It is with a heavy heart that I announce the death of one of our Mattar Primary School classmates, Mr John Low Lee Huat.
He succumbed to lung infection and passed away quite suddenly on the 2nd of Jan 2014. He was 50.
He is the first in our batch to go to the spiritual beyond and so, naturally, we are all rather shocked. It seemed not so long ago that we chatted and enjoyed a meal together with him.
Like some of us, he was reunited with the class cohort in June 2013. In that short six months, the old Lee Huat I knew so many years ago reemerged - the nice, smiley, quiet boy who liked to cycle and runabout. He was my playmate in school (part of the Secret Seven Club) and the person I would call upon whenever I visited Circuit Road to look for my many school pals living there.
Lee Huat and I had a common interest in cycling and I liked him for his kindness, hands-on and outgoing nature. So it was without surprise that I learnt that he had become a long-service regular in the SAF after NS, as part of the Infantry Guardsmen, that better breed of soldiers what the Marines were to the normal foot soldiers in the US. He was indeed a better soldier than the rest for he and his kakis were soon recruited to join an intelligence unit that performed covert operations. In layman terms, "spy-spy" kind of work. It takes a certain person to play that role.
The Lee Huat I got reacquainted with last year was certainly different from the one in his boyhood. He was mature, intelligent and utterly selfless. He would drive us around at all hours to look for long-lost classmates. By then, he had left the army after a certain age and was running his own business in general insurance and also dabbling in house renovations.
He could always be seen driving around in his van... equipment ready at the back for any job-call to his men. Those of us who bought travel insurance from him know him to be very prompt and service-oriented. We will miss his good nature and ready smile. He laughed easily and had a sense of humor like mine bothering on the wry.
My last meal with him was some months back when I took him to eat some special noodles in Yishun (as a thank-you gesture, plus he was also quite the foodie!) As we sat and talked, I couldn't help but realise what a steady man this childhood buddy of mine had become. He was no more the pale "kwai kwai" boy but a confident, mature and able man. I will miss his confident, deep voice that rang with command, yet tinged with a certain curious and humorous nature. When recounting stories, he would often interject with a "sibeh ho chio" (Hokkien, meaning 'It's very funny') or a "ng zhai ani kuan" ('why like that?') - and then follow up with a hearty laugh. His eyes would genuinely light up.
During one of our drives out to look for a classmate, I noticed his persistent coughing and asked him what the matter was. He said it was just something that refused to go away. He would pop Fisherman's lozenges like crazy to soothe his throat. I told him I was concerned and recommended him better Chinese lozenges and also a cough remedy that once worked for me - something I offered to buy for him. (The meds are still sitting in my home waiting for him to collect. The last text from him was that he was tied up and would drop by after - but he never made it.)
It was in August that Lee Huat learnt what was ailing him after a medical check-up for an unrelated ailment.
Last month, he opted to postpone telling his friends about his illness. He didn't want to spoil their festive celebrations. When I heard that from his wife, I told her that that was the Lee Huat I knew and came to know anew. A very considerate fella who would give the shirt off his back to help a fellow man. He did his country's army proud and he is doing the same for his cohort of primary school mates.
Rest well, Lee Huat. It is truly a loss that you have to leave us so early. And thank you for all those years of boyhood fun (e.g. goli, catching spiders) and also those wonderful nostalgic moments in recent months past. You will truly be missed.
Lee Huat leaves behind his wife Wendy, son (18) and daughter (14).
On behalf of Class Pri 1B-6B (1970-75), Mattar Primary School, I convey our condolences to his family and loved ones.
(Thank you to classmate Pow Choo, for the timely inform, and to your Buddhist mates for their intervention prayers.)
Wake: Blk 543 Bedok North Street 3. Cremated at Mandai on Monday (time to be confirmed)
The MacPherson Gang: Our Childhood Story
Bikes, Lee Huat and Me: A Chopper Legacy
|John Low Lee Huat (aged 9)|
(Missing from this pix Mui Chow, Siew Gek and Siew Hong (Lim))
LEE HUAT'S WAKE (2ND DAY)
|2nd Day Wake: Missing in picture: Tan Wee Hock; |
Not in frame: Sally Tan and myself. [The family was so nice.
There was a good buffet but not halal. They actually
went out and bought Macs for us!)
|Foreground: LH's mom (in white), sister in black behind her |
and LH's bro (in H-stripes). Sorry, not too polite to take their
|Service started at 1.30pm. 6th Jan 2014. And ended around 2pm.|
|Service in Hall 4 (Buddhist/Taoist rites)|
|Cortege slides out, pple file to viewing gallery next door.|
|Waiting for the cortege arrival to Phoenix Chamber (my term).|
|According to common practice, the spouse doesn't attend |
(which in my youth, was not the case. Perhaps to spare the
spouse from distress?)
|Cortege being pushed along by an auto-butler.|
|A close-up view of the auto-butler.|
|Coffin enters the Phoenix Chamber finally for incineration.|
|Bedok North Ave 4. Monastry on left. For directions,|
scroll to bottom of blog-post.
|Temple next to the Hock Chuan Monastery|
|Hock Chuan Monastery (along Bedok North Ave 4, |
opp Blk 3011 industrial block. And just before Bedok North St 5.
Nearby bus stop: Service 17, 48)
|Lovely surrounds of the monastery.|
|The tablet hall on the left.|
|Paying final respects.|
|Mostly relatives paying their respects. Brothers, sisters, |
cousins, in-laws, nephews, etc.
|The kids paying their last respects.|
|Lee Huat's son Chin Juan, daughter Hui Ern. CJ is studying |
at NAFA. They were each given a short twig of leaves
(pomegranate?) to wear home. If dropped, cannot pick up again.
|Chin Juan being handed the prayer cake and the empty ashes |
urn (red plastic bag) to bring home. The ashes will be collected
another day from the crematorium.
|HC Monastery location map. Nearby bus stop: Service 17, 48|