Rest in peace, Ms Wong

I woke up on December 8 to the sad news that a retired teacher, Ms Amy Wong, had passed away peacefully early that morning.

Ms Amy Wong modelling an outfit for
a fashion show in the 1950s
Ms Wong, 86, was frail when we last met on August 22 at the Johor Baru Convent’s 90th anniversary celebration but with her remarkable memory, she easily recalled my name!

That was probably because I shared a story about her published as, The World of Amy Wong, in 2009.  I know she appreciated it very much because when I visited her at home, I saw my full-colour centerspread, proudly displayed on her wall.

Ms Wong and I got on famously, probably because she was never my form teacher and she did not know the mischief I got up to in school – which was made me popular with my teachers – for the wrong reasons!

When I was in Primary school, I used to look out for Ms Wong just to have a glimpse of her outfits.  At that time, Ms Wong was quite the fashionista because every day she would dress in colour-coordinated outfits with matching stiletto shoes, handbag and accessories.  

Birthday celebration with Ms Wong,
[L to R] Elizabeth Chan, Ms Wong,
Hwee Ling and yours truly
My aunts, who were also JB Convent alumni, told me that since the 1950’s, Ms Wong had been distinguished by her slender frame and an appealing 22-inch waistline which she showed off by wearing dresses tailored with narrow waists and wide can-can skirts!

So when I heard the familiar “tick-tock” of her pointed stiletto shoes on the concrete corridors, I knew she was near!

Recently, a group of our classmates and I paid Ms Wong a visit during Chinese New Year and we talked about those days when we used to marvel at her eye-catching coordinated outfits.  After having tea with her – served the English way with a proper teapot, milk jug and sugar bowl – I remember how Ms Wong was such a good sport to put on one of her favourite dresses just to prove that she could still fit into it!

At that time, she was still actively involved with the JB chapter of the Lion’s Club and used to drive herself to meetings.  Not long after that, she would still attend meetings, driven by members as she was no longer able to drive.

Ms Wong always enjoyed dressing up, seen here at one of
our tea visits with [L to R] Elizabeth Chan, Lina Loh,
Ms Wong, yours truly and Tay Bee Choo
Our group often visited Ms Wong for afternoon tea and also celebrated her birthdays with her.  I remember last year, our plan to meet her for tea fell through even though Elizabeth Chan called to remind her of our date.  Another of our classmates, who is skilled in baking chicken pie, brought her homemade pie to share with Ms Wong and that day, at the appointed time, we stood outside her gates, calling but nobody responded from inside.

We were not too worried about any mishap because Ms Wong lived with her sister, Betty, and we guessed that they must have gone out together.  So after waiting and calling for a while, we took our chicken pie and went to a classmate’s home to enjoy it.

Ms Wong looking at photo album of old photos
shared by Zainal Yusof at our meeting
Later, Elizabeth followed up with Ms Wong by phone and she apologized profusely because Ms Wong did go out with her nephew on short notice and she failed to inform us.  We had a good laugh about it and told her that she just missed having a taste of that delicious homemade pie!

Besides being the epitome of fashion and English elegance, Ms Wong earned the enviable moniker as a “pillar of the JB Convent” because she not only completed her education here, she was also a teacher in the Primary and Secondary sections of her alma mater at various times of her career, until she retired in 1984.

Back in 1951, Ms Wong was among the pioneer group of 148 Malaysians who set sail for the UK to be trained at Kirkby College there.  Incidentally, my story about her voyage by steamship and memories of her travel experience and in the UK, was read by one Zainal Yusof, whose parents were also in the pioneer group of trainees.

When he wrote to me in 2012, asking to meet with Ms Wong to talk about those Kirkby days, I set up the appointment and escorted Ms Wong, who was then 83, to the meeting with Zainal and his wife.  This was because Zainal was on a quest to complete a biography started by his late mother. 

Over tea, it was wonderful to observe how Ms Wong recalled interesting details of her experiences on board the ship and in the college, and provided information which helped Zainal substantiate what his parents recorded in their writings.

That same year, at the 4th Johor State English Language Conference, one of the event highlights was the JB English Language Teaching awards to five exemplary teachers in recognition for their contribution to English language teaching.  I was proud that Ms Wong was one of the award recipients.

Last year, the JB Convent class of 1981 held a reunion in a local hotel and invited a host of retired teachers with Ms Wong among them, to the event.  It was very thoughtful of the class to invite Ms Wong to represent the teachers to cut a commemorative cake which was decorated with coloured icing in the design of the school badge.

At the wake Ms Wong's sister, Betty, told me that Ms Wong had a fall in early November and even though she did not appear to suffer any apparent damage, it took a toll on her and soon she could no longer walk.  When her condition deteriorated, Betty admitted her to Hospital Sultanah Aminah where she passed away peacefully at 4.30am.

Betty could not hold back her tears when she told me that Ms Wong had picked that particular photograph and had prepared it to be used at her wake.  I remember this photo, taken when Ms Wong used to model outfits in fashion shows in the 1950s, because I used it with my story about her and I’ve seen a similar framed photo displayed on the wall in her house.

At her funeral, Ms Wong’s brother paid tribute to her by pointing out three good things she would be remembered for.  As the eldest of five siblings, she made the family proud by passing the Cambridge school exam and took up teaching as a career, first as a cadet teacher with JB’s Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus. 

Lina Loh and Elizabeth Chan paying their last respects
to Ms Wong at her wake
In those days, when teaching was a highly respected career for women, her calling as a teacher was confirmed when Ms Wong was awarded with the opportunity to be trained in Kirkby College, a prestigious teacher’s training college for Malaysians in the UK.  Her career which spanned 34 years was with her alma mater, the JB Convent until she retired in 1984.

Secondly, Ms Wong would be remembered for her dedication to charity work through the Lion’s Club.  He said his sister was mild-mannered, friendly and amiable, and her efforts in helping the less fortunate in our community has been recognised and awarded.

Thirdly, he said both his sisters, Amy and Betty, are good cooks and he would certainly miss the delicious Peranakan food the Amy used to make.

I trust her family would take comfort in the words of the messages presented with the wreaths that succinctly spelled out the impact Ms Wong had on her students.  All of us whose lives you, Ms Wong, have touched as teacher, colleague, sister and friend, miss you dearly and would fondly treasure our memories of you.  Rest in peace, dear Ms Wong.


  1. Beautiful write-up. Thank you. Missing Amy too...

  2. Lovely post Peggy. She will be forever more fondly remembered by many of us. Indeed as I read this I wondered if we could set up an annual award or scholarship in her name at CHIJ. I will follow up with the school's alumni. Thanks again for your lovely words.
    Jaye Chin-Dusting. Class of 1980