Iconic MRT announcer Juanita Melson dies at 72

Mrs Juanita Melson in the studio console, when she was English programme manager for Rediffusion. She worked at the cable radio station from 1974 to 2003.
Mrs Juanita Melson in the studio console, when she was English programme manager for Rediffusion. She worked at the cable radio station from 1974 to 2003.TNP FILE PHOTO

Rediffusion veteran Juanita Melson died in her sleep, aged 72, after battle with cancer

Radio veteran Juanita Melson, who voiced the SMRT train and station announcements from 1996 to 2008, died last Thursday of cancer.

Mrs Melson, who was 72, worked as a disc jockey and later as a programme manager for Rediffusion, Singapore's only cable radio station when it was set up in 1949.

She was at Rediffusion from 1974 to 2003, and continued working until 2015, when her health deteriorated.

According to her daughter Tracy, Mrs Melson was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2013. Her family found out in the second half of last year that it had spread to her brain.

Ms Tracy Melson, who is in her 40s, said her mother died peacefully in her sleep, surrounded by family members, and was not in pain.

Mrs Melson was eating normally until Jan 15, and while she became more tired, she still recognised her family members and talked with them until the day she died, said Ms Melson, who works in hospitality.

Mrs Melson made an impact on many local media personalities in her almost 30 years at Rediffusion.

One of them, Kiss92 DJ John Klass, told The Straits Times he would not be where he is now without her guidance.

She hired him as a radio DJ in 1991, when he had just completed national service, and got his band Kick! signed to Japanese record label Pony Canyon.

"She picked me up from nowhere," said Mr Klass.

He recalled her meticulous attention to detail when hosting shows and said that she taught him the finer points of being on air.

In a Facebook tribute last Saturday, he said: "(She) was more than just a boss and, like for many of us at Rediffusion, she was a good friend and, to some extent, like a mother I never had."

Mr Klass told The Straits Times that Mrs Melson was a private person, so not many people would have known how she had touched the lives of others.

"I needed to put that straight that she had made a whole lot of difference to a lot of people... For me it was about gratitude."

Lush 99.5 FM DJ Chris Ho also paid tribute to Mrs Melson's instincts and generosity. He knew her from their time together at Rediffusion.

She submitted his show for the Australasian Broadcasting Awards and he won Best Asia-Pacific Radio Personality in 1987.

"If she didn't submit my show... I would not have won the award," Mr Ho said.

He said his strongest memory of Mrs Melson was of her voice: "It was a very pure voice, a proper voice... Her delivery was always warm, precise, sincere - and lovely, just lovely to hear."

When asked what he would miss the most about her, Mr Ho said simply: "Her smile."

One commuter who remembers Mrs Melson's voice is university student Phang Jun Jie, 25.

He said: "I'm saddened to hear that she's gone but I'm sure she'll be remembered very fondly by an entire generation of Singaporeans."

SMRT's vice-president for corporate information and communications, Mr Patrick Nathan, said the company was sad that Mrs Melson had died. Her recordings, he added, still play on the Bukit Panjang LRT.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 24, 2017, with the headline 'Iconic MRT announcer dies'. Print Edition | Subscribe