Famous gym owner pioneered fitness, 83 Obituaries
By Curtis Murayama
Advertiser Sports Editor
Timmy Leong, a pioneer for Hawai'i in the sport of bodybuilding and retired owner of Timmy's Gym, died May 16.
He was 83.
"He was a real nice guy, always smiling, always trying to be helpful. (He) made friends with everybody," said three-time Olympian Tommy Kono, who visited Leong the day before he passed.
Although best known for being the owner of his gym, Leong was one of the best bodybuilders Hawai'i ever produced.
And he did it the old school way — hard work.
Admittedly underweight as a youth, Leong did not participate in sports while at McKinley High School.
Despite not having anyone to guide or train him, Leong molded himself into a bodybuilding champion, using magazine articles as references.
Leong said in a 1973 Advertiser story, "When I strive for something, I keep working at it until I reach it."
By 1953, Kono said, Leong had won all the physique titles in Hawai'i. He competed in the 1953 Mr. America contest in Indianapolis, where he placed seventh and won the best back award.
Kono accompanied Leong on the trip and what he remembers most about it was that "it took us almost three days to get from Hawai'i to Indianapolis."
Kono said it took nine hours on a propellor airplane to fly from Honolulu to San Francisco. Then they had to take a four-passenger Cessna plane to go from Alameda to Indianapolis.
"We flew out OK, but communication was not good and you can't fly too high," Kono said.
Because of a threat of a tornado, "we got stuck in Wyoming," he said. "We went from Laredo to Cheyenne to catch a commercial flight, flew to Chicago.
"We might have gotten there as fast if we took the train."
Kono said Leong returned and opened a gym to teach his trade and groom future physique winners.
Leong also competed in the Mr. USA contest in 1958, finishing fourth.
"Timmy was the first to bring wellness and health and fitness to Hawai'i before anyone else was talking wellness," said Darryl Lee, Leong's nephew.
"He epitomized that by how he lived. He lived the talk. He was a pioneer for Hawai'i. He touched a lot of lives. He spread wellness way before his time."
Leong is survived by a sister, Audrey N.L. Lee, and numerous nieces and nephews.
Services will be Friday at Diamond Head Mortuary Chapel with visitation from 9:30 a.m., followed by services at 11:15 and burial to follow around 12:45 p.m.
Leong at first requested a private service, but the family decided to go public.
"He really belongs to the public," said Sharoh Mooe, his niece. "The public was his true home. The public was his family. He had aloha for everybody. He lived for the people."