Supreme Court Bar Room's 'Uncle Choo' dies at 77

Scores from the legal fraternity paid their last respects to Mr Choo, who they say was always ready with a smile and coffee in the Bar Room.
Scores from the legal fraternity paid their last respects to Mr Choo, who they say was always ready with a smile and coffee in the Bar Room.

He served for 55 years as an attendant of the Supreme Court Bar Room, where lawyers meet for a drink before or after hearings.

Mr Choo Chong Seng, or "Uncle Choo" as he was fondly known by generations of lawyers, died on Sunday, aged 77.

Always in a white shirt and ready with a smile and coffee, Mr Choo "has ably taken care of both the Bar Room and the lawyers for longer than most can remember", said the Law Society Gazette in 2011 when honouring his 50th year in service.

Scores from the legal fraternity paid respects to him at his wake yesterday at St Joseph's Church in Victoria Street. Among them was veteran family lawyer and former Sembawang GRC MP Ellen Lee.

"Uncle Choo was always a comforting presence in the Bar Room. He knew the temperaments of the judges very well, and would offer junior lawyers comfort and personal anecdotes after a trying time in the courtroom," she said.

Senior lawyer Niru Pillai, who first knew Mr Choo 38 years ago, said the Bar Room would not be the same without him, pointing to his "unfailing friendliness,commitment and dedication".

Mr Choo was first taken to the court by his mother, who worked as a cleaner there. On learning he was not employed, then Chief Justice Wee Chong Jin gave Mr Choo, then 22, a job.

Mr Choo's youngest nephew, Mr Philip Chan, a flight steward in his 40s, recounted how his flat in Race Course Road was like a courtroom, with his sofa and curtains resembling courtroom furniture. His dedication to work was also evident in his routines.

"On the weekdays he would work. Saturday and Sunday were laundry and ironing days respectively, and he always ironed five sets of white shirts and black trousers - one set for each weekday," said Mr Chan.

He added Uncle Choo will be remembered by his family for being kind. When his brother-in-law died, he paid for the education of his seven nieces and nephews.

Another nephew, Mr Derek Chan, 50, a manager in a manufacturing firm, said: "He left a jar of coins for us in our home, and trusted us to take as much as we needed for pocket money."

Mr Choo's youngest sister, retiree Alicia Choo, 72, recalled that the bachelor would prepare red packets for every family member, young and old, when they visited him every year.

Law Society president Thio Shen Yi said: "Always clad in a crisp white shirt, a Law Society tie and having a smile on his face, Uncle Choo readily offered advice to junior lawyers and shared his stories with anyone who was in the Bar Room to sample his signature coffee."

Mr Choo's funeral will take place today.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2016, with the headline 'Supreme Court Bar Room's 'Uncle Choo' dies at 77'. Print Edition | Subscribe