Ex-Boys' Town head dies at age 83

Former boarders, ex-students and those who served with Brother Emmanuel in various church ministries gathered at his wake last night at Boys' Town in Upper Bukit Timah.
Former boarders, ex-students and those who served with Brother Emmanuel in various church ministries gathered at his wake last night at Boys' Town in Upper Bukit Timah.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Brother Emmanuel is remembered for his strict but caring ways with his charges

The sight of a tall, stout Canadian man striding across the grounds of Boys' Town in Upper Bukit Timah 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 with, but kind to his charges.

The longest-serving executive director of the Boys' Town died at age 83 on Thursday at Assisi Hospice after a pancreatic inflammation.

Brother Emmanuel, who belonged to the Brothers of St Gabriel, was also a principal of Assumption English School and St Gabriel's School and the supervisor of the Schools of the Brothers of St Gabriel.

Former boarders, former students and those who served with him in various church ministries gathered at his wake last night at Boys' Town - a charitable Catholic institution that works with disadvantaged boys.

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, former chairman of Montfort School Management Committee, said many people knew Brother Emmanuel as a very witty, jovial man.

Mrs Irene Loi, 55, the current Boys' Town executive director who worked with Brother Emmanuel for almost 30 years, said he 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,'" she said.

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 today at 11pm. His funeral service will take place in St Joseph Church (Bukit Timah) tomorrow morning, followed by cremation at Mandai Crematorium.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 03, 2017, with the headline 'Ex-Boys' Town head dies at age 83'. Print Edition | Subscribe