Tag Archives: Kiwanis

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.

Kiwanis Clubs in Malaysia : The Humble and Somewhat Gratifying Early Days

Credit must be readily given to the late, great Kiwanian Tan Sri Khir Johari who was instrumental in introducing the Kiwanis International community service club to Malaysia way back in 1976. Tan Sri Khir Johari was a cabinet minister in the first cabinet of independent Malaya in 1957. He served for many years in the cabinet and held a number of important posts, including that as Minister of Education.

Towards the end of his political career, he was rewarded with a plum diplomatic posting. He was appointed Malaysia’s ambassador to the United States of America.

Key Role Played By Tan Sri Khir Johari

The top two diplomatic postings were and still are Washington and London. In Tan Sri Khir’s case, his posting came with full ministerial rank. Tan Sri Khir was a man very much in the mould of our beloved Father of Malaysia ( Bapa Malaysia ) Tengku Abdul Rahman Putra. He was a humble, honest to goodness, straightforward individual with moderate views and a keen sense of humanity. He also had an infectious sense of humour. He mixed well with all the races in Malaysia and was no hypocrite. He also loved life and enjoyed having a good time with family, friends and especially Kiwanians.

Thus when his tour of duty was over and he returned to Malaysia, he was principally responsible for establishing the Kiwanis Club of Kuala Lumpur. Tan Sri Khir was the charter president of the club when it was set up in Kuala Lumpur in 1976 in a blaze of print media publicity and also with sufficient pomp and ceremony! More than fifty professionals and business leaders signed up as charter members at that time.

Great Start but Poor Follow Through

However, this great start was not matched by its subsequent struggles to stay afloat! The club sort of lost direction and enthusiasm began to fade. Soon, in a little over a year, it was in a comatose state. The directors of the newly established club it seemed took things for granted and failed to set the proper direction for the club. This was a clear failure of leadership and of individuals signing up for membership without fully realising what they were committing to.

Success in Reviving the Kiwanis Club of Kuala Lumpur

Efforts were then made to revive the club. I was invited by Mr Yusof Ahmad, a lawyer to help with the revival of the club. There were then only a few brave and committed individuals who responded to this appeal. More than eighty per cent of the original charter members had left the club.

The following were the members during the valiant eighteen month effort to revive the Kiwanis Club of Kuala Lumpur:

  • Mr. Michael Wong ( real estate ),
  • Mr. Bernard Lam ( management consulting ),
  • Mr. Yusof Ahmad ( later served as president of the Industrial Court ),
  • Mr. S. Sivagnanam ( chartered engineer ),
  • the late Mr.M. Ramalingam ( senior police officer ),
  • Mr. N.T. Moorthy ( general management ),
  • Mr. Adil Naidu ( life insurance ) and
  • Dr. Guru Ratnavelu ( specialist doctor ).

Formal and Well Organised Dinner Meetings

It was decided by the members that we should attempt our efforts at this revival by having our formal, monthly dinner meetings at the iconic and impressive Majestic Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. The hotel is located almost directly opposite another famous landmark, the Moorish styled Kuala Lumpur Railway Station. Sometimes at these meetings, we had only about ten members in attendance! We invited excellent individuals known to the members to address us on topics of the day. We did not dare invite well known speakers because we were unsure of the response from our members and their invited guests.

Slowly but surely we managed to increase the number of members. We then decided to move the dinner meetings to the smart, newly opened Plaza Hotel in downtown Kuala Lumpur. Incidentally, Kiwanian Aaron Looi was the general manager at that time. We had many productive and enjoyable Kiwanis dinner meetings here. We then began inviting well known speakers to address us at the monthly dinner meetings.

Our meetings then had all the formality of such occasions, including the pomp and ceremony associated with a formal dinner meeting. It was quite a sight to see the Kiwanis Flags of Nations and the beautiful, big Kiwanis Bell and gong placed strategically on the main table of a U table seating arrangement. The Welcome Remarks, the Reading of the Objects of Kiwanis and the Vote of Thanks were all carried out with the solemnity and dignity required of such an occasion. Lest it be forgotten, these events were also enjoyable and we had great pride of association with an international community service club.

Many older members may also remember that quite a few Kiwanians actually chose to host their celebratory wedding dinners at the Plaza Hotel! Such was its popularity, reputation for good food and level of excellent service.

Extraordinary Malaysian Standard Bearers for Kiwanis

Today everyone readily agrees that Kiwanian Hwang Chia Sing and to a lesser degree Kiwanian Lee Kuan Yong are the internationally recognised and respected standard bearers for the Kiwanis Clubs in Malaysia. Both these outstanding individuals have been duly elected to high office as International Trustees of Kiwanis International and had served in that capacity with uncommon passion, effectiveness and great dignity. I understand that evergreen Kiwanian Hwang is slated to move to an equally high position, this time at the Kiwanis International Foundation.

What many may not know nor appreciate is that there is yet another individual who deserves to be recognised for being the internationally recognised standard bearer for a number of years during an earlier period when we were not a Kiwanis district.

That individual is Kiwanian Michael Wong Sek Peng, a past president of the Kiwanis Club of Kuala Lumpur. He is a giant of a man in more ways than one! He made a point of introducing many members to the clubs; he was firm and steadfast in his resolve to revive the Kiwanis Club of Kuala Lumpur; he made time to meet up with visiting Kiwanis International staffers and presidents when they were in the city; he was also the only representative at all the yearly regional Kiwanis meetings; and finally it was Michael’s bold and brazen proposal, after we had moved the dinner meetings to the Plaza Hotel, that we bid to host the 8th Asia Pacific Kiwanis International Conference in Genting Highlands, Malaysia in 1982. We needed something big to raise our spirits and galvanise our members into action. Do keep in mind that at that time there was just one club in Malaysia! We won the bid and the rest is history.

Growth and Development of Kiwanis Clubs in Malaysia

A four man team was responsible for the growth and development of the first eight Kiwanis Clubs in Malaysia. The team was headed by the late Kiwanian Lim Eng Seng and included Michael Wong, Kiwanian Tony Leow and Benedict Morais. Tony is a past president of the Kiwanis Club of Kuala Lumpur and a past Area Coordinator for Malaysia. He is medically out of action now but often remains in our thoughts.

The team went on club building missions to Malacca, Ipoh, Seremban, Klang, and Johore Bharu and then much closer home to areas like Ampang, Damansara, Petaling Jaya, Subang and Bukit Bintang. Lim Eng Seng would brief the target audience on the specifics of Kiwanis, Michael would regale them with his exploits at Kiwanis International meetings in the Asia Pacific and Tony would relate how he was introduced to Kiwanis and the reasons that persuaded him to join the club. I would then have the task of ‘selling ‘ the benefits of Kiwanis membership. Incidentally, I was the one who introduced Tony to the Kiwanis movement. He was my classmate at St John’s Institution, Kuala Lumpur.

We would travel to these meetings in Michael’s fawn coloured, sturdy Peugeot 504 or in Lim Eng Seng’s comfortable, cool blue Mercedes Benz 200. Along the way, we would enjoy good food, great camaraderie and on the way back we would conduct a post mortem on our efforts. In outstation locations when it was not possible to return home the same night, we pooled resources and shared hotel rooms to keep the costs down. All these trips were incidentally, self funded. That was a measure of our commitment to Kiwanis and we did so with contagious enthusiasm!

The Mother of All Motoring Treasure Hunts

The first major Kiwanis Club of Kuala Lumpur fund raising project was the Kiwanis Motoring Treasure Hunt held in 1984. Many young Malaysians chose to participate in this inaugural event. They had the satisfaction of knowing that the funds raised by this major project would go towards our community service projects. In addition, they would enjoy themselves together with their fellow passengers by participating actively in the hunt. It was all good, clean fun and was usually a family affair.

We had positive and ready support from the very start. Among our early corporate supporters and sponsors were the following organisations: Star Publications, Tan Chong & Sons Motor Company Sdn Bhd, Malayan Banking and Cheq Point, a local credit card company. The inaugural event more than doubled its target and the lucky recipient was the Selangor Chesire Home which received RM 50,000. The Kiwanis Motoring Treasure Hunt has been faithfully organised on a yearly basis ever since and with increasing success.

This unique Kiwanis event really fired up the imagination of the Malaysian motoring public and became so famous that many other organisations and bodies decided to jump on the bandwagon. However, the gold standard for excellence and the mother of all treasure hunts is still the Kiwanis Motoring Treasure Hunt. Kiwanians take pride in the fact that they have consistently promoted motor treasure hunting to such an extent that many others also want to organise such fun events.

A key reason why the Kiwanis Motoring Treasure Hunt got off to such a great start was the fact that we had an effective organising committee under the dynamic chairmanship of Lim Eng Seng. Tony Leow was roped in to serve as technical adviser / committee member. Tony is a well known navigator in motor rallying circles. He was also one half of the team that won the inaugural Kuala Lumpur to Vientianne ASEAN Rally way back in the seventies. Other individuals who served in the large organising committee included Chooi Tat Wai, Michael Wong, Fred Tan, Samuel Goh and Benedict Morais.

(Benedict Morais served as president of the Kiwanis Club of Kuala Lumpur in 1982.)