Hong Xinyi
Wed, Nov 28, 2007
The Straits Times
Friends remember dragon boat rower Reuben Kee as a 'gentle giant'

FRIENDS called him 'the gentle giant' and Mr Reuben Kee's many achievements loomed large on the minds of his loved ones at his wake.

Those in attendance on Tuesday included secondary school classmates who remembered the 23-year-old as the head prefect of San Yu Adventist School, to 50 Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) dragon boat team juniors who regarded their former co-captain as a role model.

After graduating in 2004, the part-time model and budding composer often went back to help train the NYP dragon boat team.

Friends have started a Facebook group, In Honour Of Reuben, in memory of him. In it, they discuss plans to preserve his music and recall how Mr Kee had wished his work would be played at the National Day Parade one day.

At his wake being held at the void deck of Block 137, in Bishan Street 12, visitors are greeted by a photograph of Mr Kee smiling exuberantly, surrounded by his many sports medals and the two trophies he had won in the Mr World Singapore and Singapore Calendar Guys contests.

'He looks very vibrant in this photo and this is how we want to remember him,' said his father, Mr Frankie Kee, 53.

His wife, Patsy, is a librarian and their elder daughter Shimona, 27, is studying for a degree in education administration in Thailand.

Speaking to reporters at the wake on Tuesday, the elder Mr Kee, a volunteer at the Seventh-day Adventist Church, choked back tears as he spoke of his son's accomplishments.

'He was a very responsible boy. I don't spoil my children, his keyboard was the most expensive thing I had ever bought him. He made good use of it, teaching himself how to play and giving other people lessons as well," said Mr Kee.

'We are all very upset, very sad. Our faith, and the hope that we will see him again, is what is sustaining us. We miss him terribly.'

He took pains to point out that he did not blame anyone for the accident in Cambodia, and expressed thanks for all the help the family has received from the Singapore and Cambodian authorities.

'It was an accident, no one is to blame. We cannot bring our children back. What is important is to prevent things like this from happening in the future,' he stressed.

'Teachers must tell their athletes that the important thing is not about winning, but safety. If the life jackets are not suitable for rowing, then design some that are. We must stack the cards in favour of survival.'

He also suggested that all participants in water sports should wear identification tags in future.

'It was very painful for us to identify our children from the mangled bodies,' he said.

NYP sports facilities officer Ivan Ho, 37, said that Mr Kee was a dynamic leader 'who always gave 110 per cent' to whatever he did.

'He was very well-liked and multi-talented, and even designed the T-shirt for the NYP dragon boat team,' said Mr Ho.

In an email to The Straits Times, artistic director of theatre group Act 3 International Ruby Lim-Yang, 50, said of the young composer who had worked with her on a children's musical: 'We have lost both a committed sportsman and a gifted music composer in Reuben Kee.'

'Most of all, we lost a person who had his head and his heart in the right places.'


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