KUALA LUMPUR: Founder and chairman of the Bolton group of companies, Tan Sri Lim Thiam Leong, who passed away on Tuesday at the age of 95, had touched the lives of many people through his kindness and generosity.
The philanthropist was a “giant” in the Chinese community where he sat on the boards of many Chinese schools, guilds and associations.
He was honorary chairman of the Huian Quangang Association of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor for many years, as well as trustee and chairman of Tung Shin Hospital and past chairman of the Chinese Maternity Hospital in Kuala Lumpur.
As one of the nation's earliest contractors and developers, Lim belonged to a generation of entrepreneurs whose rags-to-riches story has been an inspiration for others to follow.
Lim came from the Hwee Ann District in Fukien Province, China, at 13 to then Malaya. He started working at a very young age and became a fairly successful small time contractor when he was in his 20s.
Those who knew him well see a man who was stoic in the face of adversity and who plodded on steadily. Some people believe Lim managed to weather the many “economic storms” because of his steadfast belief in not borrowing.
“Even his string of awards - from PJK, JP, Datukship to Tan Sri - reflects a steady progression in life,” said a long time friend.
When a big fire raged through his Campbell Complex a few years after its completion in the 1970s, Lim was said to be composed and quickly repaired the building, probably the first shopping complex in the city. “The foundation was strong. He was the contractor and he supervised its construction,” recalled a relative.
Another friend said Lim was an active social worker in his youth. “He was always helping people. A stranger could just walk into his office and ask for money and he would help. They never left empty-handed,” said a man who had worked for Lim for more than 40 years.
The man, who declined to be named, said Lim was very fit even in old age.
“He was seldom sick and would walk up from the ground floor to his penthouse office on the 19th floor of the Campbell Complex,” he said, adding that Lim was also very careful with his diet and practised tai-chi, qiqong and other martial arts.
Some family members recalled that Lim was also “very strong”. He would ask four or five people to punch his stomach and was able to withstand their blows.
“He enjoyed life and was young at heart. Even at the age of 65, he was able to join us for the Space Mountain ride in Walt Disney World in the US during my graduation,” said daughter Wei Hong.
Lim, who did not receive formal education, realised the importance of education for his children and managed to send all of them overseas for tertiary education. He had also struggled to ensure his own siblings received proper education.
“He was loving but strict. He believed in leading an honest life,” said Yan Pok, 47, the youngest of Lim's four sons and four daughters. The eldest child is Tan Sri Lim Yan Hai, who is Bolton Bhd deputy chairman.