REMEMBERING CHOO YEOK BOON

REMEMBERING CHOO YEOK BOON

11 December 1945 – 26 April 1976

Here is a brief story of Mr. Choo Yeok Boon, the first Sino-Siamese to accept the Faith in Malaysia. He was the first Bahá’í to have sacrificed his life for the nation during the course of his duty as a Captain in the Royal Malaysian Air Force. Yeok Boon as he came to be called shall always be remembered as one who set an example to the youth by living a chaste and holy life.

He was from Naka, Pokok Sena, in the state of Kedah, Malaysia and when he came down to study at the Sultan Abdul Hamid College in Alor Setar, he stayed in one of the huts meant for novice monks at the Telok Wanjah Siamese Temple. He was an active member of the temple. Yeok Boon became a close friend of the Teh family (Teik Chow, Teik Meng, and Teik Hoe). The other classmate he was close to was Yin Hong Shuen. As Yeok Boon was staying close by to the  Teh family home in Lorong Merpati, he used to visit them often for meals and fellowship.

Yeok Boon studied in the Tunku Abdul Halim Primary School in Kampong Baru, Alor Setar and continued his secondary education in the Sultan Abdul Hamid College in the same town. He first heard of the Faith from Mrs. Theresa Chee in 1963. He used to mix with the Bahá’í students who gathered at the residence of Mr. S. Nagaratnam at 895-B, Sultan Abdul Hamid College Quarters. When Yeok Boon came to understand the essence of the Faith, he fell in love with the Teachings and felt moved to accept the Faith immediately. But he faced a dilemma. His mother Madam Tek d/o Din Nom, herself of a Siamese descent had made a vow that he would become a Buddhist monk. So Yeok Boon was obliged to fulfill his mother’s vow and decided to declare as a Bahá’í a year later. But when he informed her of his decision to become a Bahá’í, he was astonished that she readily embraced the idea. As Yeok Boon would relate later, his mother had had a dream in which a monk had informed her that her son had made the right decision. However,  he did not shave his head bald, neither did he become a monk.

He was the first from the Sino-Siamese background to have accepted the Faith in Malaysia. The love for the Faith inflamed his soul with such a consuming passion that he loved and served the Cause through sacrificial deeds and an exemplary way of life. Later, Yeok Boon’s mother too accepted the Faith.

After accepting the Faith in 1964, he arose to serve the Cause in many exemplary ways. When the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Malaysia formed a National Bahá’í Youth Council in 1964, Yeok Boon was appointed on to this Council and when he came to study in the Kuala Lumpur Technical College in 1966.  Yeok Boon was once again appointed onto this Council the following year. In 1965, Yeok Boon initiated the formation of the first Local Bahá’í Youth Committee in Alor Setar, and with the local youths he went out opening up new areas for the Faith. He also concentrated on introducing the Faith to all he had known in Alor Setar. Teh Teik Cheow and his brothers Teh Teik Meng and Teh Teik Hoe, Tan Keat Fong, Theenathayalu and Lum Weng Chew were among the heroes who were guided directly and indirectly into the Faith by Yeok Boon.


First Youth Committee of Alor Star, 1965. Yeok Boon is seated in the centre, with R. Ganasa Murthi to his left. Yin Hong Shuen is standing at extreme right.

Yeok Boon was not only a passionate teacher but very persistent in following up with the contacts.  Teik Hoe recalls, “My brother Teik Meng was his classmate in school and was not yet a Bahá’í when many of his classmates had joined the Faith. So, whenever Yeok Boon came to our house for food, he would continue without fail be talking about the Faith to him. He was audacious and fearless when teaching the Faith and on one occasion when I told him that he was sounding like a roadside medicinal man selling his products, he felt insulted and very upset and did not show up at our house for a few days. My mother was upset and blamed me for Yeok Boon’s non-appearance. He later returned and played a major role in my accepting the Faith as his persistent teaching to my brother sowed the seed for my accepting the Faith not too long after.”

Yeok Boon had a radiant nature and loved to sing with his Bahá’í colleagues like Chong Boo Haw and Teik Hoe. His favorites were Danny Boy, Jing Kling Nona (a popular campfire song). There was a particular song of Elvis Presley called “Don’t Leave Me Now” that he liked, and he would ask either Boo Haw or Teik Hoe to teach him this song where he would try to impersonate the singing style and moves of Elvis. Yeok Boon picked up singing and later became a lively performer at Bahá’í conferences.

While Yeok Boon moved with everyone in Alor Setar, he, together with Ganasa Murthy Ramasamy and Yin Hong Shuen were called the “Three Musketeers” as they teamed up often to carry out extensive teaching activities.

In 1966, Yeok Boon was appointed on to the Border Teaching Committee, but he had to move to Kuala Lumpur the same year to join the Kuala Lumpur Technical College as a Kedah State Scholarship holder. When Yeok Boon came to the College, he was the only Bahá’í among the few hundred students in the College. Yeok Boon made history when he became instrumental in the formation of the first Bahá’í Society known as Technical College Bahá’í Society of Kuala Lumpur. That was the first institution of higher learning to have established a Bahá’í  Society. The Bahá’í Society was registered with the College and within the first year, the Society organized two public talks. One was in July 1967 where Mrs Orpha Daugherty, an Auxiliary Board Member from Thailand who came to serve in Malaysia gave a talk while Mr Bijan Bayzayee, an Iranian pioneer to Laos answered questions from the floor. The Society had pinned Bahá’í pamphlets on all the notice boards in the College that no student or visitor to the College could have missed.  He made sure that every single student in the college had within a short period, heard of the Faith with his room number 47 functioning as the “operation room.” This society organized several activities including public talks on the Faith including one by Hand of the Cause of God Mr Tarázu’lláh Samandari in January 1967. In the same year, Yeok Boon wrote an article about the Faith in the Annual Report of the college, and since the article was longer than the requirement of the college, he paid for those extra pages. That was possibly the first time an article on the Faith was ever written in any magazine of the college. Yeok Boon also secured a notice board where he displayed many Bahá’í news and photos which became the most attractive of all the notice boards.

In 1966 Tan Keat Fong from Alor Star joined the College and Yeok Boon helped him out in the accommodation. Both Keat Fong and Yeok Boon were from Alor Star, but had met only in the Kuala Lumpur Technical College. Through Yeok Boon,  Keat Fong accepted the Faith, but he had to leave after three months, and later joined the Malayan Teachers College in Penang to undergo teacher training. At the Malayan Teachers College, Keat Fong formed the Malayan Teachers College Bahai Society.

On the encouragement of Yeok Boon, Teh Teik Hoe joined him in the Technical College and he too got the Kedah State Scholarship. By 1967, Yeok Boon had guided several friends into the Faith. Some had accepted during his days in the College while others accepted when he had left.  In fact, he brought in the Presidents of the Buddhist Society, the Hindu Society and later the Catholic Society to embrace the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh. This was a unique achievement in the annals of religious society in any higher institutions of learning in Malaysia. Mr A.P. Arumugam who was the President of the Hindu Society later became the President of the Technical College Bahá’í Society. Mr Francis Satkunasingam, President of the Catholic Society who was investigating the Faith embraced the Faith following a book exhibition that the Society organized in August 1968, followed by Mr Jasbir Singh, the Vice President of the Hindu Society. Others who accepted the Faith in the college were Ravichandran, Lye Chye Thiam, Fong Ah Meng @ Fong Aik Meng, Lim Kee San, Chia Ah Siew, Mahendran, A.P. Perumal, Mah King Tok, Saw Kean Thai, and Kelvin Koay Hean Lye. Wong Meng Fook of Penang was studying in the Technical College during Yeok Boon’s time, but he accepted in Penang in 1970. It was Yeok Boon who had planted the seed at a talk organized by the Catholic group of the College. The group of believers in the Technical College were hyperactive in organizing firesides, deepening classes, and book exhibitions. The entire college witnessed the believers observing fasting. It was Ravichandran who would get up at dawn and go over to each hostel block to knock on the doors and wake the believers up to start fasting. They got together in the evening to break the fast too thereby establishing a good community life within the campus. He brought the youth for most of the activities to the National Bahá’í Center in Kuala Lumpur. In 1968, Yeok Boon served as the Secretary of the Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Kuala Lumpur.


Members of the Kuala Lumpur Technical College Bahá’í Society at the National Bahá’í Center, 1967. Ravichandran is standing at extreme left. Lim Kee San is standing third from left. Choo Yeok Boon is seated at extreme right with A.P. Arumugam next to him. Lye Chye Thiam is seated at extreme left.

Even when a student at the Kuala Lumpur Technical College, Yeok Boon was actively involved in several Bahá’í activities across the country. At the Bahá’í Seminar held in Singapore at the end of December 1966, Yeok Boon who was the Chairman of the National Bahá’í Youth Council spoke eloquently in the presence of Hand of the Cause of God Taráz’ulláh Samandari on the subject of “What a Bahá’í Youth Should Aim to Be” based on the guidance from the Guardian especially on “A Chaste and Holy Life”. He also reminded the friends of the statement of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, “I desire distinction for you” and gave examples of how one could distinguish himself from the generality of mankind. Thereafter, Yeok Boon was almost a permanent speaker in several gatherings to guide the youths.


National Bahá’í Center, 1967. L-R: Mrs George Lee, Yeok Boon, Wong Kok Mee, E. Anthony Fernandez.


In Kuala Lumpur, 1967. Yeok Boon seated at extreme left with R. K. Kannan next to him. Dr N. Soraya is standing at extreme left with S. Vasudevan, the Secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly next to him. Appu Raman stands at extreme right.


An evening in an estate 1967. L-R:  Yankee Leong, K. Rajah (speaking), Appu Raman, Yeok Boon, S. Satanam and M. Maniam

Yeok Boon was so active and passionate in teaching the Cause in the College that he neglected his studies. He failed some subjects in his first year and had to repeat that year. He appealed to the Kedah State Scholarship Board for a second chance. Teik Hoe followed him to meet the authority. The Kedah State Scholarship Board gave a listening ear and was willing to allow him to repeat so long as the Principal of College was in agreement. But Mr Navaratnam, the Principal was not willing to consider his appeal on the grounds of his aggressive preaching of the Faith in the campus. When he fell out of the campus, he got a job with a brewery company but decided to leave it as he found that working there was not in line with the tenets of the Faith. And he continued to actively serve the Cause.

A landmark event was the Summer School of 1968 held in the Sunshine Camp in Port Dickson. The youth session was a highlight of the Summer School. Mrs Jeanne Frankel from the USA spoke on “Living Rule” in which she listed the duties of Bahá’í youths in showing a new way of life to the outside world and concluded by calling the youths to go pioneering.  The National Bahá’í Youth Council had prepared a booklet containing relevant quotations and messages to the youths to be distributed. Yeok Boon elaborated on the subject of youth.

When Hand of the Cause of God Abu’l-Qásim Faizi came for the South East Regional Youth Conference in December 1968, the Bahá’ís of the College participated in full force. The Technical College Bahá’í Society members were put in charge of the social evenings at the conference. The college believers took a photo with the Hand of the Cause of God and included Yeok Boon even though he was no more with the college as he had been the founder of the Bahá’í Society and had guided them into the Faith.


Members of the Technical College Bahá’í Society at the South East Asia Regional Youth Conference, December 1968, Kuala Lumpur. Front row L-R: Yeok Boon, A.P. Arumugam, Hand of the Cause of God A.Q. Faizi, Teh Teik Hoe and Francis Satkunasingam. Back row L-R: Mah Kim Tok, Lim Kee San, and Lye Chye Thiam. By this time Yeok Boon had left the college.

Having left the college Yeok Boon was looking for a job. On the advice of his friends, in 1968, he joined the Royal Malaysian Air Force and underwent training at the RMAF Training College in Selangor state. Upon graduating from the College in 1969 he was posted as a Pilot Officer in Labuan Island, just off the coast of Sabah in Borneo. At the end of 1969, Yeok Boon was transferred to Kepala Batas Air Base, north of Alor Setar.  His friends in Alor Setar, especially Chong Boo Haw and Teh Teik Hoe would often visit him in the base.

At the workplace in the Air Force, Yeok Boon was not willing to compromise his Faith. In the Air Force, alcohol in those days was used frequently by officers for a toast to the king and the country during their official events. Yeok Boon was a devoted Bahá’í and would not compromise his Bahá’í principles. When it came to toasting, he would substitute the alcohol for the Lactogen brand milk. In the officers’ mess, they used to tease him and gave him the nickname  “Lactogen Baby.” Yeok Boon was not offended, he took that as a kind of recognition of his principles. He remarked that he consented to be humiliated for the good name of the Faith. He loathed using bad language and even his jokes in private and public were known to be the cleanest. His words and deeds were well respected. He was well guarded in his speech. It was the life that he led that made many of his colleagues and subordinates develop respect for the Faith.

He often used to say on his success in his career, “You rise to the need and take care of the Cause of God, and God will take care of your cause, for which I am a living example”. So long as the late Counsellor Inbum Chinniah was alive, he often quoted the life of Yeok Boon on the rewards one gets when offering himself completely for the promotion of the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh.


A sing-song session at the Oceanic Conference Singapore, 1971. L-R: R. Ganasa Murthi, Yeok Boon, Jami Subramaniam, Sri Krishnan, Hand of the Cause of God Enoch Olinga, S. Satanam, and Yin Hong Shuen.

He got married to Grace Chong of Alor Setar on Thursday, 11 February 1971. That was a very simple and yet dignified wedding. The late Ravichandran, Lily Chinniah and the late Mrs Elizabeth Gibson planned everything for the wedding. Grace made a simple and graceful wedding dress for herself and was accommodated in the house of Mrs Elizabeth Gibson in Setapak for a few days before the wedding. On the wedding day, Pauline DCruz did a good bridal make up for her. Yeok Boon came from the house of Inbum Chinniah and had some Air Force friends with him, all dressed up in Air Force Uniform. Inbum was the able Master of Ceremony. There was no pomp or extravaganza at the wedding. Their wedding was so simple and yet had its own beauty.


Photograph taken with friends in a studio after the wedding. A.P.Arumugam and his wife Suguna are at left. Fourth from left is Yin Hong Shuen. Lily Chinniah is next to the bride. To the left of Yeok Boon is Elizabeth Gibson, and to her left is S. Ravichandran. The two flower girls are the daughters of Betty- Zeena to the left and Shirin to the right.

After the wedding, they left for Kuching in Sarawak in 1972. Following his marriage, he made sure his home became a home for all believers, wherever he resided. No visitor to the community he had resided in had left without partaking meals in his house. The guests were always impressed with the kind of warm hospitality he provided. In 1972,  he was elected on the first National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of East Malaysia and served as its Treasurer.


The first National Spiritual Assembly of East Malaysia, 1972. Seated L-R: Yeok Boon, Dr John Fozdar, Rusi Irani and M. Maniam. Back row L-R: Ragai ak Lang, Thinathayallam, Lim Boon Huat, Kupppusamy and Sapong ak Andar.

He was then transferred to Butterworth in 1973. Yeok Boon served as the Chairman of the Area Teaching Committee of Penang, Province Wellesley, and North Perak when he was stationed in Butterworth and served with great dynamism, often opening his house for the community.


As a Flying Officer in Sarawak

While in Butterworth in 1973, his house somehow was open 24 hours.  Believers traveling from Alor Setar to Kuala Lumpur for meetings and returning used to drop in at the wee hours. Yeok Boon was always welcoming. Grace was getting accustomed to this lifestyle, albeit with great patience. Yeok Boon had given her all the training in every way possible to make his home a refuge to anyone coming in anytime. Although based in Butterworth, Yeok Boon was actively visiting and participating in Bahá’í activities all over the country – which was only very usual of him.


With Raymond Peter at the wedding of  G.K. Balan and Kunja, Kuantan 1973

He once again was posted to Sarawak in early 1975.   The most unexpected and untimely passing of Yeok Boon on Monday, 26 April 1976 sent shock-waves throughout the community of the Greatest Name. The Air Force planned an operation named “Operation Kota” to send supplies to the soldiers fighting the communists in the jungles of Malaysia in Ulu Muda, Gubir, Kedah, close to the Malaysia-Thailand border. The officer who was to fly the Nuri helicopter had taken sudden leave. That was the time when Yeok Boon happened to be in Kuala Lumpur on another mission and was to return to Kuching in Sarawak. Yeok Boon who had already earned a name for himself as an expert pilot at search and rescue operations volunteered to assist in the mission and he set off with ten other officers to the border area on the Nuri helicopter. As the helicopter was looking for the exact spot where the supplies had to be dropped, the outlawed communists used some sophisticated weapons to shoot at the helicopter. Within seconds the helicopter burst into flames and crashed. This happened around 10:00 am. It was confirmed that all the eleven crew members on the helicopter had died. That was a disaster that Yeok Boon could have avoided, but he died as he lived – always assisting others when he was needed!

The tragic news of the helicopter crash was broadcasted both on Radio Malaysia and Television Malaysia. Messages were relayed by telephone calls and in person at a time when e-mail facilities or mobile phones were not available – and very few had landlines.  The Air Force swiftly went into action in recovering whatever remains were available and the bodies were returned to the families.

In Kuala Lumpur, it was Auxiliary Board Member Inbum Chinniah who first received the news and he himself was shocked and sunk into his seat, unable to bring himself to accept that tragedy. He phoned up friends in Kuala Lumpur and other towns. As soon as the news reached that funeral arrangements were planned at the Sungai Petani Army Base, those who could take leave immediately left for Sungai Petani.

The most painful part was informing his wife Grace who was expecting his return to Kuching.  Grace was widowed and her daughter Fay was 4 years and 4 months old, Lani Choo just turned 2 and Zena was 8 months old.  She and her three children were flown to the army base in Sungai Petani. At the army base, hundreds of Bahá’ís and friends and relatives had already gathered for the funeral- from all over the country.  Believers from Alor Star and Sungei Petani came in full force. Isaac DCruz, who was then the Treasurer of the National Spiritual Assembly of Malaysia, and his wife Pauline were there early. They joined several others in continuously saying prayers. The friends were grieving, not just for Yeok Boon, but for Grace as well and her small children who were seated on the floor around the coffin.  Counselor Vicente Samniego who happened to be in the region was brought to the army base by Chong Boo Haw of Alor Setar. The coffin that contained the remains of Yeok Boon was sealed completely and placed in a central place for all to view. By this time Colonel Dr Gopinath of the Royal Malaysian Air Force was flown in from Kuala Lumpur to inspect the bodies, for the purpose of preparing a report. The Colonel was not a Bahá’í at that time. He accepted the Faith in 1980 and served on the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Malaysia and as Director General of the Bahá’í House of Worship in India.

On the morning of Wednesday, 28 April 1976, the army hearse transported the body to the graveyard at the end of the army camp, with full military honours. All the friends and relatives walked to the burial site. I was walking with a group of believers from Alor Setar. M.S. Maniam from Alor Setar remarked with a heavy heart, “Yeok Boon’s passing is most unexpected. Nobody can predict the future. I am driving to Kuala Lumpur next week to attend the Convention. Anything may happen to me too. This is life and Bahá’u’lláh has said death may come unheralded upon anyone. We have to accept it.” The remains of Captain Choo Yeok Boon were laid to rest according to  Bahá’í rites at the army base. The Bahá’í funeral service was conducted by Mr S. Nagaratnam. A reporter from the government-run television news station recorded the event and rushed to the Penang International Airport to get the news covered by the evening news. This had been a tragedy of massive proportions in the annals of the Air Force and so it was hugely newsworthy but a heart-rendingly sad and painful occasion for all the families and the nation.


Remains of Captain Choo Yeok Boon being transported to the burial site in the Army camp, with full military honours.


The coffin bearing the remains of Captain Choo Yeok Boon is being lowered into the grave by army officers. Mr Nagaratnam is seen at right. Standing at extreme right with folded arms is Isaac DCruz.

The funeral was broadcasted by the government’s television news bulletin the same evening. The news read out the names of the heroes who had died.  That fateful incident was broadcasted again in a “This Day in History” program. The narrator mentioned, “The sacrifice of these heroes in defending the nation is not only felt by the parents and families but by the entire citizens of Malaysia. It is their bravery and sacrifice that enables Malaysia to live in peace and harmony as is witnessed today.”

“This Day in History” program that was broadcasted later by Radio Television Malaysia (RTM) in the Malay language.

That was the first Bahá’í funeral to have taken place in any army camp in the history of Malaysia. At the time of his untimely passing, Yeok Boon was a Captain in the Air Force and a member of the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Malaysia. On Friday, 11 December 2015- the date that marked Yeok Boon’s birth – his remains were exhumed and reburied with full military honors in the Bahá’í Cemetery within the Nirvana Memorial Park in Sungai Petani, Kedah.


Some believers from Alor Setar and Sungei Petani visiting the resting place of Yeok Boon to offer prayers.

Yeok Boon has posthumously conferred upon the “Pingat Gagah Berani (PGB)” medallion, the second highest bravery award by the Federal Government of Malaysia. His illumined photograph describing his sacrifice for the country was placed in the Malaysian Museum for some months. When his untimely passing was reported to Hand of the Cause of God Dr Raḥmatu’lláh Muhájir who met a group of believers in Merlin Hotel during his visit to Kuala Lumpur in May 1976, he evinced deep  sorrow and said, “Boon had grown too fast and was wanted in the next world.” He then urged the believers to emulate Yeok Boon in the teaching field.

He passed away during the Ridván period and a special memorial session was held during the National Convention. When S. Nagaratnam, Dr John Fozdar, Francis Singam, Chong Boo Haw and Yin Hong Shuen spoke of this true servant of Bahá’u’lláh, many sobbed profusely. S. Nagaratnam had mentioned, “In life, Boon did great things, in death he does even greater things.” Dr John Fozdar, Chairman of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Malaysia, gave a moving talk on Yeok Boon whom he had known well.

Dr John said,

“In these familiar surroundings, among familiar faces, it is difficult to appreciate that one familiar face will be seen no more. It is hard to believe that our conference and conventions will no more know Boon, bubbling with energy, unable to sit still when he should be up and doing.”

Yeok Boon displayed these qualities of self-effacement and humility to an extraordinary degree. Though a distinguished member of the Malaysian Bahá’í Administration, he was among the most self-effacing of persons. No one has ever seen Yeok Boon pushing himself forward, but when he was given responsibility by the Assembly or others, he accepted it cheerfully and carried out the work to the utmost satisfaction. No work was too arduous for him. When he was newly transferred to Labuan, Sabah, Borneo another Bahá’í named Vasu was visited by Yeok Boon who got soaked in the pouring rain. When Vasu expressed grief at Yeok Boon’s discomfort, his reply was, “No trouble, I got pleasure visiting you.”

His humility and friendliness overcame all claims of rank. He was the most friendly and hospitable. Bahá’ís will remember ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s exhortation in the Marriage Tablet, “to make your home a rose garden of love and harmony.” Yeok Boon’s home was such and he attracted many friends without any restrictions around the clock. One of his Royal Malaysian Air Force colleagues relate how, having nowhere to stay in town, he hoped to find hospitality in Yeok Boon’s home. He was dismayed that others had neglected him. As he related, “They were stacked up to the roof.” Bahá’u’lláh has written that charity and generosity are dear to God. Yeok Boon was one of those who did not let his right hand know what his left hand gave.

He had an old car, so old that his friends know by the trailing exhaust pipe that Yeok Boon was visiting them. If Yeok Boon came to the house in a friend’s car, we usually know that the car had broken down by the roadside. Everyone joked about his car. What no one realized was that Yeok Boon had raised all the money he could by loans and savings and given it to the Bahá’í Fund to redeem a pledge and could not find more money for his own comfort. But he never told his friends who laughed at his car and he never ever complained.

In Kuching, when we heard the news about his death, all eyes had tears –old and young friends at this tragic loss. His circle of friends and admirers was large and on one Bahá’í New Year, hundreds visited his home to join in celebrating. Our hearts go out to his aged mother. What a heavy blow, to rear her only son with such devotion and to lose him so tragically in the prime of life; in the full possession of all his powers and with a bright and hopeful future ahead of him. We pray that God will heal the wound to her sorrowing heart. What soothing words can we say to his young and faithful wife – what solace can we offer to his innocent children? All that our bonds of brotherhood and loyalty can offer are for them to command. We loved her husband and their father, and we shall try and cover them with the love and loyalty that he would have wished.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá tells us that “God is the Divine Gardener.” A gardener knows when the plant in the pot needs to be transplanted into the ground. The gardener breaks the pot and transplants the plant. To the plant, it may seem like death, but the gardener is more knowing and he knows the plant could not develop more in that narrow, restricted space. God is our Divine Gardener. He knows when the soul has reached his maximum development in the body and He transplants the soul into richer and more fertile soil. We have that faith.  

Yeok Boon died in the course of duty. He served the Government of Malaysia faithfully and devotedly as a virtuous Bahá’í should. Bahá’u’lláh has commanded us to love all mankind, even those who wish us ill. Yeok Boon hated nobody, a good man has been lost, firm in spirit and faithful. He served the government loyally, for the sake of God and not for what he could get out of it. We pray that unity and harmony will prevail and that such sacrifice of life and hopes will not be in vain.”

As Dr John very rightly pointed out the time had come for the plant to be transplanted. When Yeok Boon came for a meeting of the National Spiritual Assembly in the National Bahá’í  Center in Kuala Lumpur, just days before he passed away, he was completely a different person altogether. The night before the meeting started Yeok Boon was standing outside the Bahá’í Center and staring into the sky.  R. Ganasa Murthi who also served on the National Spiritual Assembly approached Yeok Boon and asked him what he was looking at. Yeok Boon replied, “Look at the greatness of Bahá’u’lláh. He has created the universe with such a beauty…. I want to become detached and saintly….” Ganasa Murthi saw a different tone in his reply and felt that Boon’s words had some kind of message, which he could not figure out there and then. It was only after his passing that Ganasa Murthi shared this incident with a few of us.

He was dearly and really missed and the pain was felt for a long time, especially by those who moved very closely with him. At the South East Asia Regional Conference held in Port Dickson in December 1976, Yin Hong Shuen was addressing the conference on the services rendered by early believers. He said, “We had so many great youths in our community such as Choo Yeok Boon..” As he mentioned the name of Choo Yeok Boon he broke down, and could not proceed with his speech. The 1,200 over friends started to chant Allah-u-Abha, and after some time Yin Hong Shuen was able to compose himself and continue his speech.

Yeok Boon was outwardly seen as a soft-spoken person, full of humility. But he never relented in defending the Cause whenever he had to. When pushed to the corner, he often had roared like a lion in defense of the Cause, both in the Technical College and his working place. And he was sporting at Bahá’í social functions. In December 1971, a Unity Feast was held at the Furlong House in front of the National Bahá’í Center, on the eve of the National Youth Conference. Yeok Boon was called to take the floor to lead the friends in a sing-song session. He started with the song “Meet me tonight under the moonlight” and went on with a few more songs in a row that set all the friends alight. Several friends remarked that Yeok Boon could bring about the difference at any gathering. During the first Winter School held in December 1972 in Johore Bahru, a play named “Julius Caesar Becomes a Bahá’í” was staged. A. Govindasamy who wrote the script was looking for a Bahá’í lady to play the character of Cleopatra. As he could not get any Bahá’í lady at the Winter School to play that role, he approached Yeok Boon and he immediately agreed and dressed up as Cleopatra.  As the play progressed Yeok Boon’s appearance as Cleopatra caused so much amusement, and he stole the entire show.

Although Yeok Boon rose to the position of Captain in the Royal Air Force which provided perks and good official residence, there were no airs about him. He opened his home, just as his heart, to everyone. He always remembered his roots and welcomed both the believers from urban settings and the aboriginal believers to his home and provided the best hospitality to them. He had a sister who had to sell cakes to educate him and an aged mother who cared for him. Yeok Boon made sure they were able to taste some comfort the moment he was well placed in life.

Yeok Boon was by nature a very generous person. There were times when he sacrificed his comfort for others who were needier. In 1968, Kanagaratnam who was a member of the staff in the National Bahá’í Center, and Srepathy from Seremban were making trips into the jungles of South Perak to teach the Faith to the aboriginal people. They had to get up at dawn to catch the first bus to Sungkai and Bidor town from where they had to walk into the jungles. Yeok Boon who frequented the National Bahá’í Center saw their difficulties and offered his Lambretta motor vehicle. That was the only vehicle Yeok Boon had. And after that Yeok Boon, himself used public transport to visit the National Bahá’í Center. Kanagaratnam and Srepathy were able to make full use of the Lambretta, until one day it got stolen.  They informed Yeok Boon of the theft, and he smiled it off, saying these things do happen. He naturally and spontaneously looked out for youths with no means to attend Bahá’í functions or those unemployed. Unasked he would slip some money into their pockets.

Yeok Boon will always be remembered in the history of Malaysia as a youth of spotless character, whose dressing was an example to the rich and consolation to the poor. He was indeed a perfect guide for the youth. Yeok Boon was always a great guide and inspiration to the youth of his time. In 1973, I happened to be at a 19-Day Feast in Butterworth. Yeok Boon came up dressed in long sleeve batik shirt and was very presentable. There was a youth who came for the same feast in short pants after a football game, sweating. During the consultation part of the Feast, Yeok Boon very diplomatically sent a cardinal message to the youth. He said that he admired the Christian people who used to get up so early on Sunday mornings to go for Church and dressed up in their best. He next pointed out that Bahá’ís are required to come for the Feasts only once in 19 days and that too in the evenings. Yeok Boon said we too should try to come in the best for the Feasts. He also spoke on another matter of great importance at the same Feast. Yeok Boon and said,  that in order to be successful in our marriage our youthful days should be spent in a chaste and holy life.

His radiant nature affected many. During his time as a youth, Yeok Boon came to be singled out as a person of spotless character who led a chaste and holy life. As time passed by even his closest friends developed so much respect for Yeok Boon that they even started to call him an angel and saint. In the last two years of his earthly life Yeok Boon was seen to be a completely different person, detaching himself from the world and discussing heavenly matters. At one of the deepening sessions that Inbum Chiniah conducted, the subject of Yeok Boon’s passing came up. Inbum had this to say, “Yeok Boon was always clean in his thoughts, deeds, and actions. Not once had I heard him utter an unwanted word. He loved jokes, and his jokes were always clean. He was among the spotless believers I had met”.

In his death, the Malaysian community had lost a true gem given to them by the wondrous hand of Bahá’u’lláh. During his short twelve years of Bahá’í life, he rendered inestimable and distinctive services, yet to be rivaled by any other youth of his day. He made the Faith proud in the eyes of the Malaysian government by sacrificing his own life for the nation. Yeok Boon is a rare kind of believer gifted by Bahá’u’lláh to the community of the Greatest Name in Malaysia.

The final resting place of Captain Choo Yeok Boon at the Nirwana Memorial Park, Sungai Petani.

 

“The sword of a virtuous character and upright conduct is sharper than blades of steel.”

– Bahá’u’lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf

 

36 thoughts on “REMEMBERING CHOO YEOK BOON

  1. “You rise to the need and take care of the Cause of God, and God will take care of your Cause, for which I am a living example”. – Yeok Boon

    This amazing soul was an apt example of how the beloved Guardian described Musa Banani as one equal one thousand.
    Ya Baha’ul’ Abha! Yeok Boon. May you guide the friends to arise and audaciously share the message of Baha’u’llah as you did.
    Guts and Glory till the end

    Naren Narasiah
    Malaysia

  2. Manisegaran

    I first Yeok Boon at the Kuala Lumpur Technical College in Jalan Padang Tembak, Kuala Lumpur, known as Gurney Road. I was at that time stationed in Sungei Besi. We had a fireside and present were late Ravichandran, Arumugam and a few others. It was either in the room of Yeok Boon or Ravichandran. Later l met him many times at the Bahai center in Setapak.

    In RMAF he was a live wire, continuously teaching everyone he met. He was a real embodiment of a great Bahai. He was always helping everyone who approached him. I also got to. learn that he had loaned money to many. He would also lend his car to anyone of his friends.

    Not many know of this very salient point of his last days in RMAF. It was his ever willingness to help and the spirit of volunteerism that took away his life. Instead of resting after the end of his tour to Kuala Lumpur, he decided to follow the new set of crew in the Nuri helicopter to show the area where the operation was carried out. You have well captured the last days and the legacy he left behind

    Munusamy Nathamuni
    Rawang
    Malaysia

  3. I was so blessed to be there in Malaysia when this tragic event happened. I was at his memorial service and present when Hand of the Cause Muhijur’ talked about him in the hotel meeting in his room
    I was influenced by his story then and how much sacrifice he made. His story has greatly effected my life. The next day Hand of the Cause sent me an a travel teaching trip to Sarawak and Choo York Boon story helped me in my wonderful trip.
    Stephen Johns
    Palmerston

    Australia

  4. Mani,
    A an excellent write-up on Yoke Boon. As a youth on several occasions I had joined him on teaching trips to neighboring estates of Caledonia and Byram estates of South Seberang Perai.

    He was a great inspiration to Baha’is and a down to earth person. He is a no-nonsense and serious type personality. It was a great shock for the Baha’i hearing the tragic death. I did attended the funeral in the middle of an Army Camp with the full honours. It is a great pride for the Malaysian Baha’i community. As I youth then, I had great respects for him. Thank you bro.
    Maniam
    Sabah
    Malaysia

  5. The late Captain Choo Yeok Boon has been and still is my personal Baha’i hero. It was my privilege to have known him quite closely during my early days as a Baha’i youth and in my early adult life. As I was reading his life story I could not hold back my tears. Just two days before his tragic death he had visited me and my family and had lunch together with us at our home on the top floor of the Alor Setar Baha’i Centre. I can never forget that last lunch he had with us. He radiated with love, exuberance and joy. Two days later we were shattered hearing the shocking news. I am one of the many whose lives were touched by Boon’s dynamism, courage and steadfastness and also by the loving hospitality of his home together with Grace.
    Kanthakumar
    Jitra
    Malaysia

  6. Though born at different era,these poignant words of the writer created a feeling of being there,in his exploits. The best way to remember him would be to serve humanity,his passion.

    Kavidas narayanan
    Puchong
    Malaysia

  7. Wow! I heard about this believer when I was traveling in Malaysia in 1975/76… but knew very little about him…
    Wish he had taught some of his relatives in Thailand! Pray that he does from the Spiritual Realm. We are still struggling here…

    Thank you.
    Victor Greenspoon
    Thailand

  8. Good work Manisegeran!
    Boon was my classmate and he used to stay in the Buddhist temple where I became a monk at the age of 13 for three days, shaved head and wore saffron robe. Boon and I became very close friends and we attended the Buddhist catechism classes weekly. Two American Buddhist monks used to come up to Alor Setar to teach us. One was Rev Susidhi and I cannot remember the name of the other man.

    Boon’s uncle was a well known Bomoh (medicine man) and so despite the heavy obligations coming from that background he eventually declared.

    Yin Hong Shuen
    Singapore

  9. Thanks, Mani
    I just completed reading your recollections on the late Captain Choo Yeok Boon. Needless to say, it brought tears to my eyes.

    Ho Shih Li
    Kuala Lumpur
    Malaysia

  10. Thank you Manisegaran for writing about Choo Yeok Boon.

    I had heard a little bit about Yeok Boon, but now I seem to have learnt more about this devoted servant of Baha’u’llah who was totally enamored by the love of Baha’u’llah, and put the service to Faith above all else.

    Grace Chong had a real hard life but she managed to bring up the children well. Must say she is a very strong and brave person. May God bless the family.

    Raanee Datwani Sreedharan
    Kuala Lumpur
    Malaysia

  11. My Dear Brother Manisegaran,

    It is really an excellent story on the late Captain Choo Yeok Boon, the first Sino-Siamese to accept the Faith in Malaysia. Interesting to learn that he was the first Bahá’í to have sacrificed his life for the nation during the course of his duty as a Captain in the Royal Malaysian Air Force.

    I really enjoyed reading this very great write-up. Captain Yeok Boon was indeed a personal Baha’i hero to many Malaysian Baha’i friends. Also many Baha’i friends seemed to have been touched by Yeok Boon’s dynamism, courage, steadfastness, and loving hospitality.

    What touched me were the words of Captain Yeok Boon as he rightly said, “You rise to the need and take care of the Cause of God and God will take care of your Cause for which I am a living example”.

    Brother Manisegaran, all your write-ups on Baha’i heroes are most excellent and serve as true inspiration to many Baha’is like me. From my observation,your Baha’i Blog is among the best that brings out the best stories, supported with those excellent photographs. I wonder how you managed to collect these highly historical photographs.

    May Baha’u’llah shower His choicest blessings upon you for your excellent research work, a talent that very few posses.

    Jaya Raju Thota
    Visakhapatnam
    India.

  12. Mani,
    I just completed reading the story on Choo Yeok Boon. In all honesty I became very emotional as I have known him while he was at the Kuala Lumpur Technical College and visiting the National Bahai Center. I was one of those who attended his wedding held in the home of Mrs Elizabeth Gibson. In 1972 I moved with him in Kuching. When we arrived as travel teachers in Kuching, he fetched us from the airport and we stayed at his home in the Army Base. And thanks for including me in this story, though I am far removed from his high station and standard that Yeok Boon has set for people like me.

    This article should move not only those who had known and associated with him, but any believer . You have ably narrated the challenges of the early days and how many friends faced such challenges with utmost devotion and reliance on Baha’u’llah. Yeok Boon’ s example is a case of the spirit taking over the physical body with complete detachment.

    He was certainly an example of how one should place Baha’u’llah in the center and let all other activities revolve around the Cause. As the beloved Guardian said ” I fought and fought …until I conquered myself”

    Thank you for including the eulogy by Dr. John Fozdar, himself a Knight of Bahaullah, offered at the National Bahai Convention of 1976. He has done true justice in aptly describing the personage of Yeok Boon. And of course the great photographs. I have been taking note of the rare photographs that you have been publishing in your blog. Each photo speaks volumes and adds lustre to the stories. I believe you must be having unlimited supply of these photographs.

    Your story is one that made my day and at the same time robbed my energy for some time- case of sorrow and joy embracing each other.

    Thank you Mani.
    Kanagaratnam
    Arizona
    USA

  13. Dear Mani
    Your write up on beloved Choo Yoke Boon is indeed great. Though I was acquainted with him, I never knew him too well, as I do, after reading your story.

    Perhaps I was not that involved in the activities he was involved, and also I only met him during conferences. I do not recall much details. I do remember him for his humility. He must have been assertive, but he never gave the picture of an assertive person. People who are independent and courageous, like Yoke Boon feel free to move…. I pray to Baha’u’llah that I free myself to serve Him the way Yeok Boon and other elders had done.

    A wonderful example, indeed!
    Chandrasekaran
    Jasin
    Malaysia

  14. Mani
    Thank you for the story on Choo Yeaok Boon
    It’s absolutely inspiring. How the author has mentioned details is truly amazing.
    The life and spirit of dear Choo Yeok Boon is so great and he could perhaps be viewed as one of those martyrs of Malaysia.
    God Bless him.
    Dr. Janard anan
    Japan

  15. Dear Mr. Mani
    After reading your story I am more than convinced that the late Choo Yeok Boon was a great teacher. He had truly faced lots of challenges and yet he was actively involved in promoting the Cause in the Kuala Lumpur Technical College. He must have been a very bold and courageous person. He seem to possessed the qualities needed by every teacher of the Faith. He and his life had a message for a person like me- to promote the Faith to the utmost of of one’s ability. I wish and pray that I may all be able to follow his exemplary path.

    Arumugam Thanapah
    Klang
    Malaysia.

  16. Mani
    That was a story of a very beautiful, amazing Baha’i whom I had never known before. Today I am so happy to learn about this giant in the service of the Cause with praiseworthy character and conduct. He had a unique role in advancing the Cause. He is certainly a gift to the world community.

    Bill Thomspson
    Limache,
    Chile

  17. Thank you Mr. Mani for the story on Choo Yeok Boon.
    He was one of my spiritual fathers. I can never forget the first time I met him when I was just 13. He, together with his wife, Grace visited our home in Kuantan town in Pahand. He was with the Royal Malaysia Air Force in Kuantan then. His radiant smile, joy and love touched my heart, and I was deeply interested in knowing what was this new Faith he was sharing with all. He was indeed an example of a true faithful servant of Baha’u’llah. I could still feel until today that love when I think of dear uncle Choo.
    Thank you for sharing

    Ruth Macaffer
    Seremban
    Malaysia

  18. Thank you Mani for this lovely article on Choo Yeok Boon. I was only a child but remember him very clearly and of course my parents loved him dearly and we had him visit our home often. One day, I remember that he came to our house in Jalan Air Bersih, Setapak in his full white uniform and looking very smart indeed. He asked me, where is your father. I told him he was not in and so Choo Yeok Boon came in and sat for a while and when my father still did not show up, he decided to leave and said goodbye to me. I still remember admiring his beautiful uniform and also his shiny black shoes as he was lacing it up to leave. A few days, the news came that he was killed in the line of duty and I recall my father being so devastated and he left the house immediately, presumably to meet with relevant institutions about his passing. That night, my mother came home and as my father was still not home yet, I told her that Choo Yeok Boon had been killed. I remember her shock at hearing the news. Till today, I believe he came to our house to bid my parents a warm farewell.

    Thank you so much for keeping alive the memory of one of the champion builders of the Faith in Malaysia.

    With loving greetings

    Soheil Chinniah

  19. Mani
    The late Yeok Boon had come over to a small remote town in Pahang called Jerantut for some work sometime in the early 1970’s on his Nuri helicopter. I met him personally wearing his pilot uniform at the rest house. We talked about the Bahá’í community and the various activities that were going on in Jerantut. He was very motivating. This moment is always there in my memory.

    I met him again at my Bahá’í wedding in Kuantan in 1973. He had traveled over from Kuala Lumpur with a group of friends. He was very supportive and helpful during my wedding. This incident too l can never forget.

    I was so sad when l heard of the tragic incident where his helicopter was shot down and everyone including Yeok Boon perished. I became very emotional when l was reading your story to my wife. Such a valiant soul. I pray for his happiness in the Abha Kingdom.

    Thank you Mani
    G.K. Balan
    Kuala Lumpur
    Malaysia

  20. Uncle Choo Yeok Boon brought so much laughter and joy to my dad. Every time he came to our home, the whole household came alive. Even before he arrived, the maids were giggly, my mother in a good mood and father, well, elated. Seeing my father so lighthearted and delighted in his company made me love Choo Yeok Boon even more (yes, you called him in his full name). Usually it was my father who entertained the folks who visited but when it comes to Choo Yeok Boon, he was the master entertainer, and my father like the rest of us, leaned back and enjoyed the show.

    Saffura Chinniah
    Kuala Lumpur
    Malaysia

  21. My dear Mani,
    I just finished reading your write up on Choo Yeok Boon, illustrated with great photographs.

    Your write up brought tears to my eyes when I recalled the friendship we had cultivated with this fantastic Bahai. I know many of the readers will be moved reading this story, as they know who Choo Yeok Boon was. At least they have heard of him and what a great Bahai he was. I remember Yeok Boon as a youth, long before he got married.

    When he and Grace Chong decided to get married, they decided to go for a simple marriage ceremony. Elizabeth Gibson who was a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of Malaysia offered her home to Yeok Boon to get married in. My husband Inbum organized the refreshments for the wedding. I was the matron of honour at the wedding and my husband, Inbum was the MC. After he got married, he was a frequent visitor to our home. We all loved to have him visit as he was full of fun and jokes. He used to make us laugh, especially our two helpers, Ah Lan an Letchimi who in their simple minds loved to listen to Yeok Boon. They sure looked forward to his visits. Even I too loved to listen to his jokes.

    I still remember the day Yeok Boon’s helicopter was shot down and he lost his life with 10 other officers. That tragic news was brought to our home. We all cried, all those who had gathered to hear the news. Yin Hong Shuen, as soon as he heard the news rushed to our house and sobbed like a baby. He had lost a very good friend. Inbum tried to console him as much as he could, but Hong Shuen didn’t seem able to control his grief.

    The unexpected death of Choo Yeok Boon broke our hearts and left a big gab in our lives. He was one of the greatest Bahais who ever walked on this earth. Good bye Yeok Boon. We will always miss you. You are now in the bosom of THE BLESSED BEAUTY.

    Lily Chinniah
    Kuala Lumpur
    Malaysia

  22. Dear Mani
    Read your story on our dear friend Choo Yeok Boon, with tears welling in my eyes.

    When Boon passed away in 1976, the late S. Ravichandran and I were away in Scotland pursuing our further studies. News of his passing was a shock to us. Both Ravi and I were with him in the Technical College of Kuala Lumpur. We were sad we could not be there to bid our last farewell to one whom we loved so much.

    When I was back after my study I visited his grave in the Sungei Petani army camp a few times along with the friends from Alor Star, and once with our Uncle Yankee Leong who expressed his strong desire to visit as well. It was very difficult to visit his grave at the Army Camp as it was a security area, and one had to permission in advance.

    So when Grace and the children decided to relocate his burial site to the Nirvana Memorial Park in Sungei Petani, I was so happy to be present with the family, my brothers Teh Teik meng and Teh Teik Cheow along with Chong Boo Haw and other close friends of Boon.

    For Boon’s reburial, it was a respectful and dignified event that was again accorded full military honour. With military escorts and the presence of two generals and contingent of military personnel lining up in the usual ceremony. What an honour and respect Boon was accorded even after 40 years ! His remains now rest in the beautiful Nirvana Memorial Park in Sungei Patani where one could freely visit any time. He shall always be missed not only dearly but also really, to say in the simplest words!

    Warmest regards
    Teh Teik Hoe

  23. Dear Mani

    What a lovely story on our dearest Choo Yeok Boon. You have given so much details with good photographs and a video clipping that mentioned the tragedy. Emotions ran high as I read the story. I have finally pulled my strength to write my comments.

    On the night of April 26 Counselor Vicente Samaniego from the Philippines was addressing a group of believers in the Alor Setar Bahai Center. As Vicente Samaniego was giving his talk, two captains from the Air Force walked in and gave them the shocking news that Boon was killed in a helicopter crash. The shocked believers stopped everything and started organizing prayer circle immediately. As the prayers were said, all eyes were welling with tears. Frantic phone calls were made all over the country. Everyone was shocked, but still they hoped Yeok Boon was still alive. By midnight it was confirmed that Yeok Boon was killed. I was not at that gathering. But I got the news from Kanthakumar Ramasamy. I could not bring myself into accepting this unwanted news.

    On 27 April more than 20 believers gathered in the house of Mr. Nagaratnam in Sungei Petani to discuss the funeral arrangements, and to receive Grace and her children from Kuching. She arrived at the Sixth Infantry Brigade in Sungei Petani at 4.30 pm and was comforted by her mother, sisters and her close believers. That night prayer a vigil was held by the local believers in Sungei Petani.

    On 28 morning over 100 Bahais from all over Malaysia came to pay their last respects at the Sungei Petani army camp’s burial ground. Easily 1,000 believers and non-believers witnessed both the military burial and the Bahai ceremony. I now recall what Mr. Nagaratnam said, as you too have rightly quoted, “In life Boon did great things; in death he did even greater things.” When he was alive he taught the Faith through his life. He was admired, respected and even revered at his workplace. He had lived the Bahai life every minute from the time he accepted the Faith. That was when he was alive. On his passing his funeral brought much publicity. The Television and press covered the incident continuously for three days, and at least one paper mentioned the word “Bahai.”

    The next day, Thursday 29 April, the Local Spiritual Assembly of Alor Star held a memorial service in the Centre.

    The Local Spiritual Assembly of Alor Setar published its official newsletter called Gondwana. I was on the Editorial Board. A special issue was released on 1 May 1976, running some stories on Yeok Boon. When I contributed my piece I quoted Mark Anthony having said, “My heart lies in the coffin there with Ceaser.” That was how those close to Yeok Boon felt as the coffin bearing his remains was lowered into the grave in the Army camp.

    The untimely passing of Yeok Boon was totally a rare and different kind. He died so young, and within a span of just 12 years as a Bahai, he had conquered the hearts of so many. People simply flocked to him for the love that he radiated. He brought so much sunshine into the lives of those who moved with him. I would relate Yeok Boon to the Halley’s Comet which is a short-period comet visible from earth every 75–76 years, and might appear twice in a human lifetime. To me, Yeok Boon was the Halley’s Comet that appeared only once in my lifetime.

    Teh Teik Cheow
    Sungei Petani
    Kedah
    Malaysia

  24. Mani,
    Choo Yeok Boon is no less than a legend among those few souls that have illuminated the pages of the history of the Baha’i Faith in Malaysia. Yeok Boon’s exemplary life, sacrifices, devotion and commitment to service presents learning examples for the present and the future generations of believers.

    I have been fortunate to know Yeok Boon since 1965 when I occasionally joined him together with others in the field of service that mainly included youth activities and consolidation meetings. This fascinating relationship continued until his sudden and saddening physical departure.

    I have no doubt that he is ever with us and is supporting our teaching activities in Malaysia. As teaching the Faith was his passion I felt inspired whenever I thought of him and sought his assistance from Abha Kingdom. Somehow I felt assured of his loving support as I kept moving forward in my recent teaching activities in the northern region of Malaysia.

    Dr. Firaydun
    Chieng Mai,
    Thailand

  25. Dear Mani
    Much has been written and spoken about Boon from the time he passed away. But your story sums it up very well, with so many comments -both from those who knew him and had not known him. Even after passing Boon is still remembered and continues to attract all our attention.

    I knew Boon from 1963. He was like a son to me. My father Yankee Leong loved him so much. Even after moving into Ipoh town, Boon would visit me.

    After becoming Captain in the Air Force he continued visiting me. At times the mere loud sound of helicopter above our house would inform us that Boon has arrived. Whenever he came to Ipoh by helicopter, he would make it a point to circle above my house, flying quite low. If my children were home, they would run out and wave to him. That was how we knew that Boon had arrived in Ipoh. Then very soon after that Boon would arrive at our doorstep and give me a big, a real warm hug. This will usually be followed by a few jokes and laughter would ring in our house. It was such a joy to see a joyful person calling upon me.

    Boon was a person who was so unique, spiritually charged and very precious to the Faith.Once we get to know Boon, we can never forget his warmth and radiance.

    I remember Boon’s sister Ah Lean telling me that when they were young, Boon took a long time to learn to speak but once he could speak he could never be stopped. When he accepted the Faith Boon was always teaching about the Faith, and he could not be stopped from teaching the Cause.

    I am very sure that Boon must still be very busy teaching in the Abha Kingdom, together with his friends from the Technical College like Ravichandran and Francis Singam.

    Thank you
    Theresa Chee
    Ipoh
    Malaysia

  26. In my contacts with Choo Yoke Boon in College, and later serving with him in the Teaching Committees, I often wondered what quality is it in Boon that makes him such a dynamic force of attraction and love. I think he had this quality of absolute self-surrender and complete consecration to the Will of God:

    “The station of absolute self-surrender transendeth, and will ever remain exalted above, every other station. It behoveth thee to consecrate thyself to the Will of God. Whatsoever hath been revealed in His Tablets is but a reflection of His Will. So complete must be thy consecration, that every trace of worldly desire will be washed from thine heart. This is the meaning of true unity.” (GL 338)

    Bahaullah has spoken it all!

    Wong Meng Fook
    Singapore

  27. Mani
    This is one more recollection of how Boon got married to Grace Chong. After being commissioned as a Flight Officer Boon was posted to Kuala Lumpur in 1970. On weekends or holidays he would visit his friends in Alor Setar, and I was one of those he visited without fail. On one of such visits to my house. He looked serious and sad as well. He had just visited his mom in Pokok Sena. My wife Chong Soo Yang asked him why he was so engrossed in some mysterious thoughts which I too could never fathom. He told my wife that his mother wants him to find a wife. Having known him from the teen days, I can vouch that he never had any special girlfriend, and after accepting the Faith he never had time to find one. My wife, half jokingly told him, “I have a younger sister in Kuala Lumpur. Here is the address and her house phone number. Why not visit her and give a try.” Boon responded “I will pay her a visit.” Boon has always been serious in what he does. Sure enough after a few months of courtship wedding bells rang. He got married to the first girl he courted.

    Teh Teik Cheow
    Sungei Petani
    Malaysia

  28. Mani
    I must thank you for the recollection on Captain Choo Yeok Boon. You have done a great job especially digging up those precious photos. I lost count of the number of times my eyes got wet as I was reading the story.

    I was one of the first to describe him as an angel. We daren’t call him that knowing a humble man would be annoyed. But I dare call him a “24-hour Baha’i” because that’s what he was.

    When he was in the Technical college, he mentioned Baha’i every precious moment. When his friends complained, he would explained that he didn’t want his friends to complain in the next world that he didn’t tell them about Baha’u’llah !

    I remember when Jenabi Caldwell visited Alor Setar, our Assembly organized a class on Kedah Peak, a classy resort. A group of us went up a day earlier to enjoy the fresh air and pretty scenery.

    At the last minute, Mr. Nagaratnam conveyed the news that we would have the class in the Baha’i Centre. We were shocked because it wasn’t easy to book the resort, and being youth, we sort of rebelled and stayed put up the hill. Mr. Nagaratnam then requested Yeok Boon to go up the hill to persuade us to come down. Of course, we were full of respect for him, and felt torn between two major decisions. When Yeok Boon showed up we knew why he came and expected a lashing. But he was so kind and gentle and didn’t say a word ! He just kind of assessed the situation and smiled and after a while, gave up on us young ones and returned to the Centre in Alor Setar !

    Counselor Vic Samaniego was in Alor Star and I was asked to drive him to Sungei Petani Army Camp to attend the funeral service. At the funeral, I witnessed Mr. Nagaratnam and many others (me included) just couldn’t control our emotions and just wept openly.

    Chong Boo Haw
    Alor Setar
    Malaysia

  29. Dear Mr. Manisegaran,

    I have come to know the name Capt. Choo Yeok Boon and his great service to the Faith and the country only around the late 80s during the time I came to study in Sungai Petani. My eldest brother Segar Gopal, who was then serving as a field force officer at the Sixth Infantry Brigade Army Base, took me to visit the burial site of Capt. Choo Yeok Boon at the camp. It was interesting to know that Capt. Choo Yeok Boon was the first from the Sino-Siamese background to have accepted the Faith in Malaysia. His complete obedience to his mother and unfathomable love for the Blessed Beauty was indeed inspiring and edifying.

    Well, during my time in Sungai Petani, Kedah, I had the bounty to serve in the “Choo Yeok Boon Institute Committee” along with our beloved uncle S. Nagaratnam. Uncle Naga was its Chairman and I served as its Secretary. That was when I came to know a little more about Capt. Yeok Boon. Well, of course, your moving write-up on his comprehensive life account has given the rest of it.

    Capt. Yeok Boon remarks, “You rise to the need and take care of the Cause of God, and God will take care of your cause, for which I am a living example” is absolutely unique and for younger generation like myself to emulate. I trust that he has lived and distinguished his earthly life to the expectation of the Master’s statement, “I desire distinction for you”. As you have rightly said Capt. Yeok Boon had aptly displayed qualities of self-effacement and humility to an extraordinary degree. He had definitely lived and breathed nothing but the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh!

    The Hand of the Cause of God Dr Muhajir remarked, “Boon has grown too fast and is wanted in the next world.” This statement is so true and scary too in every possible way! It further reminds me of the following Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh: “O Son of Being! Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning; for death, unheralded, shall come upon thee and thou shalt be called to give account for thy deeds.”

    It is without any doubt that Capt. Yeok Boon is a rare kind of believer gifted by Bahá’u’lláh to the community of the Greatest Name in Malaysia. May his ‘magical spirit’ prevails and richly nourished in the Abhá Kingdom.

    With Loving Bahá’í Greetings,
    Velayutham Gopal
    Phnom Penh, Cambodia

  30. Dear Manisegaran
    Thank you for the beautiful write up on the late Choo Yeok Boon. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the story. It brought all the fondest old memories of my days in the National Bahai Center in Kuala Lumpur.

    As you know I moved into Kuala Lumpur from Malacca at the end of 1965 and stayed in the Bahai Center. Yeok Boon joined the Tehcnical College in 1966. He was there at the center every other day and at weekends. When he set up the Technical College Baha’i Society he used to bring the newly declared Bahai friends to the Center, and we used to have so much fun discussing various subjects related to the Faith. He organised so may events in the College and used to invite me. I am happy to learn that Francis Singam- the difficult enquirer had accepted the Faith. I remember the exchanges Francis had with Chellie Sundram at a function in the College. All these are appearing right in front of my eyes as I read the story.

    As for Yeok Boon, I saw a great potential in him event in those days. His words were as mild as milk, but deep inside he was firm as a rock. Of course I left for India in May 1967 and had no direct connection with him. Your story says it all and fills the gaps.

    I am happy you are writing stories of these true servants of the Faith, who are no more with us, with so much vivid recollections. I am pretty sure they must be rejoicing in the Abha Kingdom since they are all remembered through your stories. Many of us must also be praying for them.

    Keep up contributing more of such stories, which you are doing only too well- with beautiful photographs that I had never seen before. This is a God-given talent and I am happy you are utilizing it very well.

    Love
    S. Vasudevan Nair
    Pune
    India

  31. Dear Mani

    I was pleased to read your story on my dear friend the late Captain Choo Yeok Boon, through whom I accepted the Faith.
    The first time I met him was when I enrolled in the Kuala Lumpur Technical College. That was in 1966. I did not have any friend in Kuala Lumpur and was looking for accommodation. Strangely, a young man who was very friendly approached me and asked if I was looking for accommodation. He was Choo Yeok Boon. I told him I was. He offered me temporary accommodation at his hostel room. Then we exchanged conversations and both of us realized that Alor Star was our hometown, though we never met there.

    He had visitors who came to see him often. Yeok Boon introduced them to me as his Baha’i friends. I had not heard of the Baha’i Faith before. He did not tell me much about the Faith. There were quite a number of books in his room. Out of curiosity, I borrowed and read “Bahaullah and the New Era”. I was convinced that Bahaullah’s Teachings offered answers to problems of the world. So I declared my belief in Bahaullah. But fate had it that I could not stay more than three months in the College. I had to leave as I could not support myself financially. I landed up at the Malayan Teachers College in Penang where I underwent teacher training. At this college I formed the Malayan Teachers College Bahai Society. Yeok Boon and I remained friends.

    Yeok Boon was on fire, and dedicated much time serving the Faith. Quite a number of his fellow students from various religious backgrounds heard of the Faith from Yeok Boon and declared. As there were enough Baha’i students, Yeok Boon was allowed to form the Technical College Baha’i Society.

    Yeok Boon was a very steadfast Baha’i, very kind and truthful. If I had not met him, I may not have become a Baha’i then.

    Tan Keat Fong
    Australia

  32. Dear Manisegaran
    Our very dear Choo Yoke Boon – what can I say – ‘Abdu’l- Bahá said ‘I have a lamp in My Hand searching through the lands and seas to find souls who can become heralds of the Cause. Day and night I am engaged in this work.’ Yoke Boon is one of the many dedicated believers whom the Master found.

    Kamachee
    Lesotho
    Africa

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