My Johor Stories at Rotary Club of Johor Baru

Before the Southern section of The New Straits Times newspapers called Johor Streets ceased its publication in 2015, I often covered community events and had the privilege to work with the Rotary Club of Johor Baru (RCJB) and shared their community projects in this section.

Rotary Club of Johor Baru president, Datuk Teo Shiok Fu,
[Center] speaking at the start of the club meeting
Over the years, as I got acquainted with the projects initiated by RCJB, the oldest Rotary Club in Johor, I had the opportunity to join the club in fund-raising activities and president installations and report on them.

The members of the club soon became familiar with what I was doing to share with readers, their community projects and how people were benefiting from it.

Among their signature projects are the Rotary Hemodialysis Centre and the Palliative Care Association of Johor Baru which continues to help needy patients in and around JB. Besides education programmes to fight the spread of dengue, they also run a home for children from underprivileged families and have a commitment to wipe out polio in this part of the world.

Past President, J S Kwang, giving an introduction
of the guest speaker [me!]
During their annual Rotary District Assembly of Rotary International District 3310, I was often invited to join their Spouses Programme that usually included a charity event as well as visits to places of interest here.

So I was not only acquainted with the club members but also with their wives. I also had the privilege of getting to know several club presidents and their community projects.

This year, after Datuk Teo Shiok Fu was installed as the 66th President of the RCJB on July 1, he graciously agreed to attend my book launch event on July 15.

All eyes were riveted to the screen during my presentation
Datuk Teo probably didn’t know it then but at my event, he learnt that I featured the RCJB among other Non-Governmental Organizations in my tribute to unsung heroes.

Back in May, I was a guest of the RCJB when they held their regular meeting at the Amari hotel. 

I accepted their invitation and joined them at this meeting because I too wanted a peek into the hotel that was built on the site of the former Rex and Lido movie theatres.

It was my privilege to introduce
my book at the RCJB meeting
It was good to meet the club members again at this meeting and I remember sitting next to Dave Chellam, who happened to be a former classmate of my Uncle Victor, at Saint Joseph’s School.

It was there that I agreed to be a guest speaker at a future club meeting because I had a topic to present and it would be good to share it among old friends. A date was fixed four weeks after my book launch and as the date drew closer, I was given a gentle reminder of the date, time and place for their regular club meeting.

Incidentally, their meetings are held at the DoubleTree by Hilton JB, the same venue where my book was launched. So it was like a home-coming as I prepared to speak to a room full of gentlemen club members with a handful of lady guests.

As Rotary Club meetings go, there was a structure and format – quite formal but still relaxed. By sounding a gong, the club president called the meeting to order.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the guest speaker was to sit next to the club president at the front of the meeting hall. So I took my place next to Datuk Teo and paid attention as the meeting kicked off with the usual proceedings.

Introducing My Johor Stories: True Tales,
Real People, Rich Heritage
at the RCJB meeting
Then Past President, J S Kwang was invited to give a brief introduction of the guest speaker [me!] and in a typical Kwang manner, complete with his lawyer-like flourish, he gave me a glowing intro.

The screen was set up at the opposite end of the hall and I was told that I could speak from my seat at the other end the meeting hall. But I preferred to stand and moved to the podium to present a brief introduction to my book, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage.

All eyes were riveted to the screen as photos were shared to illustrate my presentation. I had 20 minutes to speak and it would be followed by a Question & Answer session.

While there was a handful of expatriate club members, the majority were Malaysian and a number were also Anak Johor, like me. So they were able to relate to what I shared in selected stories under the Memories and By the Way sections of my book.

They were however, more than familiar with some of the personalities featured in Portraits whom I highlighted in my talk. They included the late James Ho, who was not only a founding member of the RCJB but also an active member and regular attendee at weekly meetings until he no longer could attend due to poor health.

Another personality they were familiar with was the late Dawn Parry, gracious spouse of a Past District Governor, the late Michael Parry, both educators whose illustrious careers made a powerful and positive impact upon their students and peers.

A club member standing up to speak in the interesting Q & A session
At the close of my talk, I was invited back to my seat while the members took turns to ask questions or share their thoughts about particular points I mentioned that triggered off some fond memories of JB in a bygone era.

With so many members standing up to ask/speak, it was an informative and interesting Q & A session that threatened to run over time but in the tradition of Rotary Club meetings, there was a close watch on timekeeping.

This session was neatly wrapped up and finally Past President, Dr Shanmugam, better known as Dr Shan, was invited to give a formal word of thanks to the guest speaker, on behalf of the club. Renowned as the club’s historian, Dr Shan also has a penchant for penning poems and verses.

After he expressed kind words of appreciation, I was deeply touched when Dr Shan said that he was suddenly inspired to write a limerick about me – which he duly recited. And I quote:

There is a prominent feature writer so,
In fair Johor Baru and its surrounds in tow.
Its columnist extraordinaire Peggy Loh,
Her writings are concise evermore
That endeared all denizens hearts, ho, ho, ho!

Past President, Dr Shan, giving a word of thanks
to the guest speaker on behalf of the RCJB
As was customary, club members were invited to show their appreciation to the guest speaker with a round of applause. And when they clapped their hands, they also stood up!

As he stood up to clap, Datuk Teo whispered to me that never before had members stood up to thank a guest speaker…

I must confess that it was a most humbling and unforgettable experience to have a room-full of distinguished gentlemen standing up to clap in such warm appreciation!

After the meeting, members came to talk to me and gave their kind compliments and comments about my presentation and the book. Some were even disappointed that I did not bring along books for sale but I assured them that they were available at the MPH bookstore in Johor Baru City Square.

Speaking of JB City Square, I suddenly realised that in all the excitement, I missed out on making the announcement about the autograph session planned by MPH at JB City Square on Saturday, Aug 26. I will be meeting readers from 2pm at the bookstore, to give a brief introduction of my book and to autograph their books.

I remember that Club President Datuk Teo said that he learnt a great deal more about my book project because he reads my blog, so I trust he will help to share this information with the RCJB members without delay! Thanks very much, Datuk Teo!

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