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With a name that translates as “His Greatness,” it should come as no surprise that 51-year-old Malaysian native Keeway Wong would be more than able to cope with sacrifice.
But that sacrifice, which brought him to Chiefland about 10 years ago, ended Monday with a 16-hour flight back to his wife and his two youngest sons still living on the other side of the world.
“Mission accomplished. Going home,” Wong, who also goes by Alex, said Friday, smiling and casually sipping hot brew at a table at Mya’s Chinese Restaurant where he’s worked all this time as a host, server and cashier.
Twenty-four years ago, Wong and his wife, Doren, had their oldest son, Frederick, during a stay in New York, which granted Frederick citizenship and a chance at the “American Dream.”
Later, back in Malaysia, it was decided that Frederick would do well to take advantage of his citizenship here. Long-time family friend and Chiefland restaurateur Mya offered Wong a job, and, after father and son were set up, it wasn’t long before young Frederick was off, doing well in his studies at Chiefland High School and taking to American culture like a “natural,” Wong said.
Frederick recently graduated from the University of Florida and has been accepted into law school at the College of William and Mary, in Virginia.
“I’m just doing what I needed to do as a father. In Asia, education comes first,” Wong said, adding that the opportunities in Malaysia for higher education are limited. “Some criticize the U.S., but it’s the best. No one else offers these opportunities. A lot of people don’t know how lucky they are. If you have been to another country, you’d know how blessed you are.”
Still, despite the opportunities here, Wong is eager to get home to Malaysia’s capital city of Kuala Lampur. His family owns several businesses there, and he’s eager to see his wife and sons.
Since Frederick started at UF a few years ago, Wong, whose sole means of transportation is a bike, characterizes his own free time as “One Chinaman, four gray walls, one PC and a couple of cans of beer.”
He’s kept a positive outlook, he said. It helps the time go faster. And the people in Chiefland have become like family.
He carries home with him luggage full of letters, post cards, well wishes and a much-coveted uncut sheet of 32 $1 bills he plans to have framed.
“Thank you America. That is what I feel.”