From The Globe & Mail, 2 July 2008
BY: SULEY FATTAH
Suley Fattah of Toronto writes about magician Tony Eng, whose obituary appeared Friday.
I’ve been Tony and Ann’s son-in-law for the last 10 years. The first time I met Tony and Ann was the same way I met their daughter, Julie: I picked them up at the airport. It was March, 1998; Julie and I were not yet married. As we drove into the city, mother and daughter chatted away in the back, while Tony, with his best poker face, was riding up front with me. He sat scanning the surroundings with a serene smile. He was sizing me up.
Later, we went to Chinatown for Dim Sum and, unexpectedly, the owners gave us the “royal treatment.” As luck would have it, I ordered some of Tony’s favourite dishes, and I did it in Chinese. I scored even bigger points when I paid the bill. Some months later on his home turf in Victoria, he returned the gesture by treating us to a sumptuous feast at the Japanese Village restaurant. It was also where he performed a magic act every Sunday. That night, he seemed to mess up a trick, getting my chosen card wrong. Then he produced a newspaper which stated: Tony Eng fails to find Suley’s Two of Hearts at the Japanese Village Restaurant!
Another thing we shared was being “unconventional.” We called Tony and Ann from Paris when Julie and I eloped in November, 1998. Once he understood, Tony said in a very fatherly way: “You better take care of my daughter, or else!” Later, he added: “Merci beaucoup for saving me oodles of money so that I can go fishing and RV-ing!”
Tony loved to travel and his camper van provided him with a way of fulfilling that. He once took his mother, Mary, on a cross-Canada trip from Victoria to Newfoundland and back. I never went in his RV but I did get a taste by joining him on three cross-Canada magic tours. No matter how bad the lodging or sad the food, he always saw a positive side and cracked a joke.
He was thankful for being able to perform magic for a living. Tony had dignity, grace and charm right until the end. It was a privilege for me to be at his bedside when he passed away with the same serene smile I saw that first day. I was asked what his final words were. He had looked me straight in the eye and mouthed “thank you.”