Brother Emmanuel, longest-serving Boys' Town executive director, remembered as a jovial, caring man

Brother Emmanuel, 83, who was the longest-serving executive director of the Boys' Town, died on Thursday (Aug 31).
Brother Emmanuel, 83, who was the longest-serving executive director of the Boys' Town, died on Thursday (Aug 31).ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - The sight of a tall, stout Canadian man striding across the grounds of Boys' Town would have struck fear into the hearts of the youth boarding there. But many who knew Brother Emmanuel remember him first as a jovial, caring man who was strict and yet kind with his charges.

The longest-serving executive director of the Boys' Town died at age 83 on Thursday (Aug 31) at Assissi Hospice after a pancreatic inflammation.

Brother Emmannuel, who belonged to the Brothers of St Gabriel, was also best-known for being the principal of Assumption English School and St Gabriel's School, and as the supervisor of the Schools of the Brothers of St Gabriel.

Ex-boarders, ex-students and those who served with him in various church ministries gathered at his wake on Saturday night (Sept 2) at Boys' Town in Upper Bukit Timah, which is a charitable Catholic institution that works with disadvantaged youth.

Said offshore charter manager Donald Ow, 41, who was a boarder at Boys' Town from 1989 to 1994: "He gave us direction and structure in life, and was always there for us - in our camps, family days, and social events.

"I remember being caned by him when a bunch of us were caught vandalising a school handbook. But what stuck with me was how he patiently explained the rationale behind the punishment."

Born Gaudette Pierre-Paul in Montreal, Canada, in 1933, Brother Emmanuel came to Singapore as a missionary in 1954. He came from a family of 10 children.

When Singapore gained independence in 1965, he gave up his Commonwealth citizenship to become a Singaporean.

Mr Chua Cher Choon, 71, ex-chairman of Montfort School Management Committee, said a "common denominator" of how people knew Brother Emmanuel was as a very witty, jovial man.

Mrs Irene Loi, 55, current Boys' Town executive director who worked with Brother Emmanuel for almost 30 years, said the latter had trouble getting into cars when his legs got weaker.

"When we offered to help, he would say no, I'm okay - just getting into the car in instalments," said Mrs Loi.

The Boys' Town was his life, said Mrs Loi. "He constantly said 'I want to die in Boys' Town. Don't ever remove me from Boy's Town'."

Brother Emmanuel's wake continues until Sunday (Sept 3), 11pm.

His funeral service will take place in St Joseph Church (Bukit Timah) on Monday (Sept 4) morning followed by cremation at Mandai Crematorium.