|Mr. Yong celebrating with a student in 2005|
Last week, I received news that one of my long-serving centre managers of Erican Kepong, Mr. Yong, was suffering from cancer.
Mr. Yong was not just a good colleague, he was a good friend of mine. Upon hearing this news, I said to myself, "I must pay Mr. Yong a visit as soon as possible."
Earlier today, I had a meeting with another colleague of mine from Erican Kepong, Ms. Soo Ken. She told me about how Mr. Yong had found out that he had pancreatic cancer just a few weeks ago and how fast he had been deteriorating ever since.
I immediately detected a sense of urgency and I decided not to procrastinate any longer. As today was Friday, I said to Soo Ken, "Let's visit Mr Yong as soon as I return from traveling next Monday. We'll pray for him and give him our best wishes."
However, just moments ago... I received news from Soo Ken that Mr. Yong had passed away. I was very saddened. I was saddened because I had delayed my visit and so missed the opportunity to say farewell. I was saddened because Mr. Yong was simply such a good man and so, despite his old age, losing him is unbearably painful.
In 1994, I was starting a centre in Kepong. I looked up and down, high and low... here, there and everywhere, hoping to find someone who understood education and had a genuine interest for developing the younger generation.
One day, a man with the thickest eyebrows I had ever seen walked into my office. He was carrying a plastic bag with him which contained a clean yet simple resume. This down-to-earth looking man started speaking and he introduced himself as Yong Yoke, alias 'Mutton'. He told me he was a retired post master, and he had served at the Post Office all of his life.
Initially, I was not too impressed with his presentation.
"A retired post master..." I thought. "That's good but... what has that got to do with the education field?"
Then he talked about his passion for educating the younger generation. And as he talked about his desire to help people, his eyes glowed. He leaned forward, looked straight into my eyes and spoke with absolute conviction.
"Mr. Chong, I love people. I'm committed to people. I'm loyal to people. I want to see the students grow. I want to see our people grow. I want to see your business grow."
There was just so much passion, conviction and energy coming out of this simple looking man. I was stunned. I started to really pay attention. I took another good look at him. This man, in his mid fifties, sounded most amazingly convincing. I shook his hand and that was the start of a very long lasting relationship.
Mr. Yong did not let me down. He was kind-hearted and he dedicated his time to the development of his subordinates and the students of Erican. He was always committed to doing his best as a Centre Manager and was well loved by all his staff and students. He was an honest man who had an absolute sense of integrity and responsibility.
He was a grammarian too - the old-school type, if you may. He insisted on imparting grammar knowledge to students, regardless of the English courses they were taking. He would always say, "Without a solid grammar foundation, your English will get nowhere."
Because of the dedication and care that Mr. Yong was giving to each and every student, he had set a role-model for the other teachers to emulate. Soon, many people came to learn English with us. Erican Kepong started to grow steadily, and it became a reputable language centre in the Kepong area. Mr. Yong dedicated more than 10 years of his life, faithfully serving the Erican organization, tirelessly helping the students and staff. His commitment toward Erican as an organization was absolute.
Mr. Yong, I will forever miss you. Erican is what it is today because of great leaders like you. To the family of Mr. Yong, I give you my deepest condolences. I'm sure Mr. Yong is now looking down from above and his kindness and care will continue to shower upon us forever and ever. May he rest in eternal peace.
"Life is about constantly going beyond limits!"
- Erican Chong