Paulette Yeoh (1948-2010)
The chocolate cake was glazed with a vivid dark brown, enriched with a moist texture and a prodigious taste. As soon as it came out of the oven, curious schnozes crowded the dining table, expressing their cravings as they flattered the amazing recipe by this lady they known endearingly as Auntie Paulette.
I was fortunate to be able to befriend Paulette but it was indeed a very interesting chronology. I was 17 and it was a few days shy from my SPM trial examinations. Instead of revising through my books, I played Scrabble online on ISC (Internet Scrabble Club) till past midnight.
One night, I was playing with a lady nicknamed ‘yin’ and 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 disregarding her plea until my mother echoed the exact same words from her room next door.
Known for her chattiness and friendliness, she often shared numerous tales and stories of so many people who imprinted great memories in her life. She would share most of her stories with me especially about youngsters whom she likes and was proud of. Among those I had heard of then were Ong Suanne and Alastair Richards, World Youth Scrabble Championship 2009 champion and runner-up.
For Suanne, Paulette is a vivacious, bubbly lady with lots of hugs and lots of cupcakes to give away. “She was someone I'd known since I was about 6, and someone who welcomed me into the Scrabble scene, sitting me on her knee during games and always being very encouraging. Scrabble to her was much more than just a game, and I think, as much as she enjoyed the game itself, she always valued the friendships that came along with it. She had the amazing ability to make any opponent feel at home even if he or she was a stranger, and above all, I think most of us will remember the natural warmth that she exuded both across the scrabble board and off the scrabble board,” quipped Suanne.
Paulette would also attend big scale Scrabble tournaments such as the King’s Cup in Bangkok and the ever-growing Causeway Scrabble Challenge in Johor.
The Scrabble gypsy, Dianne Ward from Australia shared her story when she first played Paulette in Bangkok several years ago. “She kept telling me she wasn’t any good while she proceeded to play 4 bingoes against me,” reminisced Dianne. It was the game where Paulette played a nine-letter word, CAREGIVER that was one of her proudest finds she shared with me.
She also received plagues for her undying support from 2000 to 2004 from the organizers of the Equatorial Scrabble Competition that was held in Cameron Highlands. Other recipients include fellow scrabble players; Nigel Richards, Jocelyn Lor and Yeap Gim Sai.
Yeap Gim Sai on the other hand regards Paulette as her best friend! Though they were different; Paulette was the out-going and adventurous while Yeap was the quiet conservative one; they complement each other. “We had great times together. She would hug me when we meet and swing me off my feet!”, recalled Yeap.
Paulette and Yeap are also avid treasure hunters, taking part in big competitions such as the Kiwanis Hunt and theSun Motor Hunt to name a few, with rather commendable results. I could also recall how amazing Paulette was with solving crossword puzzles and deciphering tricky treasure hunts questions.
Despite all the excitements, Paulette was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago and was told that she had 6 months left to live. Her uplifting spirit kept her going and she believed in just enjoying herself until the end is inevitable.
The cancer was her least concern as she kept enjoying herself doing things she loved. Her daughter, Lim Sha-lyn also said, “She was never bothered with anything, even about going for checkups. She put the cancer far in the back of her mind and never quite thought about it. All she wanted to do was to make a difference to other people’s life.”
She appeared energetic and cheerful each time I met her. When asked about her secret, she mentioned a homemade tea she brewed daily using a type of leafy-plant locally called daun pecah beling or Strobilanthes Crispus she sun-dried to give her the extra strength.
Her passion for little children also brought her to Pattaya, Thailand as a volunteer for children victims of the infamous 26.12.2004 tsunami that left many young kids orphaned.
She shared that the experience received was phenomenally breathtaking and explained how every young boy and girl and infants fawned and crawled to her lap with ease and joy as if there was a special aura radiating from her face.
The happiness she bore was indescribable and I believe that was one of her proudest moment in life, as she shared the story not once, but several times to her friends and families.
Besides, she spent a lot of her time volunteering in the pediatric wards in Penang General Hospital where she would play with the kids, cheered them up and even made balloon sculptures for them. She once told me that she wanted to do something meaningful in her life.
Early this year, Paulette was warded into the hospital, as her condition was deteriorating. She would unceasingly greet everyone with a cheerful smile whenever she could. Though in pain, she made everyone around her felt comfortable.
Sha-lyn also recollected that Paulette did not want pessimists to visit her in the hospital ward. “She told me that anyone who is going to cry or be negative and treat her like an invalid to not visit her as she did not want bad aura to be around the ward,” said Sha-lyn.
She would deemed herself luckier than many and stayed positive until the end.
In memorial of her and to commemorate her love and dedication in the game that was introduced to her by her late father when she was a young girl, the Paulette Yeoh Memorial Scrabble Tournament will be held on the 9th and 10th October 2010 in City Bayview Hotel, Pulau Pinang. It was one of her wish before she passed away as Scrabble meant a lot to her.
The Penang Scrabble Club and Paulette’s family will be organizing the tournament and are inviting everyone who had directly or indirectly known her to be part of this eventful tournament.
As her presence will be sorely missed by many, she left a note saying:
“Paulette bids a fond farewell to beloved family and friends who made her life meaningful….” – Paulette Yeoh (1948-2010)