Bill Hoon: b Wellington, July 5, 1943; m Mavis Sidnam, 2s, 1d; d Wellington, May 2, 2012, aged 68.
Bill Hoon's story is a microcosm of Chinese-New Zealand history. His mother Sui Jung Hoon and father Sum Jock Hoon came from China in the 1920s, his father paying the 100 poll tax. Bill was born in 1943 in the family home, above F K Leong's fruit shop in Lambton Quay.
His brother, Allan, was 14 months older. They were inseparable, and even began their school life together, at Thorndon School, although Allan was 5 1/2 and Bill only 4 1/2.
They went on to attend Clyde Quay School. The family moved in 1953, when their father established a fruit shop in Newtown. Bill and Allan attended Wellington South Intermediate, and later Wellington Technical College. Brother Stan completed the family.
When their father died in 1961, the two older boys left school to take over the shop, and the care of their mother and brother. Allan was 18, and Bill 17.
The family takes great pride in the way Bill and his brother took this responsibility onto their young shoulders. They had no family able to help them, and no experience in business. There were debts to pay off, and a family to support. Bill and Allan supported their mother and brother, and built up a business, taking no wages until the debts were paid. This experience shaped Bill. He remained determined, hard working, and focused 100 per cent on making the best possible life for his family.
Bill loved to be active. The shop was never his whole life, despite the long hours he put into it. Over the years, long-distance running, basketball, tennis and table tennis were outlets for whatever stress and worry he had. He went on to coach and referee basketball.
It was through basketball that he met Mavis Sidnam, who lived in Feilding. So, to Feilding Bill drove, every Saturday after the shop closed. In a year-long courtship, he missed only one Saturday. Bill's persistence paid off and he and Mavis married in 1970.
Bill's brother Allan and Mavis' sister Mary soon followed suit, and also married. The four of them worked together in Hoon's Foodmarket. Success was ensured by the Hoons' unique skills, personalities and hard work. The four became Newtown icons, serving generations of locals with excellent produce, with their brand of good humour, friendly efficiency and unparalleled product knowledge. They were responsive to changing times, selling aubergines and asparagus alongside taro and green bananas.
Bill and Mavis wanted their three children, Nicola, Justin and Damien, to have a different life to their own, and encouraged them into education and sport. The greatest gift they gave, though, was their time. In the days when there were 13 fruit and vege shops between Newtown's John and Mansfield streets, competition was fierce. And yet, the Hoons chose not to open their shop on Sundays, to give them precious family time.
Bill was proud of his children. He would say, "I've got an accountant, a software developer, and a doctor. That's not bad for an old fruiterer."
In 1979, the old shop was demolished, and the new Hoon's Foodmarket was one of the first self-service fruit shops in Wellington.
The brothers were a great team. Allan's expertise lay in buying and managing produce. Bill was the front man. Charming, charismatic, yet modest, Bill's heart was as big as his smile. He loved the customers, regardless of social status or ethnicity, and they loved him. He had a special empathy with the Samoan community and Bill helped many of them over the years providing for funerals, celebrations, and family meals.
For Bill, running a successful business meant people first, not business first. That philosophy also applied to staff, and Bill included them in shared meals, fun and conversation after a hard day's work in the shop.
Community involvement was also a part of Bill Hoon's life. He was a founding member of, and a tireless fundraiser for, the Wellington Chinese Sports and Cultural Centre.
When Bill and Mavis, Allan and Mary planned their retirement they also planned for a life beyond work. The foursome took up ballroom dancing, sometimes practising their steps in the back of the shop.
Bill's retirement only lasted five years, but he and Mavis packed in a lot – travel, time with grandchildren, golf and, of course, dancing. Golf partner and fellow dance aficionado Major Yee told of he and Bill stopping on the fairway to finesse a particular dance move.
When Bill was diagnosed with incurable stomach cancer last year, his decision, as always, was to do the best thing for his family. He chose the difficult path of chemotherapy. This would buy Bill and his family a precious six weeks to make arrangements and to say their goodbyes.
He chose to spend his final days at Mary Potter Hospice, so the family home would not be filled with sad memories, and so Mavis and the family would not be burdened with his care.
He was courageous and loving to the end. He guided his family through every step. He let them know that he was happy with his life. He was not afraid. He was at peace, and ready to go.
More than 500 people attended his funeral, where he was remembered as a compassionate, caring, community-minded family man and friend, always ready with a joke, a hug, and a practical helping hand.
- ↑ Agnew, P. (2012, May 28). Hardworking businessman with charisma. DominionPost. Retrieved from https://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/obituaries/6993964/Hardworking-businessman-with-charisma
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