Dr. Wing Hong Tam
February 14, 1938 – May 15, 2020
On May 15, 2020, our dearly beloved husband, father, brother, uncle and friend, Wing Hong Tam, passed away at Toronto General Hospital from complications associated with COVID-19. True to his character, he fought like a lion to the very finish.
Born in Hong Kong on February 14, 1938, Wing Hong was the eldest of six brothers and sisters born to Michael Yue Shing Tam and Wai Hing Tam. He attended St. Joseph’s College in Hong Kong before moving on to the University of Hong Kong, where he earned a B.Sc. (biology) and a Ph.D. (endocrinology). After receiving his Ph.D., he completed a three year postdoctoral fellowship at the Wellcome Institute of Comparative Physiology at the Zoological Society of London, U.K. In 1971, he accepted a position as a Professor in the Department of Zoology at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario. He would remain at Western for 35 years until his retirement, devoted to his research in comparative and reproductive endocrinology, teaching the many thousands of undergraduates who attended his classes, and mentoring scores of graduate students. He was very proud of his work and career.
It was just prior to commencing his doctoral studies at HKU that Wing Hong met Cecilia Koo, and love soon blossomed between them over movie dates, picnics, and romantic strolls around Victoria Peak. He later said “they always knew” without the need for words, and they married in 1967. All told, they were together for 57 years, very rarely apart and separated only by his passing. They lovingly raised two children – Andrew, a lawyer, and Amy, a doctor – and Wing would practically burst with pride at their academic, personal and professional achievements. He was just as proud of the achievements of his nieces and nephews.
In what free time he had, Wing enjoyed varied pursuits, including the study of history, reading about current events, researching and writing about Asian ceramics, listening to opera and classical music, travelling with family, watching movies with friends and socializing over dinners and dim sum. Above all, he enjoyed his time with Cecilia and, in recent years, as she suffered health issues, he displayed incredible and touching devotion to her care.
Wing is survived, loved and deeply missed by Cecilia, his children, his five brothers and sisters – Jenny (David), Mabel (Peter), Bill (Min), Albert (Matilda) and Vivian (Michael), their children, and the rest of the Tam and Koo families. He is also loved and dearly missed by Andrew’s partner, Jo-Anne, who was a near-constant companion to Wing (and Cecilia) in recent months, and who formed a special bond with Wing.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis, an intimate, private service will be held at R. S. Kane Funeral Home in Toronto on Thursday, May 21, 2020. Once it is safe to travel and gather in larger numbers, the Tam family will host a proper celebration of life and “big eat” to make Wing Hong proud.
Donations in Wing Hong’s memory can be directed to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, or to a worthy charity of your choice.
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
Dr. Wing Hong Tam
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Jack and Donna Millar
June 2, 2020
Dear Cecelia and family;
We first met you and Tam in 1971 when we were part of a cohort of 6 new hires in the Department of Zoology. Michael Locke, the new Chair, had a mandate to improve the research profile of the department, making for interesting times. Three of those new hires soon departed, but we remained at UWO to build our careers over the next 4 decades.
We had different research interests (physiology vs ecology) but we served on many committees together. Tam was a very friendly colleague, never prone to anger, always with a smile on his face and a joke or story to tell. He was dedicated to his teaching and research. When funding for basic research became scarce and he could no longer support graduate students, he continued with his experiments, even coming to campus on weekends to care for his animals.
In retirement, we both had desks in the “old folks” quarters in the Collip building where he pursued his interest in history. When I asked him why he spent so much time on Chinese rather than Canadian history, he explained there was because there was a lot more of it in China than Canada. He was devoted to his family and very proud of his children’s careers in medicine and law. When I teased him about having no scientists in his family, he would laugh and remind me that I didn’t either.
Post-retirement, Tam took over the family grocery shopping and Donna would often encounter him in Costco, cruising the aisles, looking for a bargain. She remembers his big smile and his interest in chatting about family events.
We have many fond memories of Tam. He was a true gentleman and scholar.
May 31, 2020
I completed my Master's degree in Dr. Tam's lab in the late 1980s. He was a wonderful, supportive supervisor and a lovely man. He had a terrific sense of humour and I always enjoyed our chats that often strayed beyond the world of fish physiology. He spoke so highly of his kids, Andrew and Amy, and was incredibly proud of them. My deepest condolences to you, your mum and the whole family.
Lin Dr. Tham
May 30, 2020
My husband and I are deeply saddened by the passing of Professor Wing Hong Tam. To Cecilia and family, please accept our sympathy and condolences. I met Prof Tam about 12 years ago at a dinner gathering, being introduced to him by a mutual friend. I was instantly drawn to his friendly, cheerful disposition, his keenness to acquire knowledge in science, his vast interest and knowledge in human physiology, Chinese and British history & cultures, antiques, classical music etc. We became friends, often share meals and conversations in each other’s homes. His deep devotion, selfless, constant care to Cecilia was admirable. We will miss him a great deal, but will cherish the memories of the good times we had with him. Our thoughts are with his family during this difficult and sad time.
May 29, 2020
My wife Lauren Dickie ( Dr McCurdy) studied biology under Dr Tam 1971-72 and I studied the next year using her notes while both trying to enter medical school.
Fortunately we were both accepted in 1973 with a great deal of help from Dr Tam. Lauren (known by her nickname Loli) was particularly fond of Dr Tam and being a real keener would frequent his office after classes. Loli passed away last June after suffering from very early onset dementia and I am sure if she were still here would add her condolences . I am also sure that Dr Tam would remember "Loli " as that bothersome student.
My condolences to Mrs Tam and family
May 22, 2020
My sincere condolences on your loss. I was hired as a physiologist at Western in 2005 and "inherited" Dr. Tam's laboratory. He was one of the first people I met after arriving and he was always very gracious and helpful during my transition to the new job. We went through lots of boxes of glassware and equipment and I even have and use some of it still. He was a great colleague and will be greatly missed.
May 21, 2020
I will forever remember Uncle Wing Hong as one of the greatest cheerleaders in my life. He was always a wonderful sounding board, providing insightful advice when needed. I know how proud he was of me when I became a physician, as he would often refer to me as "Doctor Tam". Ina nod to his stubborn streak, he gifted me a beautiful pen upon completion of medical school to use to "write my first prescription" despite the medical field moving further and further into the digital age. He was a pillar of our family and in my life. I will miss him every day,
May 21, 2020
Dear Bak Bak,
We are going to miss you so much. I was too little to remember much, when you came to stay with us during your sabbatical. You took care of me then. You also predicted what I would become when I grew up. I was no more than a year and a half old. As I pointed to pill bottles and said " yeurk, yeurk - medicine, medicine", you told my mom that I will be a pharmacist !! I was looking at pictures of you and I and my brother together. Bring back such fond memories of our times together. I love you. Rest in peace.
May 21, 2020
Dear Amy, Andrew, and Cecilia,
I had the privilege of studying as a graduate student under you father's guidance for many years in the early 1980's, first for a Master's, then a doctorate. We kept in touch intermittently for a number of years after I left Western.
What impressed me the most about him was his "multi-facetedness" (I can't find the right word): During his lunch breaks, he would read books on geography, history, as well as his regular diet of science publications.
I also discovered that he was a story-teller: He would regale me and others in his lab with stories of his studies in Hong Kong or London, of an event that held his interest in a book he was reading, or the pride he felt for each of the members of his family.
My memory of him will always be of him standing at a lab bench pipetting solutions or sitting in his office peering down a microscope. To me, he illustrated the curiosity, perseverance, and dedication of a naturally-born scientist.
Please accept my sincere condolences on Dr Tam's passing. May he rest in peace.
May 20, 2020
What a lovely man he was. So kind and warm-hearted. The photo is exactly as I remember him out walking his dog. Big welcoming smile on his face. Always a greeting and happy to see you. How we need people like him.
So cruel how part of life means losing loved ones. He certainly left his mark on science on the lives of students and on everyone he met. As he rests in peace with the Angels, may his family find comfort in all that he gave to this world. He truly was a sacred soul.
May 20, 2020
Dear Andrew and Amy, I am honored to have known your father. He was truly a blessing in my life and I will miss him. My condolences.
My memories as his research technician of the many hours that we spent working together in the lab; hours of completing RIAs together! His knowledge, kindness, and humour, remain with me.
Later, as a Zoology/Biology teaching technician we worked together for many years in the undergrad teaching labs for (271) Vertebrate Biology, and (370) Reproduction. He was a joy to watch with students, so enthusiastic to impart his knowledge to them, so patient in explanations, always willing to answer questions.
A wonderful gentle man, my “go to” person for over 25 years when I needed his knowledge for any of my assigned undergrad courses. He will be missed.
May 20, 2020
I am sorry to hear about your loss! I remember Dr. Tam as a polite and friendly colleague who always was willing to stop for a hallway chat to make you feel better.
May 20, 2020
My deepest sympathies to all.
I have known Tam for many years. Tam loved his work, students and the University. He always greeted you with a big smile and would stop and chat. He was a kind and gentle man. He wanted his children to be successful and happy, and was proud of their accomplishments. Tam would always talk about Cecilia and how she was doing. He truly was devoted to her.
Tam will be missed by many.
May 20, 2020
I am very sorry to hear about Dr. Tam's passing. He taught me Vertebrate Biology at the University of Western Ontario in 2002. I remember that he began the course by posing a question to us on the first day: Do snakes have long necks or a long tail? He made class fun and interesting. I could count on learning something new every day.
Dr. Tam was an inspiration for me - I now teach biology at Western.
May 20, 2020
To Dr Tam's family and friends
I offer my condolences to you.
I will miss my chats with Dr Tam. Such a great smile and always an encouraging word and knowledge shared.
As a student at Western and later as a professor I was always so pleased to see Dr Tam and to stop and chat with him. He spoke with such kindness and thoughtfulness. He will be missed.
May 20, 2020
To Dr. Tam's family - I am very sorry to learn of Dr. Tam's passing. I have many fond memories of his kindness and smile but most of all - his sense of humour - when I worked in the Dept. of Biology at a time that would have been late in his career. He had enthusiasm and energy that was positive and he always made an effort to engage with others with a smile. I'm sure he will be very much missed.
May 20, 2020
I worked with Tam at Western for several years. I had the pleasure to co-teach courses with him.....and always learned something. He was passionate about his science, spending many a long day in the lab, helping not only his students, but any who required his expertise in fish reproductive endocrinology. Many of my own students benefited from his knowledge...and patience!
He always had something to contribute to our department and University....he took his responsibilities as University professor seriously.
He was also passionate about his family, often proudly sharing stories of the latest academic exploits of his children.
He was a good, kind man and I am the richer for having known him.