soue Kee served the Old Esquimalt Village and the Navy through two world wars and retired in Victoria in 1959. He died in 1966 and was buried in the Royal Oak Burial Park with Naval honours. Today his grave site is unable to be identified in the cemetery. Tang Kam Chew’s family resided in China and it is possible today that a connection could be made.

References

“Everyone Liked Soue Kee; But how many really knew him?”

By Jim Ryan, The Islander, August 25,1990

Esquimalt Archives, Vertical Files under ‘Soue Kee’.

Notes:

Tang Yip, an Esquimalt launder and grocery businessman, sponsored Tang Kam Chew ‘Soue Kee’ from China. The two men came from the same village in China and although they shared the same family name the two were not related. Tang Yip was also the father of “Uncle”Jack Tang.

An excellent resource of archival materials are available in the Esquimalt Archives for Tang Kam Chew and his life in Canada as the Chinese laundry man ‘Soue Kee’. Photos of the different laundry buildings and locations in the Esquimalt Village and Naval Base over the years are also accessible.