Family and friends witness George and Katherine Chin joining hands to renew their marriage vows, first made on February 3, 1951.
IT WAS a rare social event. I usually avoid attending social functions but was glad I made this an exception. Not just a wedding anniversary celebration. Being the Diamond Jubilee of a couple married exactly 60 years ago at a church building that does not even exist any more, it turned out to be truly an occasion of great joy and a marvel to our eyes.
The happy couple is Datuk George Chin Kok Min, 86, and Datin Katherine Manjaji, 82, who joined hands once again and renewed their marriage vows (February 3) at the Blessed Sacrament Chapel of the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Kota Kinabalu, the very spot where the former church building once stood and has now given way for a new structure.
Catholic priest Fr Wilfred Atin presided over the ceremony and described the couple as an epitome of love and of marriage. He praised the couple for being a living example of enduring love and marriage to their own children and to the young generation.
A large group of family members, relatives and friends were present at the chapel to lend support and to cheer them on.
Joy and laughter
It turned out to be truly an occasion of joy and laughter, despite the seriousness and solemnity often associated with church ceremonies.
For instance, when the priest asked George to repeat after him the part of the marriage vow that said, “To love her and honour her all the days of your life…” George gave it a twist and said, “I shall love her and honour her for the rest of my life”, instead of “all days of your life”.
This made the children and grandchildren standing close to them burst into laughter and Katherine, his faithful partner in life, followed suit when her turn came, adding further to the amusement of the family and friends who witnessed it.
Emily, the eldest daughter of the couple, who had come all the way from Sydney, Australia with members of her family for the celebration, told me later that it was a reflection of her father’s sense of humour.
A few days later, about 350 gathered at the ballroom of the Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa, for a grand dinner to celebrate the occasion, with toasts, songs and dances.
Closely knit family
Their four daughters and two sons, supported by 15 grandchildren and three great grandchildren, took charge of the event, ensuring that it would be truly a memorable time for their parents.
Their children included: Leslie, publisher of the Sabah Property magazine; daughters Vera, Rosemary and Rebecca married to Norman Wong who is in the forest plantation, timber and property development business.
Their youngest child, Victor who now lives in Toronto, Canada, was also there with members of his family.
“All our six children are together. They are the ones who did everything,” said George, referring to arrangements for the celebrations. “We are a closely knit family,” he said in an interview at their Luyang suburban home.
Emily, being the eldest child, had the honour to give a speech on behalf of the family, thanking everyone for their attendance, especially those who had come from far, like Australia, Canada, Dubai, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Johore Bharu.
Among the Chin brothers present were: Samuel, Lawrence, Rowland, Johnny and Kok Kong, former state assemblyman for Likas, who now lives in Brunei. Their sister Violet was also present.
Many old friends
Gracing the occasion was also Fr Cosmas Lee, rector of St Simon’s Church at Likas, and many old friends of the couple and family, including Brother Datuk Charles O’Leary, Toh Puan Rahimah Stephens, and Datuk Ariah Tunku Ahmad nee Irene Prichard.
Tan Sri Dr Herman Luping, described by George as “a very, very old friend”, was called by the family to represent guests at the dinner in proposing a toast to the couple celebrating their diamond jubilee.
Luping who was among those who attended their wedding at the Sacred Heart Church 60 years ago, said he agreed with Fr Wilfred in saying that the couple was an epitome of love and marriage.
“They are the epitome, the icon of what is true love and true marriage. That is very true, because this is unique. Till today, we see a married couple who have been together for a long time,” he added.
“When I see the face of George, I see strength, honesty and integrity, and above all, he is friendly.”
As for Datin Kathy, he recalled that she had served him before as secretary, and offered these kind words for her, “I was very, very lucky, to have her. My wife told me many times, you cannot make Kathy angry, no matter how… Kathy is a very quiet person, very kind and helpful.”
That night at the dinner, George moved up on stage and sang a few songs dedicated specially to Kathy. At the age of 86, he still had the strength and romantic spirit to serenade to his beloved, an act that brought loud acclaim from the floor.
I wanted to ask them to reveal the secret behind the bond of the two in marriage for six long decades.
With stories about broken marriages and divorces in Malaysia and elsewhere around the world appearing ever so often in the media, my journalistic instincts just impelled me to get into the depth of this story.
When I finally had the chance to visit their home in the Luyang suburb of Kota Kinabalu, George had no hesitation in giving the reply.
“We hardly ever quarrel. We have disagreements, but no quarrels. She never answers back.”
Katherine chips in, “He never scolds me. The only time I remember he scolded me was when I didn’t take my medicine when I was sick. Whatever he says, I listen.”
To this George adds, “What I say is for her good, so she listens. I have learned not to say anything bad about anybody, but to say only what is good for them. That’s why we have so many good friends.”
Katherine is full of praise for him and the family: “I love him because he is a very good husband and a good father. He is very good to our children and grandchildren. My children are all very good and loving.”
Better known as Mingo
Datuk George, an architect by profession, was formerly the executive chairman of Sabah Housing and Town Development Board (LPPB) from 1975 to 1984.
He made a name for himself as Mingo, the artist who drew and published many political cartoons in a local daily in support of the Berjaya party of which he was a member.
George was for about 12 years in the 1950s & 60s, a part-time art teacher at the All Saints School in the Sabah state capital, reviewing and offering suggestions for improvement paintings of students there during the final term for the Cambridge School Certificate examination.
“Many of my former students have come up to me and say, hey, you taught me art in school. These include Datuk Yaman Hj Ahmad Mus, the head of the Sabah Art Society,” he said.
He was the founding president of the Jesselton Junior Chamber of Commerce in 1962, later known as the KK Jaycees. He was also active in the Rotary Club, firstly with the Kota Kinabalu Rotary Club and he later joined the club at Likas Bay.
George had also served as secretary of the West Coast Boxing Association.
Katherine, his wife of 60 years, comes from the well-known Manjaji family of Penampang. One of her brothers, the late Joe Manjaji, was a former Member of Parliament and known in the Sabah sports arena as a boxer.
Emily sums up the jubilee celebrations with these words: “We see the whole celebration as a blessing for the family. Yes, we are a very closely knit family.”