Sir Fung Fai Lam was a close friend of mine for over 35 years. I first met Fung in January 1974 and called him my friend until he passed away from cancer in May 2009. He was an amazing individual and it was an honour to know him.
When I first met Fung, he worked for Sony of Canada as the Manager of their technical services department for the broadcast technology division. In the early days, this was a stand alone Sony of Japan company operating in Canada. It was separate from the Sony consumer goods company, which was operated in partnership with the Cohen family from Winnipeg, under the name of General Distributors (Gendis). The Cohens were later bought out and the consumer and broadcast divisions were merged into one Canadian entity and colocated to Willowdale.
Fung ultimately retired as Vice President of Sony of Canada. He was also Vice President of the Society of Motion Picture Television Engineers and served for many terms as the Chair of the Toronto Section. In 1997, he was invested as Knight of Justice in the Most Venerable Order of Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem. So, he was knighted and carried the designation of ‘Sir’ Fung Fai Lam.
His commitment to community service has been impressive. Considering Fung’s illustrious and highly public profile, I struggled to find many photos of Fung. Which is particularly surprising to me due to his love for photography. So, I need to dig deeper in the basement as I must have some more pictures of him to share. Fung was a serious amateur photographer. It was Fung who introduced me to Hasselblad cameras. He owned a Hasselblad 500C, a 500 ELM camera, and a few lenses. He was a passionate photographer and shared his love of photography with me and taught me the merits of the amazing Hasselblad cameras. Today, I still own three of them and perhaps 6 lenses, all because of Fung’s influence on me and for my love of photography.
He has worked tirelessly in many different organizations. He has served six Lieutenant Governors of Ontario as Aide-de-Camp. He was an Honourary Colonel of the Canadian Armed Forces with the 25th Field Ambulance. HCol. Lam has been involved with many organizations which include the Commissionaires, Atlantic Council of Canada, Scarborough Seniors Chinese Association, and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. His dedication to community service will be missed.
While I met with Fung perhaps every month in his engineering role at Sony, he helped me solve customer technical problems along with his able team of technicians and technologists, including the respected Shane Ono. No problem was unsolvable for Fung and his team. And I took him some hard challenges too. Everything in the broadcast world was customized and therefore unique in the early days of the 70s and 80s. So, solutions were often hard to come by. Once I sold a Tri Corporation EA-3 with three highly modified Sony VO-2850 VTRs. It was not a great system, but it allowed A/B roll editing in 3/4″ analog video tapes which was amazing in its day. The modifications allowed the editor to rock and roll the tape both forward and backwards, something these VTRs were never designed to do. I carried this mess to Fung in Etobicoke and asked for his help to make it all work. He agreed even though the machines were so heavily modified that Sony should have said no. Within a week, he and Shane had it all working. While Tri sold systems all over the USA, I think that this was the only system that did what they promised. They visited several times to learn about the magic that Fung and Shane performed on their designs to make them functional.
We severed together for 16 years over three decades on the Toronto Section Board of Governors for the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE). It was always fun to be with Fung. At one particular SMPTE meeting held in the Cinesphere IMAX Theatre at Ontario Place, we both gave Board reports to the audience numbering about 650, which was over capacity for the seating plan as we had guests in the aisles and on the floor in front of the seats. The Fire Marshall would have had a fit. Fung gave his Chair report and then introduced me for my report. As the membership chair, it was my job to report the results of the Toronto Section elections. With Fung’s Hong Kong accent, the word elections came out over the PA as ‘erections’ so the entire audience of broadcast film, video, and audio engineers and technical people started giggling. He repeated the word erections several times. I was beat red in the face when I took the podium but carried on as if nothing happened, even with the crowd unable to control themselves with laughter. Fung had no idea what was going on. Was it juvenile, yes, of course it was. But, boys will be boys.
When Fung was knighted, he invited just four of his friends to the investiture party. The actual knighthood was done at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. Fung later visited the Queen in the UK. But, the party was huge and in Markham, Ontario. Every Knight and Dame available attended as was the custom. I was in the presence of perhaps 20 knights and 8 Dames. The party was incredible with perhaps 250 in attendance. It was done in classic Chinese fashion. After the dragon dance, Fung was asked to ‘dot the eyes of the dragon’ which is said to be a great honour. From the investiture day forward, he was known as Sir Fung Fai Lam. It is hard for me to imagine that I knew an actual knight.
Fung and his family was granted a Coat of Arms by The Governor General of Canada. Appropriately, it has a dragon on the crest.
He invited us to many events and functions as his guest. I dined with Fung at the prestigious Military Institute, a members only club. Another time he arranged for a few of his friends to have a high tea with the Lieutenant Governors of Ontario, The Honourable Hilary M. Weston. We attended banquets and too many business diners to count. I shared many meals with Fung and laughter was always the main course.
There will only ever be one H.Col. Fung Fai Lam, K.St.J. As true a friend as one could ever hope for in life.
About the Author:
Michael Martin has more than 35 years of experience in systems design for broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless, and digital communications technologies.
He is a business and technology consultant. He is employed by Wirepas Oy from Tampere, Finland as the Director of Business Development. Over the past 15 years with IBM, he has worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He is a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN: TSX).
Martin currently serves on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO: TSX) and previously served on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX: TSX.V).
He has served as a Member, SCC ISO-IEC JTC 1/SC-41 – Internet of Things and related technologies, ISO – International Organization for Standardization, and as a member of the NIST SP 500-325 Fog Computing Conceptual Model, National Institute of Standards and Technology.
He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) [now OntarioTech University] and on the Board of Advisers of five different Colleges in Ontario. For 16 years he served on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section.
He holds three master’s degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has three undergraduate diplomas and five certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology. He has earned 15 badges in next generation MOOC continuous education in IoT, Cloud, AI and Cognitive systems, Blockchain, Agile, Big Data, Design Thinking, Security, and more.