Category Archives: living well

Enduring Legacy of Tony Leow Sun Hock

Living a Life that Mattered

Sometime last year I was requested to write an article on Tony Leow Sun Hock by the Kiwanis Club of Kuala Lumpur. They had wanted to include a tribute to Tony Leow in the souvenir programme that was being published to mark the 40th anniversary of the Kiwanis Club of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I readily obliged the club leaders. I used that article later as a blog posting under the heading: Remembering an Unusual Friend – Tony Leow Sun Hock.

In mid-February 2017, Tony Leow who had gallantly fought to stay alive, after being in a coma for nine and half years, finally relented and passed gracefully into eternity.  He was 72 years old. While in this comatose state, Tony was provided with excellent round the clock care by two nurses/care givers who took turns to look into his needs. His wife, Anna and their four sons were also there for him. Tony’s extended family of brothers and sisters also visited him from time to time as did his fellow Kiwanians.

Tony was that incredible shining light, dynamo and trailblazer. He lived his life, writ large and bold, on his own terms.

A Light Has Been Extinguished

The family decided that three individuals should be invited to give eulogies at his funeral service in the church. His eldest son Kevin, the eldest granddaughter Felecia and yours truly were the ones who delivered eulogies. This is what I shared inter alia during the eulogy.

As a friend and a former classmate of his, I can say quite confidently, that a light has been extinguished and we are all that much poorer for it. Tony was that incredible shining light, dynamo and trailblazer. He lived his life, writ large and bold, on his own terms. He was also never afraid to take on challenges. Likewise, he also sought opportunities to grow his business.

In that exhausting process, Tony achieved a large measure of success. Lesser individuals would have thrown in the towel when faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles but not Tony. He literally thrived on overcoming challenges. This was truly commendable because Tony ‘graduated’  from the well known and widely respected ‘University of Hard Knocks’ summa cum laude.

Snapshots of That Individual

I would now like to share with you some interesting snippets of information that throw greater light on this strong minded and driven individual. Hopefully, these snapshots will give you a better idea of the many faceted personality of Tony Leow.

Champion Motor Rallying Enthusiast

Tony was an outstanding motor rallying exponent. He was one-half of a winning combination that roared to repeated victories in numerous motor rally competitions in Malaysia. Motor rallying in Malaysia is especially thrilling, exciting and dangerous to the uninitiated because of the challenges facing the newcomer. Drivers have to cope with slimy, thick mud, narrow rubber and oil palm estate dirt tracks, pock marked, abandoned tin mines trails and often a ‘ missing wooden bridge or two ‘ as well as night driving and the occasional heavy showers are all par for the course!

The driver of the Team Nissan rally car was someone with the surname Lim and Tony was the ace, daredevil navigator. Why do I say daredevil? You have to have supreme confidence in the driver to sit calmly in a racing car with your crash helmet on and in often hot and humid conditions here in the tropics.

In addition, the rally car is spartanly equipped with uncomfortable seats and the driver and navigator are secured in place by full harness seat belts. From the inside, one can see that there is a steel roll cage for safety reasons. The team are subject to being bounced about repeatedly because of the rough and uneven terrain and screeching round corners, ever so often in a thunderous, continuous roar. Under these horrible conditions, Tony still somehow managed to do a bloody good job navigating the route. Certainly, not my cup of tea!

Bravery Was His Middle Name

In his teens and during a picnic at a waterfall location or a mining pool (not sure which) somewhere in the Klang Valley, Tony without hesitation or a care for his own safety jumped into the water to save a friend. The friend and classmate, unfortunately, could not swim and he was clearly in distress and in the process of drowning. Failure to act decisively and promptly would have surely resulted in the loss of a young life.

How do I know about this incident? It was simply because that good friend who was saved told me about this on at least two different occasions. That friend who later became a doctor remains to this day, ever grateful for that courageous act. Tony’s instinctive and spontaneous action that day was an act of true heroism.

Committed Community Service Club Builder

I take pleasure in recalling that I had introduced Tony to the Kiwanis community service movement. Tony was a truly committed builder of Kiwanis Clubs in Malaysia. Do remember that this was a period when we had only a mother club i.e. Kiwanis Club of Kuala Lumpur with a membership of about twenty-five individuals. Of these, only a handful was truly active and totally committed to growing the membership as well as in building new clubs.

Together with three other stalwarts, namely the late Lim Eng Seng, Michael Wong Sek Peng and yours truly, these Kiwanians are credited with building eight clubs during a two-year building spree. It is important to keep in mind that Kiwanis International did not reimburse these individuals for their effort, their time or even for the expenses incurred.

Tony is credited with introducing the concept of a motor treasure hunt as a fund raising vehicle for the Kiwanis Club of Kuala Lumpur.

The club building exercise was undertaken and driven by a sense of mission, a deep commitment and a real desire to build more clubs. It was also to spread the joys and satisfaction of altruistic community service. In that high pursuit, the bonds of fellowship were also strengthened. All the expenses thus incurred in club building came out of the pockets of these individuals! Today there are more than 50 clubs in Malaysia. Tony went on to become president of the Kuala Lumpur club and later Area Coordinator for Kiwanis Malaysia.

Talented Organiser of Motor Treasure Hunts

Tony is credited with introducing the concept of a motor treasure hunt as a fund raising vehicle for the Kiwanis Club of Kuala Lumpur. He was a very detailed and precise in planning the treasure hunt route. He was equally adept at posing tricky and puzzling questions for the competitors.

Tony would go over the treasure hunt route twice… just think for a moment the man hours involved. That was no sweat for Tony – he always did it his way and his way was superb. Today, I am pleased to inform you that KCKL still organises yearly treasure hunts… more than 30 thus far. What a tribute to a far-sighted man.

Recollections from Family and Friends

Eddie Low Kah Hin

Classmate, Childhood Friend and Loss Adjuster from Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada

I recall with pleasure our carefree childhood days where we spent some afternoons swimming in disused mining pools in Kuchai Lama, off Old Klang Road, Kuala Lumpur. This is where we learnt to swim. On hindsight much later, we realised it was a very dangerous place to learn that skill!

When we finished high school, both of us entered the job market in related fields. Tony landed a job with Wall’s Ice Cream and I joined Cold Storage Supermarkets.

He next got a job with Mobil Oil as a sales rep and I joined Esso. Even at that stage, Tony was very enterprising and very determined to be an entrepreneur.

His first car was a cute, mini Fiat 600. Later, he bought a VW Beetle. He drove over to my place to show me the car. In early 2002, when I returned to Malaysia for a visit, he came to meet me in an impressive Mercedes Benz 450 S Class.

I shall forever cherish our friendship.

Ngau Wing Fatt –

Chartered Certified Accountant, Kiwanian and Treasure Hunt Collaborator from Kuala Lumpur

I volunteered to drive for Tony when he had to plan the routes for the 2nd and 3 rd treasure hunts. The distance for the third treasure hunt was over 300 km! These driving missions were usually carried out on Sundays and while I drove, Tony was busy planning the route and coming up with the tricky and sometimes difficult questions.

We got along well and I must confess that I learnt a lot about competent and safe driving from Tony.

From my association with Tony, I discovered that he was witty, hilarious, knowledgeable and a street smart guy. He was sharp-sighted in spotting funny sign boards, structures and buildings. He would coin/pose questions that tested your wits and knowledge. He once famously referred to road bumps to slow traffic as ‘sleeping policemen’.

Tony was a great leader who provided sound advice, proper direction and unselfish support to the Kiwanis Clubs of Malaysia.

Lau Se Hian –

Chartered Management Accountant, Kiwanian and Fellow Bon Vivant originally from Muar, Johore

I remember Tony with gratitude for his support in organising the yearly treasure hunts. This activity was a major source of financing for the Kiwanis Down’s Syndrome Centre in Petaling Jaya, especially in the early days.

Tony was a great leader who provided sound advice, proper direction and unselfish support to the Kiwanis Clubs of Malaysia. Kiwanians in Malaysia owe him a debt of gratitude.

Kevin Leow

Eldest of four sons and the one who gave the eulogy at the funeral service

It was a moving eulogy. Kevin shared the following information:

Most of you present may not know nor can you imagine that it was an easy task being a child of Tony Leow. Dad set very high standards for his children in many areas. ( It was Tony’s way of showing tough love ) He had accomplished many wonderful feats and had achieved great things in his life.

Dad was also a serial entrepreneur. Probably his greatest business achievement was in the public listing of his company, Hirotako Holdings Berhad.  Hirotako manufactures seat belts, air bags and many other car related products.

Dad was also a three-time Malaysian Motor Rallying Champion.

Richard Leow

Brother, Entrepreneur and Past President of the Kiwanis Downs’ Syndrome Foundation in Malaysia.

We come from a large family. Our parents had 11 of us… eight sons and three daughters. Tony was the sixth in the family and I was the ninth. Tony was three years my senior. Our dad was a wage earner. He was very strict, a man of principles and with a no-nonsense attitude. But he was also extremely kind and with a generous disposition. Our dad’s golden rule was: Go and help the poor. They need us. And God will bless us.’

Tony took dad’s advice to the hilt. We got along very well………not just as brothers but also as friends and colleagues in business and in community service. He was one of my partners in advertising and also in a trading company. Tony also approached me to be one of his partners in a decorative glass manufacturing company. He was also the one who introduced me to the Kiwanis Club of Kuala Lumpur.

We had our occasional differences and there was once when Tony came to our factory for a discussion on a certain matter. The discussion grew heated, and in the process, Tony lost his cool! To his ever lasting credit, Tony was big enough to telephone me later to apologise and he then invited me to join him for lunch. This is our Leow trait ……..having a short fuse!

Tony surprised me in August 2007 while he was in and out of the Damansara Specialist Hospital by saying: I would like to be baptised and be a Catholic and I want you to be my godfather!  I was honoured. His wife, Anna, is a born Catholic and their four sons are also Catholic. I have great admiration for my brother.

Footprints on the Sands of Time

There is a very well known saying that is most appropriate in this instance and I would like to share it.

Lives of outstanding men all remind us
   We can make our lives sublime
   And departing, leave behind us,
  Footprints on the sands of time

Rally on in the heavens above Tony and many thanks for those wonderful memories.

Seamstress on a laudable mission

An inspiring story that illuminates the indomitable human spirit

Three weeks ago, I finally decided to go and find a tailor or seamstress who could do some work for me. I had wanted to make minor repairs / adjustments to three of my trousers. These were small jobs that a normal, busy tailor would be reluctant to undertake. Even if he did undertake the job, he would charge me a significant fee. If that were the case, I would have no choice but to discard the trousers.

I gave this matter some thought. I was most reluctant to discard these trousers. They are comfortable and I can see a few more years of good use for them. I distinctly remember noticing a few seamstresses operating on the first floor of a wet market in the Klang Valley. I also noticed a shop or two offering to do alternations for clothes at a few leading shopping malls in Petaling Jaya and Kuala Lumpur.

Tiny Shop but Impressive Seamstress

I decided to give the shop at the wet market a try. It was a tiny shop by any standard, all of eight feet by eight feet! It was a cluttered shop with clothes placed all over the place. There was a well used and slightly damaged sewing machine of an unknown brand which the seamstress was using. The sewing machine, I was informed, was on loan from a sister. For purposes of this article, I shall give this lady a name: Linda.

Slightly above her on the ceiling of this tiny shop hung a small ceiling fan… I have not seen such a small, cute ceiling fan but I have indeed seen small table fans. On inquiring from Linda, I found out that she had bought that small ceiling fan from China some years ago.

Mind over Matter

What amazed me was the sight of Linda sitting there quietly working with a serene look on her countenance despite the stifling heat and humidity of the place. She illustrated for me the wisdom of the old quote: ‘ it is always a question of mind over matter ‘. And she was right. By stark contrast, I must confess, I was all hot and bothered by the weather.

It was indeed a strange juxtaposition of careers / occupations to say the least and I remained perplexed for a while.

There was also a prominent signage at the back of the shop which proclaimed that this was also a Chinese traditional medicine shop / pharmacy!

It was indeed a strange juxtaposition of careers / occupations to say the least and I remained perplexed for a while. I was soon to learn of the reason for that signage.

Confident and Capable Person

While waiting for my trousers to be mended, she advised me to go and have a drink. I decided, however, to stay and in the process, I chatted with her. I sat on a leaf green plastic stool a few feet from her and watched as she worked with quiet confidence. I discovered that she only works for about four hours each day at this shop before returning home.

I asked if she has an assistant to help her but she said that there was no need for one. She was more than able to manage and moreover, there was no place for a second person in that tiny shop.

Clear Vision and Strong Determination

On chatting further with her, I learned that this confident and purposeful lady was someone with a clear vision and admirable goals. She had acquired some very good values in life and part of the reason why she had that traditional Chinese medicine shop / pharmacy at her place was because she wanted to take good care of her health.

Another reason for taking good care of her health is that she did not want her only child and now a married woman with children of her own, to be unnecessarily burdened if she suffered from some debilitating or prolonged illness. How very thoughtful and kind of her.

She then quite unexpectedly volunteered the information that she is sixty-five years old and I noticed that she had jet black hair. Linda, who has a slight, slender frame and is not more than five feet three inches tall however, looked more like she is forty-five years old! A good twenty years younger than her real age. This was, to me, a clear and convincing testament to the excellent care she has taken of her health.

A Life with Clear Purpose

Through my continuing conversation with her, I managed to know more about this remarkable lady. Linda, I must add, was just as keen that I was interested in her story. She was more than forthcoming in sharing her life story.

Linda informed me that she was away for two weeks before my visit to her shop. I inquired if she had gone on a holiday. She said that she had gone to Harbin, China for face to face lectures from the university where she was pursuing her Masters and her doctorate in Chinese traditional medicine! I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least, by this information.

Harbin, as some of you may know, is one of the coldest regions in China and quite close to the Russian border. Harbin is also internationally famous for its Annual Ice Carvings Festival.

Part Time Lecturer

Linda informed me that the whole process of completing the masters and the doctorate programme through a combination  of distance learning and annual face to face lectures will take her about six years! She has thus far successfully completed two years with four more still to go.

This, in reality, means that by the time she successfully completes the whole programme and graduates with a Ph.D, she will be sixty-nine years old. She informed me that she is the oldest student in her class but that does not faze her in any way. As a ‘student’, she confided that she now enjoys cheap airfares from Kuala Lumpur to Shanghai and then on to Harbin.

She also informed me that twice a week she conducts lectures in the evening at this university’s campus in Kuala Lumpur. Her university has appointed her to conduct these lectures based on her undergraduate degree in the field. However, in China and also here in Malaysia almost all her lecturers have Ph.D qualifications.

Be of Service to Society

Linda shared with me that she does not believe in wasting valuable time by watching endless hours of soap opera on television or in gossiping away during her free time. She believes in putting it to good use and hence her desire to keep occupied in some useful form or manner.

For Linda, the strange juxtaposition of careers / calling is a matter of little consequence. She has chosen to be usefully engaged in providing a needed service by day and by sharing her knowledge in the evenings with eager, young university students.

Equally Adept in the English Language

I must report that the workmanship on the repairs and adjustments she made to my trousers was excellent and her charges were most reasonable. I have since returned to her for more such jobs and she continues to deliver excellent work.

We carried out the entire conversation in the English language. Not once did she feel the need to slip into Bahasa Malaysia. As you are well aware, most market stall holders speak Bahasa Malaysia and some speak in dialect when talking to certain customers.

Sometimes mere appearances may lead us to carelessly make some wholly incorrect assumptions. Therefore, be fully aware that appearance and reality may oftentimes actually be two different things!

Random Acts of Kindness

Highlighting the Essence of our Humanity

There was something positive and uplifting that I noticed one morning recently as I went for my usual forty five minute walk in Taman Jaya in Petaling Jaya. That got me thinking about the value of random acts of kindness.

I noticed a senior gentleman, probably in his late sixties quietly picking up trash – discarded plastic bottles, styrofoam boxes, old newspapers, bottle caps, cigarette packets etc. He had some sort of device to assist him to pick up the bottles and in his other hand, he held a big plastic bag for the rubbish. He went about his task with a seriousness to match for about twenty minutes.

Chose to Clean Up the Park

As I walked further on, I noticed yet another gentleman, in his late fifties or early sixties, doing the same thing and with equal determination.

Both these men went about the task of cleaning up that area in the public park without any fuss and without the need for any encouragement. This is true, selfless, public spiritedness in action.

Both these gentlemen did not choose to adopt a ‘ I could not care less approach ‘ about the state of Taman Jaya. They chose instead to do what they could to clean up the area.

Many people visit the park in the mornings and in the evenings to exercise. Some do so to allow their small children to play in the games section of the park. There are also couples who frequent the park for some quiet time as well as senior citizens out for a leisurely stroll or a quiet chat with friends on the park benches.

On many occasions, I have noticed that some young individuals bring along MacDonald’s or KFC packets of food and others choose to bring Malaysian favourites like nasi lemak, fried noodles or rojak.

What is deplorable is the attitude of many of these people after they have finished their meals and the drinks … they just discard the empty food and drink packets all over the place!

This is the height of irresponsibility and a clear sign that they do not bother to be civic minded. There are many garbage bins all over the park and yet these inconsiderate individuals just act in such a brazen and indifferent manner.

Dedicates Time and Energy for the Elderly

There is also another interesting story that I came across when I visited Melbourne a few years ago. I met a former Malaysian, now in his mid seventies, who dedicates a half day each week for some elderly citizens in an old folks home.

He assists some of these old folks in two ways. He buys groceries for a few individuals who have difficulty attending to these mundane chores. These people give him a small list of items they wish to purchase and the money for those purchases. He then accomplishes the tasks and hands them the goods.

These are not great, earth shattering tasks as such but they go to the heart of what it is to be a truly caring person.

For another group of individuals, he helps them to stay in touch with relatives from overseas or in other cities in Australia. These individuals are not IT savvy and he undertakes to write brief letters for them, under their direction of course, to the relatives.

For some, he uses email to communicate but for a few, he types out the letter for them and then mails the letters to the individuals concerned.

These are not great, earth shattering tasks as such but they go to the heart of what it is to be a truly caring person. To religiously set aside time each week to assist these lonely senior citizens in meaningful ways and on a gratis basis is indeed noble and praiseworthy.

Ferrying Service and Companionship

I know of a former colleague of mine from my days as a high school teacher, who has rendered great service to a fellow colleague. This colleague had met with a serious motor accident and had fractured his right foot in two places.

The initial task of fixing the fractures was badly done by the attending surgeon and the unfortunate colleague had to suffer for sometime because of this gross incompetence.

Subsequently, he was advised to go for a second operation. He was referred to another so called expert surgeon and he underwent a second operation. Instead of getting better, this surgeon too messed it up and the foot was in a bad way. Finally, after many months of suffering, it took a third operation to get it sorted out for good and this was achieved. The colleague is now well on the way to a full recovery.

Through it all, there was one very sympathetic former colleague who went to his house to fetch him and then drove him to the hospital. He then waited for him, sometimes for hours, to be seen by the doctor before sending him back home. He did this act of service on numerous occasions because he wanted to be of some assistance. Very few know of this man’s kindness.

Going Out of the Way to Assist

Some years back, I had to drive up to Bukit Mertajam for an event. Since I live in Petaling Jaya, Selangor and I am not familiar with the area in Northern Malaysia, I was finding it difficult to locate the venue.

I pulled over to the side of the road, got down from my car and signalled to a motorcyclist for some assistance. A thirty plus year old gentleman stopped, removed his helmet and listened to my request sympathetically. He then offered to personally show me the way to the venue because it was not easy to give directions to that place.

Such random acts of kindness happen every single day in our lives.

I was surprised when he went the opposite way to where he was heading. He rode his motorcycle slowly and from time to time, stopped to make sure that I was following him. After about two kilometres, we had arrived at the destination. I got down from the car and went up to him to thank him profusely and offered him some ‘ cash for coffee ‘. He politely declined and remarked that he was happy to assist me and then went on his way.

In this instance, a complete stranger went out of his way to give directions to a person in need and he did it with such good grace and kindness. He could have said that he needed to get to his destination or that he could give me directions to the place.

He chose, however, to go out of his way to extend a hand of assistance to a total stranger.

Such random acts of kindness happen every single day in our lives.

Oftentimes, such praiseworthy acts do not get the publicity that they truly deserve. Very often instead, we are given a daily dose of nasty and horrible news, showcasing the worst aspects in our society.

Why is this so?

This happens because bad news makes excellent copy for the media and draws readers to its publication. It is time for us to focus more on the good all around us, if we care enough to discern, and draw inspiration from such random acts of kindness.

Why Do Large Numbers of People Attend Wakes and Funeral Services in Malaysia? – The Rituals and Practices that Matter

Way back in March 1991, my father, Victor Morais passed away after a brief illness. My mother, brothers, sisters and I were at the Assumption Church in Petaling Jaya for the funeral service that was conducted by the parish priest.

There were also close to six hundred plus people in the church who had made the effort to attend the funeral service. Among those present were of course Catholics, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and others from the community. Some Muslim friends paid their respects at home during the wake for my father.

Amazed by the Large Turnout

A few weeks after the ceremony, I met with a good friend and colleague from London who had attended the funeral service. He remarked that he was truly amazed by the large turnout for the funeral service. He went on to add that my father must have been somebody famous and well known. Yes, my late father was a well known journalist, editor, writer, author and publisher of biographies of some top personalities in the political, business and professional world in Malaysia. He was also the person who started the Who’s Who in Malaysia biennial publication as its editor and publisher. He went on to publish this Who’s Who in Malaysia regularly for many years. But that was not the main reason for the large turnout.

Attendance at Wake and Funeral Service is the Norm

Here in Malaysia, it is the norm for many people to turn up, initially for the wake, once they hear that someone they know has passed away due to old age, illness or accident. These individuals may include relatives, friends, colleagues, business associates, college or university mates, neighbours etc.

It is considered the socially correct, decent and honourable thing to do by many. It also reflects, to a large part, on our keen sense of community and humanity! We all have to face this reality one day. We need to come to terms with this aspect of gracious living and interacting with others in society with a dose of sincerity and empathy during their time of sorrow and sadness.

Difference between a Wake and a Funeral Service

A wake in this instance is a time for visitation, to view the lifeless body with proper respect and to say a quiet prayer or two for the repose of his / her soul. It also offers one an opportunity to offer condolences to the immediate family of the recently deceased.

A wake is also a time for the commemoration of the dead. You share stories and memorable snippets from the past, recall particular instances of happy moments and shared experiences and in general recall a life that was well lived.

A funeral service for Christians, on the other hand, is a formal ceremony normally conducted in a church and also by the graveside or crematorium. It is usually conducted by a religious minister.

For Whom the Bell Tolls: John Donne

“ Perchance he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill, as that he know not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think so myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that ”.

John Donne went on to state perceptively:

“ Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells toll, it tolls for thee!”

It is my belief that Malaysians here believe very much in this philosophy so well articulated by John Dunne and that is the main reason why so many Malaysians, to their great credit, honour the recently deceased by their attendance at wakes and funeral services. It is a great, humbling and necessary act to carry out.

I thus have little sympathy for some individuals who deliberately stay away from wakes and funeral services because they ‘ do not like to attend such sad ceremonies ‘ or simply because they ‘ do not like to view dead bodies ‘. I do wish they would grow up and get real.

If we can all so readily welcome the arrival of babies with joy and happiness, then by the same token, we must gracefully and willingly pay our respects when we hear about the passing of someone we know… be it relative, friend or neighbour. Occasions such as these are timely reminders for us of our own mortality.