MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. --
Although King Wong, the station's auto hobby shop manager, was not born in the U.S., he has demonstrated an intimate understanding of what makes prosperity attainable here.
"A strategy I have is making my employees and customers happy," said Wong, in his still discernible Chinese accent. "I treat them like a family. Work is not for the money, but for satisfaction of helping the customer then the company won't prosper. That's the only thing the company has: the customer and employee. If you take care of those two things, the money will come."
Wong is preparing to retire this summer after 30 years of work at the station's gas station and automotive repair center.
The road in which he took to arrive here was not an easy one.
Born and raised in Hong Kong, Wong initially pursued a career in electronics, attaining his associate's degree after three years of studying at an aircraft technical maintenance school.
"I liked the electronics," said Wong. "It was something I didn't know, and I like to find out how things work. It is amazing to me how tiny things can do so much. How a little bolt can work so many things."
After completing his education he spent 14 years with Cathy Pacific Airways, a British owned commercial airline, and ended his time there as a maintenance supervisor.
While working with the airline he traveled all over South East Asia with his wife, Choilin Wong, who he met while working together at the company.
"I'd have breakfast in Taiwan and lunch in Malaysia," said Wong. "We went to many places. It was an every weekend thing; it was very exciting."
Throughout his time in Hong Kong, Wong had been trying to apply for an immigration permint, so he could rejoin his relatives who had left Hong Kong while still under British rule and begun their lives in the states. After a 10-year wait, his patience was finally rewarded and he rejoined his loved ones.
In 1982, Wong, along with his wife and daughter, found themselves in Napa Valley, Calif., where his youngest sister lived and owned a French restaurant.
"Me and my wife had to start everything over again when we left Hong Kong," said Wong. "It was tough in the first three years. We had a lot of stress, you know? It was a struggle to find a job and raise a family, but things worked out because me and my wife are hard workers. We do everything 120 percent. Hard work always pays off."
Wong worked at the restaurant for four months before realizing that it was not the job for him. Soon after, he received a call from his brother informing him of a job opening in Yuma. The job was at Yuma Helicopters, a helicopter charter rental service, the year 1982.
Wong already had property in Yuma, so moving there seemed sensible enough, he thought. After going through the entire interview process, news of the company's unexpected demise reached him, and before he knew it he was on the look-out for another job.
He decided to stay in Yuma and quickly found a job at Kmart to pay the bills.
After working a few months at Kmart, he got word of an opening at the station's convenience store. He applied and got the job, thus beginning the first of 30 years of faithful work on station.
Wong's finely-tuned work ethic proved just as effective in the states as in Hong Kong. After two years he had already been promoted four times, quickly becoming store manager.
"You have to work hard to be successful," said Wong. "The people that know you will know your ability, lazy doesn't pay off. If you don't put your time in work, but rather in something else, you will not grow."
It proved a dead end, however, and the long hours didn't allow him to work toward his goal of finishing college. He was looking for more. Then he heard of the auto hobby shop.
Although there was a small pay cut, Wong had more time to go to college, which he made good use of and graduated from Arizona Western College with further electronics education.
"He's an honest guy who cares about the troops," said David Koopman, Marine Corps Community Service director. "I wish we had more of him. He puts in extra hours, and is all about providing good customer service. He is one employee we will be sad to lose."
Wong retires July 15, 2011, and plans to travel and spend time with family in Texas.
"I don't want my grandkids without me around because when they grow up there is no bonding," said Wong. "It is very important to keep that family bond together. To teach them what I have learned."
Wong, who worked at the station's convenience center for 13 years prior to his job at the hobby shop, was awarded a certificate of recognition by the station's commanding officer Friday, recognizing his total 29 years of hard work and dedication to the station.
"King has set the bar high for the air station," said David Rodriguez, station environmental director and friend. "He has done a lot of innovative things at the hobby shop, far above what is expected of him. We really hate to see him go. The next guy has big shoes to fill."