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Politicians, business people and the common man have all paid glowing tribute to well known San Fernando businessman Maurice Soong, who passed away last Wednesday at the age of 78. The owner of the popular Great Wall Restaurant, along Circular Road, died after a long battle with cancer. A private cremation will take place today, following a funeral service at Our Lady of Perpetual Help RC Church, Harris Promenade, at 2 pm.
In lieu of flowers, his family has asked that donations be made to the South Cancer Society. Last year, Soong, who had been in business for almost half of a century, was honoured as one of The Unsung Heroes of Mon Repos for his development of the city of San Fernando. Former San Fernando West Member of Parliament Diane Seukeran remembered him as “the loveliest man ever, an old school gentleman and a successful entrepreneur.”
She said the success of his business was based on his integrity, style, charm and warmth. She said he came from humble beginnings and even though he rose to prominence, he never lost his humility. During his lifetime, she said, Soong played the politics well, embracing politicians of all ilk and party, an attribute she credited to him having grown up in her home, which was more like a mini parliament where her father, the late politician Lionel Seukeran, held court.
“Maurice was my neighbour. He grew up in our home. He was practically my father’s son.” She said it was her father, who persuaded Soong, while he operated Cherry Blossom Restaurant, not to rent, but to own and even paved the way for him to have the business financed.
“I saw Maurice and his wife Brenda work hard to build their business and they grew with it. All of San Fernando respected Maurice and Brenda and wished them well. His death has really hit me and I hope that Soong’s will continue, the way Maurice would have wanted it.”
San Fernando mayor Kazim Hosein, remembered as a young man growing up, he and his family would walk to the nearby Soong’s Cherry Blossom on Coffee Street, every Friday. He said aback then, his late father Rakeeb Hosein was not yet a mayor, but Soong would always come downstairs in the restaurant to meet them. “His death is a great loss, not only to the San Fernando business community, but a personal loss. He was a friend of the family, a very humble person. We had a good relationship and I would miss him.”
Local Government Minister Marlene Coudray who had many memorable experiences at Soong’s also expressed condolences to his widow, Brenda, and family. Coudray, who also served as CEO of the San Fernando City Corporation and as mayor said: “Maurice was a dear friend and true patriot who loved and cared about San Fernando. He made a name for himself and San Fernando through his business, Soong’s Great Wall, and was a good corporate sponsor of charitable events in the city. May his soul rest in peace.”
In a statement, his surviving relatives said he died peacefully at a private nursing, surrounded by his family. “Dad’s journey began in Hermitage Village and continued to San Fernando where he opened Soong’s Restaurant and Soong’s Cherry Blossom on Coffee Street.
Believing that San Fernando Hill was truly one of the most outstanding landmarks in all of Trinidad, he chose to build Soong’s Great Wall on Circular Road in 1981. This has been one of his greatest accomplishments. He was most proud of his beautiful wife, children, and grandchildren and he was equally proud to call Trinidad his home.”