Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Sharing about my mother...

This was published in the Presbyterian Messenger on 31st December 1977.

In Memoriam - Koh Choon Neo 1938-1977
It is very sad that in every recent issue of the Messenger we have had to record the death of some valiant Christian leader whom the Church could ill spare in these strenous days. Such a one was Mrs Lee Soo Ann, nee Koh Choon Neo, who died on 18th November and was cremated on Saturday 19th at 4.30pm. The cremation at Mt Vernon was preceded by a funeral service at her home, 11 Victoria Park Road, at 3pm conducted by the Rev Dr Gunnar Teilmann. Dr Frank Balchin led in prayer at the service, the Teachers' Choir sang a beautiful setting of The Lord's My Shepherd, and Mr Fok Tai Loy , a fellow-member of Prinsep St Presbyterian Church and friend of the family paid tribute to Mrs Lee's life and work at the cremation service. People from all walks of life, from the University, the professions, the educational world, the Kuo Chuan Girls' School, the Counselling Centre, the Presbyterian Synod, the Prinsep St Presbyterian Church, and other churches, and from the Metropolitan YMCA gathered to pay their last respects.
Mrs Lee was born in Singapore and brought up at the Prinsep St Presbyterian Church where her whole family attended and as a girl she was an active member of the Girls' Brigade. After University, teacher training and graduate work in California, she was appointed to the staff of the Teachers' Training College and lectured there for many years during the principalship of Dr Ruth Wong. She was married to Dr Lee Soo Ann in Prinsep St Presbyterian Church, they had known each other for many years, and they have two children, Justin now aged 14 and Ming-Ying aged 12.
When Ms Monica Sirkett retired from the principalship of Kuo Chuan Girls' School in 1972, the School Board invited Mrs Lee to take over. During her five years in the School she maintained the good academic standard that had been built up and with the keen cooperation of the School Chaplain, now also the Chairman of the Board, the Rev Lim Kim Toin, and the teachers, kept up the reputation of the school as a vital centre of Christian influence. As Headmistress she was both firm and kind. She never let her attacks of rheumatoid arthiritis which made walking, or indeed any movement, painful and difficult, curtail her activities. She continued to drive her car right up to the end, except when she was off on sick leave. She also joined a group on an educational tour of China. This was typical of her eagerness to widen her horizons and gain new experiences. Mrs Lee showed great energy and determination in seeing through to a successful conclusion the plan to add a third storey with science labs, and a library to the school buildings and in taking a major share in raising the $300,000 needed. Although she was in hospital for a stomach ulcer operation when Ms Sirkett, on a return trip to Singapore financed by the O.G.A., formally opened the new extension, she struggled up to be present a few weeks later when the O.G.A. and the school staff gave Ms Sirkett a welcome dinner. The operation was successful but the strain must have weakened her considerably. Recovery was slow but she insisted on going back to work. However the doctors were not satisfied and so she was admitted to Toa Payoh Hospital for a thorough check-up. While she was there a collapse occurred and she was rushed to Tan Tock Seng Hospital in a coma. Although life was prolonged for several days, in the end, irreparable brain damage made recovery impossible. So ended a life in which much was accomplished in a short time. Her long experience of pain did not embitter Mrs Lee but gave strength to her character and maturity to her outlook. It did not make her a hypochondriac but on the contrary increased her concern for others. This was especially shown in the counselling service for students that she set up in the school and in her taking on the chairmanship of the management committee of the Churches' Counselling Centre directed by Dr Teilmann. Mrs Lee was not afraid to speak her mind and to stand by her decisions but she was always cheerful and welcoming. She had a tremendous zest for life combined with a sincere and unwavering faith. Those who can remember her at the time of her marriage will cherish the vision of a lovely, talented and charming girl. Those who worked with her professionally will remember a sensitive mature woman with a deep belief in education. Those who share her faith, will believe that she receives her reward in the realm of the blessed redeemed, who praise God with unwearied song.


auntymich said...

oh wow, what a lovely woman. so sorry u had so little time together. i'm sure she'd be proud of the woman/mom u've become.

peyhwenlim said...

I was a student in Kuo Chuan Girl's School in the '70's and I remember your mother as my School Principal with fond memories of my teenage days, she was well respected by my fellow classmates.