The Measure of a Man

A tribute to my late brother-in-law

We first met in church as young people in the 1980s and after weekly meetings, our group used to hang out together for food fellowship.  His job in Sales with Hume Industries brought Matthew Loh Chew Lon, who hails from Kampar in Perak, from Kuala Lumpur to Johor Baru.  

In our assembly, there was always a healthy food culture that went a long way to cultivate better bonds and is exercised particularly to help the singles who came from out-station for work or studies, feel more welcome.   As we moved into careers, we joined the Working Adults Fellowship and among other Bible studies, I distinctly remember going through a series of studies on Stephen R Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Through church activities and lots of food fellowship, it soon became apparent that Matthew and my eldest sister Ruby, was a couple and some 30 years ago, they were married.  He comes from a family who enjoys good food and at their wedding reception in Kampar, I discovered that some of his family members own and operate popular Chinese restaurants in town.  In fact, their banquet and other meals during our stay in Kampar, were held in some of these restaurants! 

[Right to Left] Matthew with Ruby and Wendy
I was also introduced to Kampar’s popular street food like chee cheong fun, chow yueen [deep-fried meat balls] and lor mai farn [steamed glutinous rice] and every time they visited Kampar, they would return with a whole range of delicious street food for us to enjoy. 

Matthew’s father was also a good cook and every year after their Chinese New Year feasts, he would make a brew of choy kiok or leftover meat stewed in kai choy vegetables, for them to bring a portion back to JB and I was often invited to enjoy this delicious dish.  

After his father’s passing in last July, Matthew honoured him by trying to replicate some of his recipes as a new tradition in this year’s Reunion Dinner and once again, I was privileged to savour their family favourites in a home-cooked feast.   

Matthew with eldest son, enjoying food
fellowship after a meeting in church; 1988
Matthew was also from a very traditional family and I recall an incident early in their marriage when his parents were visiting JB.   After a meal in their house, I teased Matthew – saying that it was his turn to wash the dishes.  

I realised [too late!] that his father was appalled at my suggestion because his facial expression registered utter shock!  Being a good sport, Matthew washed up the dishes but I was appalled that his father must have thought his son was often bullied by a sister-in-law like me! 

I soon discovered that dish-washing and other household chores were duties reserved for the females in his family but since joining our family, it became second nature for him to take turns to do the dishes and other chores with my sister.  

When the children came along, it was interesting to see him as a caring father, feeding them and even changing their diapers.  More recently, I also saw him helping to spoon-feed our 100-year old grandmother when she was not able to feed herself.  He had certainly come a long way since the early days when even dish-washing was an alien task to him.

Matthew [Right] took over from maid to help
feed our 100-year old grandma; 2009
Matthew started a tradition of hosting a family Chinese New Year dinner when they returned from his hometown [where they traditionally had their annual Reunion Dinner] and I can remember enjoying many sumptuous feasts in the “Unicorn Room” at New Lucky, one of his favourite restaurants in JB. 

We used to frequent this restaurant for family celebrations and I can never forget tasting an exciting poon choi or “banquet in a basin” at his son’s birthday dinner there.  

This inspired me to do a bit of research on this multi-layered feast and wrote a feature that was published during the next Chinese New Year. 

Matthew sharing his personal testimony
on May 1, "Tea on Labour Day" 2013
When my friends read my poon choi article, they wanted to have a taste of it, so we went to enjoy a Chinese New Year dinner with poon choi.  After we ordered our meal, it was a pleasant surprise to discover that Matthew was also having a meal with his friends at the next table.  Later when we asked for our bill, we were again pleasantly surprised to learn that it was already paid by Matthew!  

This was typical of his big-heartedness but my friends were deeply touched by his generosity which also extended to me and my friends.  As we thanked him for his kindness, we joked that if we knew that he was paying for our meal, we should have ordered more food!

I’m familiar with his brand of generosity which means that there is always an excess and never a lack.  From food to fruits, he enjoyed seeing others enjoying themselves and especially during the durian season, my sister may get his call to say that there will be durians for dessert.  Very often, she would call me to prepare our stomachs for the durians because Matthew would buy, not only by the bag but sometimes even by the basket!  I remember how he would open the thorny fruits and sample the first seed and then encourage us to go for the bitter or the sweet tasting durians!

Large gathering at Matthew's wake
On May 1, we held a “Tea on Labour Day” event and Matthew was among a few people who shared their personal testimony on God’s gracious blessings in their lives.  Many heard for the very first time, his life story both from the personal and career perspective, on how God led him in coming to JB and meeting my sister, putting down roots and developing his career that started in Sales to where he is now.   

Two years ago in an annual medical check-up, his prostate cancer was discovered and as he went through treatment in JB and Singapore hospitals, he gave praise to God for enabling him to carry on life normally with minimal side-effects.

Floral tributes even lined the outside of the parlour
On May 11, we celebrated Mother’s Day as always, in a family dinner but this time with two of our male cousins as guests and I heard Matthew share with them quite candidly about his health and treatments.  On Sunday morning, it was his turn to organise our breakfast fellowship – and he did so as usual in large quantities – of Kampar style chee cheong fun [from a shop in Taman Tun Aminah] that was enjoyed after the morning service. 

Early in the following week he was running a fever but after a day’s rest, he went to work as usual on May 16.  I learnt from the driver that as they were returning to office after a meeting in Singapore that afternoon, Matthew suffered a massive intra-cerebral hemorrhage.  He was transferred from a JB hospital to the Intensive Care Unit of Gleneagles Hospital in Singapore where his condition deteriorated due to complications arising from prostate cancer and leukemia.   

Staff salute their boss before lifting the casket
As he was lying in a coma in the ICU, there was a stream of concerned visitors that included his friends, business associates and groups of office staff.  One of his Korean colleagues whom I met in the hospital told me, “He’s like a father to us!”  It was heart-warming to hear his driver say that this boss treated him so well that he was, “Macam abang” or like a brother to him.   On May 18, with his wife and family by his side, Matthew was called home to the Lord.

His passing came as a shock to everyone, in particular business associates and colleagues who were still in the middle of project discussions with him.  Over the 2-day wake period and send-off on May 21, tributes poured in and from the floral tributes alone, it was clear that Matthew had touched the lives of so many groups of people.  It was very moving when his close friends requested for a final moment to assemble and bid their farewell while his colleagues also asked to join his sons to carry his casket! 

Factory operations came to a virtual stand-still when key personnel and workers of all races came to pay their last respects and gave Matthew a grand send-off.   Before they lifted his casket, I watched as the staff paused and lifted their hands to salute their boss.  Staff from their Senawang operations told me that Matthew could relate to people at every level and even though he did not have any formal Engineering training, he applied his experience in the concrete industry to keep the business on track.  Even though I may not know much about this industry, I had the privilege of helping Matthew with his speech that was delivered at their company’s 10th anniversary dinner in 2012.

One page of many published
condolence messages in the newspapers
As I observed these happenings over these past few days, I had a flashback to our WAF days when we studied Stephen R Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to “Begin with the End in Mind.”  Our facilitator encouraged us to discover our own character values and life goals and to adopt the ideal characteristics for the various roles and relationships in our lives.  

I remember he asked us to imagine what people will say about us at our funeral and as the eulogies were presented by Matthew’s 2 sons, close friends and colleagues, it was encouraging to know how Matthew’s life had impacted so many people.  

From family members to the church, friends, business partners, colleagues, staff and even the serving team from his favourite restaurant – they were all there to pay their respects.  Someone even commented that this was the first time she saw so many grown men openly shedding tears!  It was my honour to have known Matthew, first as a friend and then as my brother-in-law. He has certainly left a strong legacy both with the family and in his work, and one thing’s for sure – he will be dearly missed.


  1. Anonymous5/26/2013


    -chew yee

  2. This is the first time I've received a comment in Chinese so I had to find someone to help translate it. I'm very touched to learn that it means: "He is my one and only beloved eldest brother whom I dearly love and respect." Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Chew Yee. He was also a very special eldest brother to us too!

  3. Anonymous6/03/2013

    Dear Peggy,

    Mathew had left us a legacy of shining examples to follow.Thank you Mathew.May Peace and Bliss be with you.

    Deepest sympathy to your sister,their children and all your family members from Hock Teck and me. We are indeed very touched by the way he had lived and we wish we have had the privileged opportunity of knowing him in person.


  4. Anonymous5/07/2014

    I am touched by your writing about Matthew Loh. Yes, he will be missed by many but his legacy of generosity to many would live on. I was his former staff in Hume Pasir Gudang. (Peggy, I met up with you but I am not sure whether you still remember me ... had a meal with you and Ruby in Lavender Restaurant in Tebrau Mall.)

    May his loving memories live on.

    In Him,
    Martin Chow and family