Saturday, 4 February 2017

Eulogy for the late Dr Robert Loh by Mr Eric Teng Heng Chew (President, YMCA of Singapore)

On 2nd February 2017

By Eric Teng, President of YMCA of Singapore

Aunty Mary, Stephen, Andrew, Pat, their families and loved ones:

I am sure I speak for all gathered here, to honor the memory of the late Dr Robert Loh as a stalwart supporter of the YMCA of Singapore and the social service sector, and a community champion who has lived a life devoted to service.

The late Dr Robert Loh was a philanthropist and a shining example of a faithful steward in the Lord’s service in his lifetime. Though he lent his support to various charitable causes, the YMCA of Singapore had a special place in his heart. As a young boy, Dr Loh had joined the YMCA as a Junior member in 1937. Passing by every day walking to and from school, the YMCA soon became a second home to him as he participated in many wholesome recreational activities with his schoolmates.

Dr Loh became a Full member after the Second World War and was invited to sit on the Board in 1962, a station at which he faithfully served for almost 50 years till his retirement in 2011.

There will be many who will fondly remember Dr Loh in their own ways and words. I would like to share the words of his former Board colleagues and friends.

Former YMCA Board Member and the longest serving Hon Treasurer Mr Cecil Wong:

I’ve known Robert since we were teenagers and we used to play badminton together with a couple of classmates after school. He has been a long-time personal friend. When he got married in London, I loaned him my car for the wedding. The main thing I remember about him was that he led by example when we were both on the Board of YMCA. So if he asked us to donate or do anything, he himself would take the lead and do it first.

Former President Mr Lee Liat Cheng:

Dr Robert Loh is an exceptional guy who is totally dedicated to social and community service. He is extremely passionate and fully focused on doing his upmost to make YMCA a meaningful & relevant organisation to the community. As his Vice-president for 5 years, I've learned much to follow his example. Dr Loh’s love for the YMCA is probably second to none. We have lost a great mentor.

Former YMCA Board member and General Secretary of the YMCA under Dr Robert Loh, Mr Edward Ong:

Dr Loh had strong convictions, character and integrity and would be fully committed to causes he believes in. He is respected in his profession and honoured wherever he served, he was stalwart to rebuild the YMCA of Singapore and set it on a firm foundation to serve in Singapore and beyond our shores.

Former President Mr David Lua:

After his retirement from the (YMCA) Board, he has been faithfully attending the Bible Study Fellowship every Monday evening despite in the recent years having difficulties when he walked. His conscientiousness in doing his homework and participation in the discussion group of which I had the privilege of being with him was most encouraging not only to me but to many others as well. Dr Loh is a giant in the social service scene in Singapore.

Indeed, the "giant" acts are many. To highlight three:

1) During Dr Loh’s tenure as President of YMCA, the Constitution was changed to offer women full membership privileges in 1977. Today our YMCA memberships stand at 48.5% Male/ 51.5 Female. That was Dr Loh’s belief in inclusiveness.

2) Setting up a Social Service Centre in Ang Mo Kio in 1982, a joint project with the Asian Women’s Welfare Association and the Singapore Anglican Welfare Council. This is the precursor to today's Family Service Centre or FSC. That was Dr Loh’s vision of the social service sector.

3) Dr Loh was instrumental in securing the government’s approval for YMCA of Singapore’s plan to rebuild its ageing Edwardian-style building on 1 Orchard Road which was first opened in 1911. He donated generously to the Building Fund and it is through his efforts, supported by other Directors and donors, that we have today in existence the nine-storey YMCA complex which was completed in 1984. That was Dr Loh’s foresight on the future of YMCA.

Following his retirement from the Board, Dr Loh continued to support the YMCA’s various programmes by attending several major events and donating to support fundraising efforts. He sponsored the YMCA’s Y Makan Fellowship, a monthly community service programme that seeks to bring cheer to the elderly by treating them to a sumptuous meal and having youth volunteers befriend and interact with them over songs, games and fun activities.

On his contributions to NCSS, it is best summarised by (this quote) NCSS Chief Executive Officer Mr Sim Gim Guan: “Dr Loh's contributions to the social service sector and NCSS are vast. He will be fondly remembered for his personal philosophy of caring for others which he carried through his life. This is the same philosophy that continues to guide NCSS today.”

On a personal note, this is the same philosophy that Dr Loh has cultivated in me. I still clearly recalled my first meeting with Dr Loh back in 1985 when I joined the YMCA Board. He looked at me in the eyes. I think Dr Loh has eyes that are smiling and knowing - he suffers no fools. He has guided and mentored me. To always have a sense of conviction and duty in serving the YMCA. He has confidence and faith in young people. We are indeed fortunate to have Dr Loh as our role model.

In conclusion, I would like to share a 2013 interview which Dr Loh gave on ‘irememberYMCA’ (as part of the Singapore Memory Project, courtesy of National Library Board.)

“We should promote active citizenry amongst our people. And how do we do that? By promoting people to become volunteers right from the beginning. You can be a volunteer when you have the money but it is when you learn the art and philosophy of volunteerism from a young age that the spirit will prevail through life with you. You feel a sense of fulfilment when you help others in whatever you do.”

This is the spirit and the legacy of Dr Robert Loh that will live on with future generations of volunteers in both the YMCA of Singapore and the social service sector.

Goodbye, Dr Loh. Have a Blessed Journey Ahead!

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