The Star family bids a reluctant farewell to executive editor Soo Ewe Jin with a salute from colleagues and fans of his column.
WRITER. Senior editor. Friend. Coffee buddy. Mentor. Spiritual adviser. And always, the regular guy with a ready smile.
From office cleaners to guards and colleagues from the various departments throughout the 17 floors of Menara Star in Petaling Jaya, hearts were very heavy when news spread of executive editor Soo Ewe Jin’s passing on Thursday.
“Spare a thought for our less visible workmates... share a cup of coffee... and smile and listen because everyone has something to tell,” was his oft-repeated urging to everyone.
Ewe Jin the gladiator duked it out with four episodes of cancer. He had an indomitable spirit and a humble heart.
The Penang Free School old boy joined The Star in April 2000 as Star Online assistant editor; he assumed the editorship three years later. In April 2005, he helmed Sunday Star as editor, then special projects editor in June 2007. January the following year saw his promotion to deputy executive editor; he took on his current position in January 2014.
His weekly column that shared his insights and reflections, Sunday Starters and its predecessor, Monday Starters hit all the right notes with Joe public and garnered a large fan base.
In the past, Ewe Jin had also served at The National Echo, The Malay Mail, the Institute Of Strategic & International Studies (Isis) Malaysia, The World Wide Fund for Nature Malaysia (WWF Malaysia) and The Edge.
He was first diagnosed with nasopharyngeal (nose) cancer in 1999. Cancer reared its ugly head again in 2006 with a lump in his lymph nodes and he suffered from a relapse of nose cancer in March 2011. Ewe Jin began his final confrontation with cancer last year.
He leaves behind his wife and fellow journalist Angeline Lim, and two sons, Kevin and Timothy.
The wake will be held at 8pm today and tomorrow at the Trinity Methodist Church, Jalan Gasing, Petaling Jaya. The funeral will be at 10am on Tuesday.
Errol Oh, executive editor
At first, I thought I lost a friend I cherished and a colleague I respected. But after a while, I realised that Ewe Jin had been more to me than that; he was my mentor too, and I’m the sort of guy who thinks I’m fine getting by on my own.
The dictionaries have slightly different ways of explaining what a mentor is: a wise and trusted counselor or teacher; an influential senior sponsor or supporter; someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person; an experienced and trusted adviser.
Ewe Jin was all that to me, and I’m sure to so many others as well. He loved to talk to people, and in our conversations, I’ve learnt plenty about all sorts of things. He also couldn’t help but help others, and from observing, and sometimes benefiting from his many acts of kindness, I’ve grown to understand that there are numerous small yet meaningful victories to be won every day.
So, yes, I lost a mentor on Thursday. But thanks to him, I’ve gained some insights and know-ledge that will stay with me for the rest of my life. You just keep giving, don’t you, Ewe Jin?
Dorairaj Nadason, executive editor
I have two words to describe Soo Ewe Jin. Writer. And fighter.
He was a prolific writer who could make the most mundane thing beautiful.
He was the kind of writer who could really get you to stop and smell the roses.
And what a fighter. Despite his condition, he never stopped smiling or being positive. He was in the middle of the Anak-Anak Malaysia walk, he was editor of The Star’s moderation book and an integral part of the book’s launch.
After his passing, I can say he showed us how to live.
He will always be a forerunner for me. He was my senior in Jelutong English School, Penang Free School and The Star.
Santha Melanie Oorjitham, Op-Ed associate editor
No matter how busy or how ill he was, Ewe Jin always had time for anyone who was sick, in trouble, bereaved or needed advice.
He had a special concern for anyone who was also going through a cancer journey – whether it was a fellow patient at the hospital, friends and family, or friends of friends and family. He would call and send encouraging messages and small gifts, even to people whom he had never met.
What made him saddest towards the end of his journey was when he was no longer able to visit people in hospital or attend the funerals of friends.
Esther Ng, Sunday Star editor
The newsroom is where everything moves at a breakneck speed; everything is chaotic and busy.
But Ewe Jin was always there to remind us to take a deep breath and look around us, and appreciate the people working alongside us, many of whom have become our life-long friends.
Ewe Jin, you made a difference in our lives. You taught us that amid the craziness we have to wade through each day to put the paper together, there is always time to be human, to be compassionate, and to give thanks.
You were among the first to hold my hand when I became editor of Sunday Star, a portfolio you once held. And I cannot thank you enough. But most of all, thank you for making my life a little richer.
Chelsea Ng, news editor
They say that for every ending, there is a new beginning.
I am truly lucky to have known and served under Ewe Jin. It’s hard to say goodbye to a great mentor. I will treasure that last conversation we had earlier this year. And those messages you sent me even when you were so sick, just to make sure I kept my mind straight. You were worried that I might not heed your advice. That was so you. Always putting others’ welfare before your own.
Bye for now, buddy. I’m sad that you are gone but happy that you are in a better place.
Rozaid Abdul Rahman, mStar executive editor
Ewe Jin’s passing is heart-wrenching and a big loss to many, especially his loved ones and close friends.
Death is always a sad event, what more when it is a colleague whom we meet almost every day.
We both have the same roots – we’re true-blue proud Penangites who share the same culture, way of life and memories. Which explains how we forged strong friendship ties.
Sharmilla Ganesan, Star2 chief reporter
On my very first day with The Star, I somehow ended up having lunch at the same table as Ewe Jin. I was 22, it was practically my first job, and I was so nervous and unsure of myself – even more so when I realised he was the Sunday Star editor.
But Ewe Jin spent the whole lunch hour asking me questions about myself, talking about my hopes for my career, and giving me encouragement about being a journalist. I walked away from that feeling so much more able to face my day. That is perhaps the thing I will remember most about Ewe Jin. He was a person who realised that the seemingly-little things we could do each day – a smile in the elevator, an email complimenting a story – may make a big difference to someone else.
Onward you go, Ewe Jin. You will certainly be missed.
Michelle Tam, The Star Online journalist
I remember how he always had the time, even as he fought for his own. Rest in peace, dear Ewe Jin. Your life is a testimony of how important – and possible – it is to be kind and strong in the face of pain.
Sarah Chew, ex-journalist with The Star
There are very few people who can be as calm and caring as Ewe Jin. He would sit patiently listening to my problems, and explain to my young “green” journalist mind how things work.
He would tirelessly visit cancer patients, he would pray for anyone, he even gave me wise counsel on my wedding day.
I cannot remember everything he said – but I remember every-thing he made me feel. If I can make even half the impact on the world as this man, I would consider my life well lived.
What a great race you’ve run, Ewe Jin.
Amy Chew, ex-journalist with The Star
We sang the song Something Good – how much more poignant it now sounds:
Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could,
So somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good.
Ewe Jin, you did more than good... you were goodness personified. Goodbye and RIP.
Cassandra Yeoh, Law student
“Remarkable” is nowhere close to describing Ewe Jin. Try “More than remarkable”!
I was 18 when I joined The Star’s newsdesk and he got me coffee to welcome me on my first day of internship. And after discovering that I was dyslexic, he offered to mentor me despite being a high-up executive editor. He would pop by often to check that I was coping well.
Ewe Jin’s Sunday Starters was so much more than a breath of fresh air. It was a must to read his insightful musing of the week. He made us feel, see and experience life from a different angle. Ewe Jin was a writer who sparked inspiration and motivation in my family – his column was a conversation piece at the dinner table.
There are few who inspire, help others unselfishly and live life with virtue. Ewe Jin stands tall as one of the few.
Johor Permaisuri Raja Zarith Sofiah Sultan Idris Shah, former columnist for The Star
I have been feeling particularly sad because on Dec 5, it will be one year since I lost my son, Tunku Jalil. And now, my editor at The Star has passed away from cancer...
Ewe Jin was my first editor at The Star and I am thankful for his guidance, support and help.
He was understanding when-ever I asked for extra time to send in articles for my column Mind Matters.
He told me he had cancer but had recovered. Then he told me the cancer was back, so I ordered books about cancer for him.
We shared the same concerns with regards to racial and religious tensions in the country.
We also talked a lot about being volunteers and the need to be of help whenever we can.
Readers of Sunday Starters
WHEN I heard that Sunday Starters reflections on life had come out as a book, I tried to get a copy. Instead, I received an autographed one from the author, Soo Ewe Jin himself! It came with a handwritten note, which I shall cherish.
That started what has become such a valuable experience in my life, the blessing of a friendship with Ewe Jin, and his wonderful caregiver wife, Angeline.
To our family, Ewe Jin lives – in the simple and natural way that he described life to us. His terrible illness and the way he faced it is a lesson on how to accept the difficulties of life and have a positive attitude.
His writings give us many nuances from life to overcome what might seem insurmountable. I was especially moved by his spiritualising his illness, reciting The Lord’s Prayer for every chemo episode. His life illustrates this saying from the Bhagavad Gita: He who sees his own Divine Self in all beings and sees all beings in God, he is the best of all devotees.
While I am frozen with grief at the “dropping” of his body, I join many who loved him in the relief that he suffers physically no more, and in having felt his very special touch of friendship, which has so enriched my life. – Toh Puan Umasundari Sambanthan
In his quiet and gentle way, Ewe Jin modelled to me what it means to be a loving father, a faithful husband, an insightful communicator, a true Malaysian, and a genuine Christian.
He showed me how small acts can have big effects – not only in words but also in reality (often out of public gaze). Last year, after his birthday wishes to me, he added: Make every day count.
Many of us have witnessed Ewe Jin living out these words in every possible way – especially during the most trying times of his life.
Thank you, Ewe Jin for sharing your life with us; and I thank God for sustaining you throughout the highs and lows of your journey. May you now rest in God’s loving presence with a warm welcome. Well done. – Pastor Sivin Kit
Death ends a life, not a relationship. All the love you created is still there. All the memories are still there. You live on – in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here.
Good night, sweet prince, and may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest. – Farid Affandi
A man who touched the hearts of many, without ever having known or met them. And he didn’t need to. He touched a different chord every week. He gave hope and joy to many.
May you now enjoy your much-deserved rest. – Rekhraj Daljit
I remember Ewe Jin for many reasons. I first met him at a writers’ camp and he inspired many of us to keep on writing, till this day. I met him again at an assignment when his son wrote a book, at a very young age.
I reached out to him many years later, knowing he had then successfully battled cancer, wanting to speak to him on behalf of a relative who later lost the battle to cancer himself.
Ewe Jin was always patient, never raised his voice, and was willing to help, even when he did not really know who it was on the other end.
Rest in peace and know that you fought the good fight. – Jade Wong
A great loss. I enjoyed his articles each week. He had so much courage, and his kindness came through in his writing. He never showed self-pity, but only thankfulness. Heartfelt condolences to his family. – Esther MacFarlaine
Mr Soo has never failed to inspire me through his writings. I didn’t know him personally, but he was so transparent in his writings. A gracious and humble person.
My deepest condolences to his family. May you be comforted to know of the many lives he has touched, and the changes he brought to so many. – Erin Manickam
I loved reading his column, and the first thing I usually did every Sunday morning was to flip through the Sunday Star and quickly go straight to his column.
He will be missed. Condolences to the family, and may his soul rest in peace. – Hatta Morshidi
RIP Mr Soo, and deepest condolences to his family and friends. I enjoyed reading his weekly articles very much; they were written from his heart and his stories had always inspired me to be a better person. You’re already missed. – Angeline Ong
We will miss Sunday Starters forever, Mr Soo. I am shocked to hear this news. You have had a great battle with cancer and have enlightened people’s lives through your writing. – Tharmendran Sukumaran
Oh, what a great loss! I loved his column and have used some in my Reading and Writing classes over the years. Thank you, Mr Soo, and may you rest in peace. My deepest condolences to his family. – Melinda Lee
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