Mon 25 Jun 2007 – This morning, Greasi was shocked to read the obituary announcement that the family of Mr Yeo had put in The Straits Times. She asked Rahim and Makcik to verify the notice then had Heok Hui come up to the office. There he called ‘Ah Yeo’s’ home and his sister informed him that Mr Yeo had passed away suddenly during his Saturday badminton game (23 Jun 2007). It was a very quick way to go but he was only 52 and all of us grieve for him.
We will be visiting the wake at Block 56 Sims Drive S (9380056), tel: 6742-1230. The cortege will leave on Wed 27 Jun 2007: 12pm for cremation at Mandai Crematorium.
I wrote to our museum volunteers and friends earlier to inform them. I cited the interns blogs as snippets from their interactions with him capture a glimpse of him.
“Dear Toddycats and old friends,
I write to tell you with a heavy heart that Mr Yeo, one of the museum’s curators, passed away last Saturday, 23 Jun 2007, during his regular badminton game with friends.
I am glad that some of you had the opportunity to interact with this gentle man, including my interns who have recently been on field trips and prep work with him, see: “A hawk and two eagles,” “Crabby Search,” and Crocs ahoy!“
One very telling remark amongst the posts reveal just how chatty Mr Yeo has been with our young museum volunteers and interns:
“Another interesting mission Siva set me and Danliang on today was to collect bird specimens. He was informed of a donor who decided to donate her uncle’s collection. We went along with Mr Yeo. It was a rickety ride in a mini-lorry to Bukit Batok. We were pretty much clueless about where block 227 was, but three brains and 6 eyes set things right.
While waiting for the donor to arrive, we pried into Mr Yeo’s life. Hee.. He’s been in the museum so long, he’s seen Prof Ng come as a student and rise as the new director! We discovered museum life changed when Prof Ng came. More specimens were collected and preserved. Before that, it was pretty much maintenace. Mr. Yeo’s been thought of as a shy man, but I think it’s delightful talking to him once he gets going. =)”
I myself am glad for the time I have had with him, particularly on specimen retrievals (the highlight must be the Tekong dugong), field trips (the last was crabbing at Ivan Polunin’s house and the Mera Lodge stream), and plotting about gallery and education programmes.”
Mr Yeo has always been kind, helpful and friendly with the people he had come across and several friends responded immediately by email, phone and SMS after I sent alerted them by email this morning, soon after I found out. Here are a few of their thoughts:
Adrian Loo (formerly Plant Systematics Lab, NUS Biological Sciences), who amongst other things, was on the memorable Changi Tree (Hopea sangal) run with Mr Yeo, responded:
“Thanks for the info. That’s really sad. He was a damn nice person always ready with a smile. I don’t think I have ever seen him without him smiling warmly. And it was always easy to strike up a conversation with him and he’d always have good stories to share about BioD and the museum.”
Alvin Wong (former hons/MSc student, Systematics & Ecology Lab, Dept Biological Sciences) says,
“Mr Yeo is always quiet and unassuming but always kind and helpful to students in the museum and on field trips. he’s a repository of info about specimens stashed away in some obscure corner.”
Ria Tan (WildSingapore.com & Raffles Museum Honorary Museum Associate) says,
“I first met Mr Yeo when I spent hours photographing the specimens from the first Chek Jawa transect at the museum. It was my first time doing anything like this and he was patient in showing me how to do it right (and to survive the formaldehyde).
I met him many times later again, at field trips, during visits to the museum.
The wildfilms crew will always remember the special trips he made possible for us last year. Then, as always, he quietly offered sound field advice, and patiently looked after everything.
Mr Yeo’s kind and gentle friendship will be sorely missed.”
Chim Chee Kong (former Raffles Museum Snakehunter) said,
“I remembered Mr Yeo as the very nice, kind, patient and helpful gentleman who helped me in locating specimens a couple of years ago.”
Loh Lih Woon (former hons student, Systematics & Ecology Lab, Dept Biological Sciences) said,
“I’m shocked and dismayed. He was a helpful and unassuming man who made the madness of my hons year that more bearable, exactly 10 years ago! Well those whom God love die young(er) they say. Perhaps this cliched saying could serve as solace.
Sigh. The brevity of life. Seize the day we must all. RIP, Mr Yeo K L!”
Airani S (Senior Volunteer Project Manager, Raffles Museum):
“Mr Yeo is a very kind man and always accommodating to last minute requests for help. He was a shy man of very few words but as I got to know him better, he became more chatty and began to share his dreams and plans post-retirement!
I will miss his absence from the museum dearly.”
Peter Ng (Director, Raffles Museum):
“It came as a shock when I was told this morning that he had passed on – I have known him for over 27 years – since he joined as a fresh staff and I was still an undergrad working in the then ZRC. I remembered how he was full of energy and passion for his work with specimens, and especially crabs and related invertebrates. He took care of the crustacean and invertebrate collections for most of his career, and was also the key man in many of the museum’s local field collections and field work.
Those who have worked with him in the museum and the field like him and have commented on his kindness and willingness to help. All the museum’s foreign scientists whom he has worked with have remarked how good a worker he was. That he was still young and the manner of passing so sudden and unexpected makes the loss even more painful. I do not know really what to say — he will be missed … and the museum will feel the loss. Damn.”
As we shared tales of Mr Yeo with his six siblings and the rest of the family, they have been getting to know this other side of him – his museum curator’s work, love of animals, exhibition presentation skills, love of field trips and because he was such a worrier, his unexpected sense of adventure!