(Fort McMurray) Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta and Syncrude are proud to announce the 7th nominee for the Women of Inspiration series 2017-2018:
Kim Mah arrived in Edmonton at the age of 17 on October 5, 1957. Kim’s grandfather worked at the Swift Meat Company in Edmonton and through conversations with a fellow worker they decided that a marriage between Kim and the son of the other worker would be a good idea. Mrs. Mah originally thought she was going to Canada to visit her grandfather and was told by her father prior to the plane’s take-off – that there would be a young man meeting her in Canada and that he wanted to marry her. This was an acceptable cultural custom .Kim’s family made the $2000 deposit to Canadian Immigration as a requirement for her entry to Canada. It was surety for the cost of her return to Hong Kong, if she chooses to not get married.
On October 14, nine days after her arrival in Canada, Kim and Dickie Mah (then 22) were married in a Canadian style wedding and the newly married couple arrived in Fort Chipewyan to start their lives together on October 22, 1957.
Kim met her husband at the Edmonton airport and only had a picture prior to the meeting. A lot of people from Hong Kong were leaving China for a new life .It was a good match and Kim had a good life with Dickie. They had 6 children (Jeannie, Susie, Darlene, Eddie, Loretta and Serena) it was a strong and happy 33 year marriage and Mrs. Mah still misses her husband who she lost on 1988.
Life for the Mah family has for 5 generations centered on the Athabasca Café and Dining Lounge. The Café was originally built in either 1924 or 1927 by Charlie, Kim’s father in law. The father in law worked to bring his wife and children from China in 1947. All of his children attended the only school in Fort Chip and they all learned English, Cree and Chip. Dickie Mah took over the business and ran it with his new young wife. Kim spoke no English when she arrived in Canada so her husband was the voice of the café with Kim working in the back cooking.
Mrs. Mah, after the sudden death of her husband had to become the owner, operator and worked to learn English so she could communicate with her customers. Over the next few years she worked to build her vocabulary and her confidence. Her father who was living in California wanted Mrs. Mah to move there after the death of her husband. She asked her father to give her 2 years to prove that she could stand alone and run a successful business. She wanted to stay to allow her daughter time to finish university and wanted to provide for her family. Kim’s son Eddie and his wife moved back to Fort Chipewyan to help his mother with the Café. After 2 years and with his wife expecting twins, Mrs. Mah encouraged them to return to their life in Edmonton. Mrs. Mah had proved to herself and to others that she could stand alone. She is very proud that her children all have a good education, has good jobs and are doing well. She visits with her children and grandchildren several times a year. She has 17 grandchildren and find family a source of strength.
Mrs. Mah’s Café is vital to the community and feeds a lot of travelers, contractors and visitors to the community. She is used to putting in 17 hour days and only recently has hired help. She knows everyone in the community and considerers Fort Chipewyan her home after 50 plus years. She still travels to Hong Kong and California to visit her parents and siblings. Longevity runs in the family and she plans on continuing to work. She continues to be a one woman show at the café and loves to talk to her friends and always has the time to listen to the stories of her neighbours.
Kim is a perfect example of a strong role model for young women in the region. Her sense of adventure and indomitable will and work ethic demonstrate what one can accomplish.
Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta and Syncrude will honour Kim and 11 other nominees, at the Women of Inspiration Celebration which will take place in June, 2018.
The Women of Inspiration is a partnership between Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta and Syncrude, with a goal to recognize women throughout the Wood Buffalo region who inspire others, break new ground or old barriers and help create change. The series also aims to show local girls positive role models who live right here.
To nominate a woman of inspiration, please visit our website at www.girlsincofnorthernalberta.org or contact the Girls Inc. office at 780-790-9236.
For more information, please contact:
Executive Director – Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta