Lee Ching Fui: The ‘Human Sun’ That Touched Us All

Lee Ching Fui: The ‘Human Sun’ That Touched Us All

According to his Cantonese name, he was supposed to be “cement” — tough, hard to crack. But on the inside, he was really a marshmallow — all sweet and mushy.

He loved sports cars, powerful SUVs, and literally lived in the fast lane with his dream machines.

Yet, he’ll be the first to tell you that life was never meant to be a race; that you should always slow down to smell the roses, listen to the symphony of the gushing stream, be awed by the grace of birds in flight and the slick sweep of fish and their fins.


Lee Ching Fui had many conflicting philosophies. But they were pleasantly surprising contradictions, that gave an insight to the expanse of his character and goodwill.
And if there was one overarching quality there, it had to be his positivity, which was always bursting forth like the rays of the sun.

Indeed, if there was a human equivalent of the sun, it had to be Ching Fui. You had to experience his energy only once to radiate with warmth whenever you thought of him and his outlook on life.


Terminal with cancer, Ching Fui displayed more zest than the average person with decades of life before him.

“He was an inspiration in how he chose to respond to the card he was dealt,” said Mark Tan Hong Kheng, one of the many in the Methodist Boys School KL Year of 85 alumni that Ching Fui stayed in close touch with during his last days.

“He had cancer but the cancer did not have him,” said Hong Kheng. “He lived on his own terms, always cheerful and positive despite the pain and toll it took on him.”


Right after school, Ching Fui proved his spirit for life — again, literally.
He joined a liquor distributorship and rose all the way to its top, learning everything there was to know about the spirits industry, right from bottling to marketing.

So good he was at it, that even after he quit to keep pace with his treatment, his partners used to consult him at his home, bringing new opportunities.

“He’d listen and never turn anyone away, because that was essentially Ching Fui,” said Alan Chan, a fellow alumnus of MBSKL ‘85.

“You just had to tell him that you need him and he’d be there,” adds Alan, a childhood buddy of Ching Fui, who lived just a few doors away from him in their early years.

Alan was why Ching Fui moved to MBSKL from another school. Years after school, the two reconnected in 2016. Alan was stricken to learn what had happened to his friend by then.

“I couldn’t believe that he was on stage-four cancer,” recalls Alan. “I mean, what do you tell someone in a situation like that? All I could think of was to say ‘Keep faith, my brother, by God’s grace, you’ll overcome this’.”

Yet, what amazed Alan was Ching Fui’s sunny disposition even then. “He didn’t look and behave like someone afflicted with cancer. In fact, he was motivating me about the things that were putting me down. I never expected such positivity from someone who’d been diagnosed with terminal illness.”


It was Alan who suggested that Ching Fui join the MBSKL ‘85 soccer prep sessions on Saturdays. In theory, it was supposed to be a boot camp for the alumni’s football squad. In reality, as Hong Kheng amusedly described, it was more of a “talk-cock, sing-song gang” that met on the steps on the MBSKL field, then descended to downtown Petaling Street for lunch and booze. On many days, the ball was never kicked.

What amazed everyone was Ching Fui turned up not once, not twice, but for almost every session.

“He’d come all the way from his Desa Park home, which was a 24km drive if you Google it,” said Goh Chee Keong, often referred to as “Manager Goh” for his managing of the ‘85 Football Club of MBSKL.

“We could see that Ching Fui was so happy to be among us, his school buddies,” said Chee Keong. “That’s when some of us made a commitment to be there every week, because he would be there. It was good for his soul and good for ours too.”


When he wasn’t at the field, Ching Fui would be posting updates from his hospital bed to the text group of MBSKL ‘85.

Each picture bore his signature ear-to-ear smile with thumbs-up, details of the latest treatment and how he was coping.

To the rest of us in the alumni, it was always a wonder to see the latest number on his chemo and how someone subjected to that much radiation could be the picture of such wellness and optimism.

Ching Fui, to us, was the Posterboy of Positivity.

“From what we know, he went up to nearly 70 chemos. I don’t know anyone who’s gone through that much and still looked like he did,” said Charley, a Bentong-residing alumnus of MBSKL ‘85, who goes by on Facebook as Bentong Best.

Simply because he looked cheerful, it didn’t mean Ching Fui wasn’t in pain.

Charley remembers a remark Ching Fui made when the two drove up once to Genting Highlands, Malaysia’s premier hilltop getaway with a casino.

“He said: ‘Charley, I wish I can just live here. My body feels so good in this cold.’ That’s when it occurred to me how flaming hot his insides had become from all that chemo. But he said it as matter-of-factly, not to get my sympathy; although I felt bad that there was nothing I could do to help.”


That, again, was a Ching Fui trait set him apart from other cancer battlers: While many were too self-absorbed with their therapy, medication and recovery, he was out pounding the pavement, offering hope and advice to others. He never took, but always gave.

Chia Teck Wooi, also of MBSKL ‘85, recalls visiting Ching Fui during a chemo session to try and cheer him, and leaving instead with valuable lessons for his college mate, who was down with nasal cancer. “My friend is now high-spirited in his battle against cancer and we owe it to the memory of Ching Fui,” said Chia.

Simon Yap, whose own battle with cancer is closely followed on the chat walls of MBSKL ‘85, says Ching Fui was a major source of encouragement for him to push on. “He was always cheerful and so full of life, despite having to go through so much,” said Simon.

Nick Teh, who made as much effort as he could with the rest of MBSKL to call upon Ching Fui in his last days, says: “I had never seen him lament or complain.”

“He just carried on and on. This itself gave us such encouragement as what else in this world can be more difficult than the challenges he faced?”

Others of MBSKL ‘85 struggled to find the right words to describe Ching Fui.

“A pillar of hope … always smiling,” said Loo Chee Keong, former school captain at MBSKL.

“A fighting spirit to his last breath,” said Azizi Abu Bakar.

“A tremendous fighting spirit … even though he knew the war he was fighting was a losing one,” said Lam Yewai.

“A valiant and brave battler” who “ran the race,” said Lee Kok Kee, dubbed “Iron Man” by his MBSKL comrades for his sheer athleticism.

To Haris Fadzillah, Ching Fui’s real battles with cancer were more overwhelming than the fictional superhero victories of Marvel’s “Tony Stark”. “The real Iron Man,” he said in his tribute.


Childhood buddy Alan has another interesting observation.

“This is a guy who could’ve become one of the greatest motivational speakers of our time, had he chosen,” says Alan of Ching Fui.

“He had an incredible tolerance for pain and an attitude to try and turn anything around. And he was constantly learning stuff to see if he could do it even better.”

Indeed, one of the tributes paid to Ching Fui in a video crafted by his team mates at NSX Club Malaysia, which groups enthusiasts of the iconic Honda racing car, mentions how he knew about the vehicle’s “updated pump” — presumably something few or none in the group were aware of.

In two other captions, Ching Fui gives a mock class on NSX alternators and muses whether he should reset his car’s EPS, or electric power steering, “just for the fun of it”.

“He is like a walking dictionary of NSX,” club member Damian Yum says in that clip.

Back at the MBSKL field, the soccer aficionados of ‘85 have vowed to keep alive their weekly ritual in honor of their fallen hero.

“Try joining us every Saturday to feel the magic of friendship and brotherhood that Ching Fui taught us,” Daniel San, former captain for Team ‘85, wrote on the group’s chat wall.

As I wrote this myself on the 2019 “Diwali”, or Hindu Festival of Lights, it occurred to me that while the light called Ching Fui had flickered out, its afterglow continues to radiates within all it had touched, reminding us of his million-watt smile and parallel zeal for life.

Till we meet on that heavenly superhighway … “Godspeed”, my brother.

Lee Ching Fui | 1968 – 2019


  1. CH

    Well said.. farewell bro cement!

    • Helen

      Very well written “Godspeed”!

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