SINGAPORE - Local netball lost one of its most dynamic characters with the passing of former national vice-captain Grace Chew on Monday (May 4). She was 58.
Like her role on the court, pulling the strings as the Centre in the national team, Chew, who was diagnosed with cancer in May last year, also played several key roles within the then Singapore Netball Association
Not only was she a former national Under-21 coach but she also served as the honorary secretary of the SNA, the precursor to Netball Singapore (NS).
She earned her first cap in 1985, retiring without fanfare in the late 1990s.
Chew was also the vice-principal (administration) of St Anthony's Canossian Secondary School.
Ms Jessica Tan, NS' current president, led the tributes on Tuesday, telling The Straits Times: "It is with great sadness that we learnt of Grace Chew's passing today.
"She nurtured many young players who became outstanding national players. Netball has lost a great role model whom so many of our players looked up to. May her soul rest in peace."
One of those mentored by Chew was Jean Ng, who as a schoolgirl in the late 1990s, trained with Chew and rose to also become one of Singapore's most illustrious players.
The pair both played for Nike, then among the top clubs at the time, where Chew was among the senior players as Ng was cutting her teeth in the age-group teams at 18.
Said Ng: "Grace has always been very good with younger people and she was quite good at bringing them to the next level.
"She had a lot of patience to teach and she taught in a very compelling way.
"It grabbed your attention and while she was strict, and her training was very intense, she was also always encouraging."
Even years later, Chew remained a mentor to Ng, who at one point was contemplating pursuing a Masters in Business Administration while at the same time juggling her career at the Singapore Tourism Board, where she is now the executive director for attractions, entertainment and tourism concept development.
Chew encouraged Ng to pursue the online MBA course while still working instead of a full-time one and the latter said: "She didn't make the decision for me, but she helped me decide that it was the right one. It killed me for 15 months but it also allowed me to continue to progress in my career, and also kept me in netball."
Another of Chew's hallmarks was her positive outlook and this continued even after being told of the grim diagnosis a year ago.
Former national captain Vicki Woo, who together with a group of former netballers and friends, was at Chew's bedside when she drew her last breath, said: "She took the news very well, she was very calm. She said it was God's will and she remained bubbly and positive."
Chew leaves behind her mother, Jessie Phua, brother Gregory Chew, sister Gwendoline Chew and their families.
But it is a testament to her character that she died surrounded by friends. Even as the coronavirus pandemic kept people home, she continued to receive a steady stream of visitors in the last few months, with friends taking her for treatment, hospital appointments and looking after her.
Her obituary in The Straits Times listed a group of seven caregivers: Woo, Nicole Quek, Sister Jessica, Rachel Yim, Serene Lim, Ashley Lim and Anna-Mae.
As Woo said: "I cannot find another friend who was so understanding. She always mixed with people so easily. She could talk to anyone without any problems at all. She always cared for other people, putting them first, ahead of herself.
"She was always the amazing Grace."