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James Y. J. Leong, engineer, restaurateur

Aug. 24, 1939 – Feb. 6, 2016

James Yick Jing Leong of Amherst, a retired manufacturing engineer and co-owner of a leading local Chinese restaurant, died Saturday in Buffalo General Medical Center after a short illness. He was 76.

Born in Guangdong Province, formerly Canton, in southeast China, he came to the U.S. in 1948, settled in Buffalo and became an American citizen in 1964.

He graduated from Hutchinson Central High School, then earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of Buffalo and a master’s degree in business administration from Canisius College in 1977.

Mr. Leong began his career at the Ford Stamping Plant, then worked at Joy Manufacturing for 10 years before taking positions at Conax Technologies and Worthington Compressor.

From 1982 until his retirement in 1999, he was the manufacturing engineer manager in the Missile Systems Division at Moog Inc. He was instrumental in the development of a Moog manufacturing plant in Baguio City in the Philippines.

He also co-founded the Chinese restaurant May Jen on Kenmore Avenue in Amherst and operated it with his wife for the past 35 years. At one time, they also had a second May Jen Restaurant on Elmwood Avenue and two food court restaurants, Jade Garden in the Summit Park Mall in Wheatfield and Wok and Grill in the Tri-Main Building.

In retirement, he joined his sons in investing in and managing multi-family apartment buildings.

Known for his warmth and good humor, Mr. Leong traveled extensively in Europe, Asia and South America, including four trips to China, where he revisited the village where he was born.

He was an avid bowler, fisherman, golfer and casino player.

Survivors include his wife of 51 years, the former Susan Lai; two sons, Robert and Ronald; four brothers, Henry, Hon Yee, Richard and Donald; a sister, Helen Lee; and three grandchildren.

A celebration of his life will be held at 11:30 a.m. March 19 in Classics V Restaurant, 2425 Niagara Falls Blvd., Amherst.