Teacher, scout, crusader

Review by LIM WEY WEN



By: Dr Chew Nee Kong

Publisher: Negeri Sembilan Parkinson’s Society, Malaysia

ISBN: 978-9834398903

IF a man’s worth can be judged by the weight of his biography, you know you are going to read about someone important when you hold this book in your hands.

Tipping the scales at 1.5kg, Selfless Warrior even outweighed the heaviest book in my collection by 0.5kg – which happens to be my trusty paperback version of Oxford’s Advanced Learner’s Dictionary.

But that kind of weight, translated in almost 450 pages of pictures, memorabilia and testimonials, is hardly enough to encapsulate the life of the late Lloyd Tan Pao Chan, a mighty soul of seemingly common but precious qualities.

Tan was the founder of the Malaysian Parkinson’s Disease Association (MPDA) which was formed in 1994. Diagnosed with Parkinson’s 15 years before he eventually succumbed to pneumonia at age 71, Tan is truly a rare breed.

As a child, he was jovial, talkative and a model student. Although schooling started at age ten for him after the Japanese occupation in 1945, he went on to excel in his studies until he graduated from the Malayan Teacher’s College.

As a teacher, his selflessness and devotion to teaching motivated and encouraged countless students under his tutelage, some of which visited him frequently even when he was no longer their teacher. His friendly style and understanding nature brought him close to his students as he could always empathise with their teenage concerns.

Despite the gratitude expressed by his students, Tan remained humble and continued to serve without expecting anything in return.

The highlight of Tan’s teaching career, though, was his involvement in the propagation of Scouting in the schools he served. As poverty had denied him a chance of joining the Scout Movement when he was young, he actively pursued this dream when he became a teacher. He later became a Scout Master who led and inspired numerous young boys.

He used to go out of his way to help students and colleagues, and his skills in massage had his friends running to him when they have aches and pains.

A caring husband and father, he always made time for his family despite his busy schedule. Among Tan’s virtues, the one that stands out the most was his inherent ability to see the silver lining in every cloud.

When he could not afford to go to a medical school, he chose education instead. When he knew he had Parkinson’s disease, he went to the United States to understand his disease and find a way to deal with it.

To help society understand more about Parkinson’s disease, Tan was ever willing to take part in medical trainings at hospitals or media interviews about the disease.

Even in his speeches and letters to the Parkinson’s community, he light heartedly called himself a “Parkie” and continuously gave words of encouragement to other patients.

As a tribute to Tan’s dedication in creating awareness about Parkinson’s disease, Dr Chew also dedicates a chapter of the book to explain the disease in comprehensive, layman terms.

Like plots of a movie, most writers will agree that a good story will compensate for some “packaging” flaws. So is the case with Tan’s story. Amidst some blurry photos and size 14 Times New Roman fonts, the spirit of this man leaps out of every page, inspiring readers with his patience, love and sincerity.

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