Thursday, April 29, 2010

Demise of Mr S P Chua

Source: Channel News Asia

Founding member of Boys' Brigade S'pore dies at age 96

SINGAPORE: The last founding member of the Boys' Brigade Singapore, Mr Chua Siak Phuang, died peacefully last Saturday at the age of 96.

The late Mr Chua was an honorary president and one of 12 founding members of the Boys' Brigade Singapore when it started in 1930.

He had served in the Brigade for the past 80 years - as BB Boy, Officer, Captain and Brigade President.

During the Japanese occupation, he risked his life to preserve sacred items of the Boys' Brigade (BB), like drum sets and BB literature, including minutes of meetings.

Immediately after the Japanese occupation, he quickly revived the First Company and the BB Battalion in Singapore.

His body is lying at the Boys' Brigade headquarters in Ganges Avenue.

The cortege leaves at 9.30am this Friday for a service at Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church and then to Chua Chu Kang Christian Cemetery for burial.

Articles with regards to Mr S P Chua

There is no retirement in the BB - because it is the Lord’s work. The time I retire is when God stops me working - through sickness or death.” S P Chua

JUNE 23, 2004

This pioneer Boy is still in the Brigade 90-year-old Chua Siak Phuang, honorary president of the Boys' Brigade here, has been active in the movement for 74 years
By Crystal Chan

HE MAY be 90 years old, hard of hearing and too frail to walk more than a few steps at a time.

'I didn't know what i was going for, because I was only attracted to the BB uniform shown on the poster.' -- Mr Chua Siak Phuang, on why he joined the movement in 1930. -- ONG CHIN KAIBut Mr Chua Siak Phuang, honorary president of the Boys' Brigade (BB) in Singapore, says he will continue serving the youth organisation until his last breath.

After 74 years in the uniformed group, the nonagenarian still attends its annual general meetings when his health permits.

That S.P. Chua, as the retired businessman is known to friends and colleagues, is one of the 12 founding members of the boys' movement here may explain why it is so close to his heart.And yesterday, when his family held a big bash at The Pines country club to mark his birthday, they invited all his old friends from BB to join in.

Some of them stood up during the dinner to remember his contributions, from his first days as a cadet up through the military-style ranks of officer and captain and then the top post of president.

When British architect James Fraser founded BB's first company in Singapore in 1930, 47 years after the movement was established in Britain, Mr Chua was among the first dozen to sign up.

He had seen a recruitment poster in his school, the then-Anglo-Chinese Continuation School, now Anglo-Chinese School, he recalled in an interview with The Straits Times yesterday.

'And I just went to the Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church where Mr Fraser held the recruitment.'I didn't know what I was going for, because I was only attracted to the BB uniform shown on the poster,' he said, referring to the distinctive navy blue shirt, bermudas and pillbox hat.

Although his parents believed in ancestral worship, they did not object to him joining the Christian-based BB as it made him more disciplined.

Showing this reporter a faded photograph of a gymnastic team from the first Singapore BB company, he said: 'I'm in this picture. I loved gymnastics as it was a good way to flex my muscles. Eventually, I became a gymnastics instructor to the younger cadets. Even though I'm 90, I still have a flexible body.'Ten years after joining the BB, Mr Chua, who was by then an inspector with the then-Singapore Improvement Trust, the Housing Board's predecessor, succeeded Mr Fraser as captain of the BB's first Singapore company, leading the group in activities such as gymnastics, camping and community service.The Japanese Occupation were dark days for him and the movement. Two members were killed when the Japanese found them with badges given by the Brigade.

'The BB was seen as a British organisation and the Japanese hated anything connected with the British,' he explained.

He had to hide his BB paraphernalia such as documents in his wife's family home - he married Rosie in 1942 - at Veerasamy Road, off Serangoon Road.

When the war ended, Mr Chua and his BB comrades revived the movement.

He rose to be its president from 1958 to 1965, during which it grew from strength to strength. In 1999, as a tribute to him, it made him honorary president.

Today, he is the only pioneer member still active in the BB, which has grown in membership from 4,500 in 1999 to 7,000 today.

Joining the Brigade has become a family tradition. His three sons and a daughter were members of the Boys' Brigade and sister group, the Girls' Brigade. His nine grandchildren too were part of both organisations.

Asked why he remains a lifelong member, Mr Chua said: 'I'm thankful to the BB because it transformed me from a rebellious boy to an obedient son. 'As I spent more time with the organisation, it became part of my life.

'Last night's celebrations at The Pines was attended by 150 people, including BB alumni and former army chief Winston Choo and MP Chiam See Tong (Potong Pasir).Mr Chiam, who was under Mr Chua's captaincy in the 1940s, said: 'S.P. has spent most of his life with the BB; he's become synonymous with it.'There should be more dedicated people like S.P., who devoted himself to the BB without any material gain.