Published in the November 6, 2015 edition

Tai-obit-webMELROSE — Kin Lai “George” Tai, 101, a longtime resident of Melrose, passed away peacefully at the Sawtelle Family Hospice House in Reading on Friday, Oct. 30.

Born in Ningbo, China on Oct. 26, 1914, Kin Lai was raised in a southern village of Shanghai prior to Communist rule. With the blessing of his parents at age 17, he set out into the world to find a better life. Many years later, he would ultimately achieve his goal. His story personifies the American dream of hard work, perseverance and achievement.

Kin Lai began his journey to the United States shoveling coal in the boiler room of a boat. He labored in the bowels of the ship with one goal in mind and that was making the U.S. soil. At one point, he became so sick he was returned home to his parents only to leave again after he recuperated.

Blessed with good luck throughout his life, he even survived an attack from a Japanese artillery boat.

His journey for independence brought him to Singapore, India and eventually to England and Scotland where he found work on the harbor docks. In 1943, his final leg left Scotland and brought him to New York City. With his first goal achieved, he was granted citizenship in the United States by enlisting in the U.S. Army on Feb. 2, 1945. Stationed on Ft. Banks in Winthrop during World War II, he was honorably discharged and eventually settled in Melrose with his wife Shun Pao.

In 1949, Kin Lai opened a restaurant with a friend at 19 West Foster St. in Melrose. After a short time, he converted the small diner into “Golden Gate,” a Chinese restaurant which he owned and operated from 1950 until his retirement in 1985. Known locally as “George,” he was the cook and wife “Mary” worked as the hostess and ran the front of the house.

With his trademark determination and perseverance, George ran a very successful restaurant for 35 years. In the beginning, they worked seven days a week with no days off and no vacations, and later took Mondays off. George and Mary raised two sons upstairs above the restaurant and they worked in the kitchen doing prep work and working in the dining room.

In his free time, George loved gardening, fishing, swimming and music. He had an abundance of flowers around his house with apples, peaches, raspberries and pears growing in his yard. He also loved animals, especially birds and fish.

A music lover, he was a self taught harmonica and erhu player, loved traditional Chinese music and knew how to play the Chinese zither.

In his younger days, he enjoyed swimming and up until last fall at age 100, he was still riding his bicycle everywhere. His typical outing took him from Melrose to Boston on his bicycle and the T from Oak Grove. He loved socializing with his friends and acquaintances in Faneuil Hall, Copley Square and the produce stands at Haymarket.

George’s health was always important to him. From a young age, he always made taking care of his body a priority. With an emphasis on nutrition and regular exercising, he made it over a century.

George was the loving husband of the late Shun Pao “Mary” Tai with whom he shared 53 years of marriage. He was the caring father of Peter J. Tai and his wife Debora of Reading and John Tai and his wife Jean of Melrose. He was the cherished grandfather of Amanda Tai of Washington, D.C. He was predeceased by 11 brothers and sisters.

Relatives and friends will gather in honor and remembrance of George’s life for his funeral service at the Robinson Funeral Home, 809 Main St., Melrose on Saturday, Nov. 7, at 10 a.m.

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