This is a tribute to Marcel Wu who passed away in Toronto on Christmas Day 2012; I posted some of our chats in ‘conversations with M’ . Marcel had positive influence on me - in the way I conduct my business and treat the people whom I work with.
Although he left Sarawak more than a dozen years ago, he was a homegrown architect who left behind a rich legacy of architectural work. I was privileged to have trained with him during my time at Kumpulan Design. Marcel had an impressive ability to formulate design solutions quickly, reinforced by his superb draughtsmanship and strong narrative style with a propensity towards formality and monumentality in his built work. During his time at KDI, Marcel designed the many buildings and oversaw the designs of even more.
He was a teacher at heart, fond of imparting lessons over long breakfasts and even longer lunches. He had a way of making people feel important to be part of his team; recognising those whom others pay no heed and giving credit when it is due. Long and hard as Marcel worked, he always set time aside for his wife, Kummy and their family.
In 2000, Marcel decided to retire and move back to Canada to spend more time with his family. By that time, his third child Avril had been born. The next 12 years brought much joy to the family as Marcel and Kummy travelled the Americas. In retirement, Marcel finally found time to hone his craft and produced several collections of paintings and to develop his interest in gardening with Kummy.
In late March 2012, after returning from a cruise vacation Marcel was diagnosed with lung cancer. The disease was at an advanced stage but he refused to give up and fought for more time. In the next 9 months, Marcel re-acquainted himself with old friends throughout his life.
It was during this time that we started writing to each other; mostly talking about the subject dear to us both – Kuching. For my sketches of Padungan Road and Carpenter Street, Marcel would re-tell stories last heard during our lunches at the “Cholesterol Café” (roast meat stall next to the Padungan Police Station, now relocated) – and although he put on a brave front, it was clear that one day soon our conversations would cease.
On the 23rd Dec, Marcel wrote his last email to me – he was hopeful though worried about the impending winter. He wrote “……still kicking my legs while I am able to. Still pinning much hope on TCM. Can’t seem to find the right words to use in the morning. :) Winter is set in. There is the stiff coldness. Walking as a cold stiff cannot be much fun.”
I will miss receiving emails from Marcel. I wish I had insisted on seeing him during his trips back to Kuching; he is always so occupied - everyone wants a piece of his time and attention. He will be fondly remembered by all of those who had the privilege to know him.