Dedicated to his orchids

Green thumb: Khor holding up some of the orchids at his home in Tanjung Bungah. — LIM BENG TATT/The Star

RMAF veteran now spends days tending to home garden

GEORGE TOWN: Just like his dedication to the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) where he worked for about two decades, retiree Robert Khor is now devoted to caring for his vast collection of over 1,000 orchid plants.

“Each morning, I tend to my plants, watering them and occasionally re-potting some. Over the years, I’ve even mastered the art of propagating orchids, which I sometimes sell to friends for a bit of extra income,” said Khor, 84.

The former radio technician who worked with the RMAF from 1961 to 1983 has developed a vast collection of orchids from the Orchidaceae family, which includes varieties like Spathoglottis, Dendrobium, Phalaenopsis, Oncidium, Vanda and Cattleya, among others.

It has been a labour of love over the past 46 years for him.

“I’m lucky, as I get to tend to and grow something I love. I do not play sports or indulge in drinking, so all the free time I have is dedicated to my plants,” he said when met at his home in Tanjung Bungah recently.

Khor’s love for gardening and orchids dates back to 1978.

He is actively involved in Penang’s Federation of Malaya Orchid Society (Fomos), where he serves on the committee and is often entrusted with security duties during orchid shows.

“I also enjoy participating in local orchid competitions. Many of my orchids have received awards. Most recently, my land orchid clinched first prize in the Spathoglottis category at Fomos’ Earth Day Orchid Show 2024, held at the Straits Quay Retail Marina last month.”

After his retirement from the RMAF, he worked as the security head of several hotels prior to his retirement upon reaching the age of 55 in 1995.

“I was part of the pioneer group of all-Malaysian officers in the RMAF back in 1961. I can still vividly recall that my initial take-home pay amounted to a mere RM50, but in those days, the cost of living was remarkably low, with a plate of char koay teow setting you back only 50sen.

“To save money, I grew my own vegetables and caught my own fish while stationed in Labuan, Sabah. My family would follow me wherever I was stationed,” he recalled.

Khor said his three children have established their own lives, with two of them pursuing careers overseas and the third based in Kuala Lumpur.

Despite the distance, they would make regular visits to see him.

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