Obituary: Tony Eng lived a magical life

Former owner of Trick & Joke Shop succumbs to leukemia and skin cancer

Jeff Bell, Times Colonist
Published: Wednesday, May 07, 2008

A meeting of the Victoria Magic Circle last night turned into a memorial for one of its most accomplished members, Tony Eng, who died Sunday at the age of 61.

The hope when the meeting was planned was that Eng would present his namesake trophy to the winner of a competition for the best close-up magic trick. Instead, fellow magicians like Shayne King took time to share thoughts of a man they respected and admired.

“He taught me a lot, he gave a lot of magicians their start,” said King, who managed Tony’s Trick & Joke Shop for Eng. He has continued at the store since it became Murray’s Trick & Joke Shop two years ago under Murray Hatfield. Hatfield said running the store has shown him just how far-reaching Eng’s influence has been. Eng’s legendary demonstrations of his sleight-of-hand at the store counter were a long-time attraction, Hatfield said.

“I can’t tell you how many times since we took over the shop that I’ve had people coming in and saying thinks like ‘We’re here from Bakersfield, Calif. and we were here five years ago, and it was just the high point of our trip'”.

It was all because of Tony and the way he made people feel.

“Tony was a master and definitely one-of-a-kind, and he will be greatly missed by both the magic community at large and by a lot of non-magicians who just happened to come in and meet him through the shop.”

Hatfield said that many people he speaks to are finding the news of Eng’s death hard to believe.

“This has been such a blow. For the last three days, I’ve been hearing nothing but people just being in shock. Tony was such an awesome guy — not only was he an exceptional performer and a great businessman, he just was a really nice man.”

The response to his death means a great deal to the family, said Sandra Eng, one of his two daughters.

“The word is starting to ripple out there now and it touches my heart every time I hear how significantly Dad made an impact on people.”

She said her father, born in Victoria in 1946, was diagnosed last October with both a form of leukemia and a rare type of skin cancer.

His fascination with magic went back to his early childhood, she said.

“He got his first magic kit when he was eight and did his first paid gig at the age of 12.”

His ability as a musician had him performing at innumerable charity events over the years. He also became a Sunday night fixture at the Japanese Village restaurant, where he entertained diners for two decades.

Her father had many interests outside of magic, as well, his daughter said, and entrepreneurial skills that saw him run a successful wholesale business and establish the Premier School of Bartending.

“He loved to play racquetball. He was a fierce competitor and his Y buddies are going to sorely miss him. He also went fly-fishing, he did woodworking and he went RVing. Mom and Dad started travelling in the last few years quite a bit down south to Arizona.”

A tribute is set for 3 p.m. Sunday at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church.

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