Kind men­tor

In me­mory of a Scrab­ble stal­wart.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LEISURE - By GABRIEL MARTIN

ALL eyes were on the choco­late cake as soon as it came out of the oven. The tan­ta­lis­ing aroma of the freshly­baked treat drew the small, hun­gry crowd to the din­ing ta­ble. We waited in ea­ger an­tic­i­pa­tion. Aun­tie Paulette, as she was known among her cir­cle of young Scrab­ble en­thu­si­asts, baked such rich, moist choco­late cakes.

I count my­self lucky to have had Paulette as my friend. How we met is kind of in­ter­est­ing. I was 17 and it was just be­fore my SPM trial ex­ams. In­stead of re­vis­ing my school work, I used to play Scrab­ble on­line on ISC (In­ter­net Scrab­ble Club) till past mid­night.

One night, I was play­ing with a lady nick­named Yin. As we were play­ing, she in­tro­duced her­self and we be­came on­line Scrab­ble friends. I would play Scrab­ble with her till past mid­night and she would un­equiv­o­cally com­mand me to go to bed and I would oblige. But in­stead of sleep­ing, I would con­tinue ob­serv­ing Scrab­ble games on­line, un­til my mother echoed the ex­act words from her room next door.

Known for her chat­ti­ness and friend­li­ness, Paulette of­ten shared nu­mer­ous sto­ries of the many peo­ple who left an in­deli­ble im­print on her mind. She talked about young­sters she was proud of, such as Ong Suanne, cham­pion of the World Youth Scrab­ble Cham­pi­onship 2009, and run­ner-up in the same tour­na­ment, Alastair Richards.

To Suanne, Paulette was a vi­va­cious, bub­bly lady with lots of hugs and cup­cakes to give away.

“I’ve known her since I was six. She used to sit me on her knee. She was al­ways so en­cour­ag­ing. Scrab­ble to her was more than just a game. As much as she en­joyed the game it­self, she val­ued the friend­ships that came along with it. She had the abil­ity to make any op­po­nent feel at home. Above all, most of us will re­mem­ber the warmth that she ex­uded across the Scrab­ble board and else­where,” said Suanne.

Paulette also reg­u­larly at­tended in­ter­na­tional Scrab­ble tour­na­ments such as the King’s Cup in Bangkok and the ev­er­grow­ing Cause­way Scrab­ble Chal­lenge in Jo­hor.

Dianne Ward from Aus­tralia shared about the first time she played Paulette in Bangkok sev­eral years ago.

“She kept telling me she wasn’t any good while she pro­ceeded to play four bingoes against me,” rem­i­nisced Dianne. It was the game in which Paulette played the nine-let­ter word CARE­GIVER, one of her proud­est finds.

She also re­ceived plaques for her undy­ing sup­port from 2000 to 2004, from the or­gan­is­ers of the Equa­to­rial Scrab­ble Com­pe­ti­tion, held an­nu­ally at the time in Cameron High­lands. Other re­cip­i­ents in­cluded fel­low Scrab­ble play­ers Nigel Richards, Jocelyn Lor and Yeap Gim Sai.

Yeap re­garded Paulette as her best friend. Though they were dif­fer­ent – Paulette was out­go­ing and ad­ven­tur­ous while Yeap is quiet and con­ser­va­tive – they com­ple­mented each other. “We had a great time to­gether. She would hug me when we met and swing me off my feet!” re­called Yeap.

Paulette Yeoh (1948-2010)

Paulette and Yeap were avid trea­sure hunt part­ners who took part in com­pe­ti­tions such as the Ki­wa­nis Hunt and the Sun Mo­tor Hunt. Paulette was amaz­ing when it came to de­ci­pher­ing tricky trea­sure hunt clues.

In the midst of all this ex­cite­ment, Paulette was di­ag­nosed with breast can­cer five years ago. Her in­domitable spirit kept her go­ing and she lived life to the fullest. Her daugh­ter, Lim Sha-lyn, said: “She put the can­cer at the back of her mind. All she wanted to do was to make a dif­fer­ence to other peo­ple’s lives.”

Paulette ap­peared en­er­getic and cheer­ful ev­ery time I met her. When asked about her se­cret, she men­tioned a home­made tea she brewed daily us­ing a type of leafy plant known lo­cally as daun pecah bel­ing or Stro­bi­lan­thes Cris­pus, which she sun­dried, to give her the ex­tra strength.

Her pas­sion for lit­tle chil­dren took her to Pat­taya in Thai­land, as a vol­un­teer for child vic­tims of the 2004 tsunami. Paulette also spent a lot of time vol­un­teer­ing in the pae­di­atric wards in the Pe­nang Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal.

Early this year, Paulette was warded at the hos­pi­tal as her con­di­tion de­te­ri­o­rated. Though in pain, she re­mained cheer­ful and pos­i­tive to the end. Paulette is sorely missed by many.

To com­mem­o­rate her love of the game, the Paulette Yeoh Me­mo­rial Scrab­ble Tour­na­ment will be held on Oct 9 and 10 at City Bayview Ho­tel, Pe­nang. For more in­for­ma­tion, please visit www.pen­ster.com.my.

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