Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tributes to Miss Elena Maud Cooke

Mana Christina Sato (Ome, Tokyo, Japan) 

Many female high school students here alter their uniform skirts into 'micro mini' skirts and the male students will wear their trousers about the hips, the so-called 'baggy pants'. Most of the time they have illegal, unauthorised accessories added to the uniforms, coloured shirts instead of white and always unbuttoned at the collar! Some will walk to school hand-in-hand. Every time I see them, my mind goes back to the great school I graduated from, and to the great headmistress that I am so fortunate to have. We were disciplined, we were taught to OBEY rules, like it or not! Miss Cooke was strict but she was NEVER wrong. Yes, Japan needs a headmistress like Miss Cooke. RIP Miss Cooke!

Wen-Li Chan, Class of 1994 (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

I have never known Miss Cooke (I was born in the year she retired as headmistress!) nor met her personally except for the brief encounter during Back2BBGS at Pavilion in 2009 (where, incidentally, I realised that singing the school song with a choir on stage in front of 700+ ex-BBGSians is a deeply moving experience like no other), but she feels nonetheless a part of my years with BBGS as if she was there herself amongst the dedicated teachers who made me who I am today.

I've always felt that one of the strengths of BBGS as an institution is how the legacies of the great women who have shaped the school are handed down to generations of students, almost intangibly - looking back, this is ...an amazing feat given that every student cohort has a different personality and a different voice, and teachers also come and go through the years - there is an almost surreal way in how a sense of tradition and solidarity is instilled in all of us. 


Jaclyn Chin Yoke Lan, Class of 1975 (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
While waiting for my Form Five result, I had a chance to earn some monies by assisting Miss Chua in the school office. My last task of the day was to ring the school bell for the afternoon session.

At times, Miss Cooke would come in the evening to check or work in the office. Being a shy and quiet person, I dreaded having her around the office.

She noted my fear and asked me: “Why are you afraid of me? We are colleagues now.” For a while, I was taken aback. How could she possibly know what I was thinking? Well, this was Miss Cooke.

One evening, she stormed into her office with two girls and she told me via the intercom to bring her the cane.  I was trembling and shivering. I brought the cane to her and got out of her office as fast as I could! Luckily it was time to go home. I rang the school bell, took my bag and ran for dear life.

Miss Cooke might be strict to her students but she brought up BBGSians to be good and loyal citizens—true to our school song. As far as I can remember, Miss Cooke’s name was synonymous with strict discipline in school.

When we were in Standard Six, we were warned to watch out for Miss Cooke when we get to secondary school. Luckily for us, we hardly got to see Miss Cooke when we were in Form 1 and Form 2. We only saw her during school assemblies on Monday and choral speaking auditions.

However, Miss Cooke became our Bible Knowledge teacher in Form5. Before her lessons, the class would be very quiet—we would be frantically memorising the book of Luke.

The minute Miss Cooke stepped into the class, we would all be looking down.  She wasted no time and would just click her fingers and point at any of us.

We had to answer her questions right away We were so afraid that we couldn’t even utter the words although we knew the answers. This was how much we feared Miss Cooke. Anyway, thanks to her, I scored the best marks in this subject for my SPM exam.

Even though our school no longer exists and Miss Cooke is no longer with us, BBGS will live on forever. BBGSians must stay united to continue her legacy.  After all, Miss Cooke is BBGS and BBGS is Miss Cooke.


Mei  Leng Chew, Class of 1976 (Melbourne, Australia)

My first personal encounter with Miss Cooke in her office was not something that I planned for nor anticipated.  One Monday morning when I was in Form 3 (1974), a fellow member of the Gang of Four (yes, I am a member of the famous Gang of Four, immortalised in the history of the school) came into my class and said to my Form teacher that Miss Cooke wanted to see me in her office.

Until that day, I have stayed clear of her radar. With fear and trepidation I made my way up to her office, not knowing what she wanted from me. It was only when I was standing right in front of her that I realised the truth!  I cannot remember what was said by her nor what my response was (from all the trembling and fear!) but I remembered clearly the event that drew her attention to me. (It’s not important now, so the event will not be repeated here.)

Needless to say, I was not happy with that encounter, but Miss Cooke in her wisdom and patience won me over, slowly but surely. That one encounter led to an open door policy for me through the rest of my years at BBGS (Form Five 1976).

I would happily go to her office whenever I wanted to... just to talk to her and confide in her.  And I have to say I managed to get from Miss Cooke many a blessing for outside school gatherings where others have failed.  By the time I left school, that fearful initial encounter was replaced with a fond affection for her, and a great respect.  

Through her I have learned to be a better communicator, to learn to treat others with respect and to uphold a strong integrity in all that I do.
Rest in peace, Miss Cooke.  

Thank you for giving me your time-through you I went from being a timid mouse to a confident person today, and indeed a loyal woman not only of my race but of my alma mater, BBGS.


Ida Mok, Class of 1988 (Queensland, Australia)

My close encounter with Ms Cooke was memorable. She caught me when I was letting the air out of her car tyres. As a “punishment” I was tasked to run her chores of which includes walking with her when she does her Bible Knowledge rounds. Thus formed a relationship that would have a lasting impact on my life.

I was not a top student from the Sc 5’s, 4’s or Arts 4. In fact, my results are usually littered with a myriad of blues and reds and as such many teachers do not really pay much attention to me or to my future. I love to read and secretly, I love to write except that my writing skills were not very much lauded or highly looked upon. I was not impressive, not colourful and all in all; not an important student.

Ms. Cooke looked beyond all these; was very interested in the types of books that I was reading, constantly engaging me in a dialogue about what I read and wrote. I found her profoundly interesting, down to earth although I was terrified of her (and she knew it!).

I will always remember her confronting my father and telling him that I must go for an overseas education, as it is there I will flourish and she was absolutely right! To the shock of many, the unimpressive and unimportant student became a barrister and practiced as a barrister in the UK for a few years before making the move to Australia.

I will always remember her saying to me, “Girl, how big is your world?”, something which, I now pass on to my sons.



Mimi Wong, Class of 1979 (Ipoh, Malaysia)

Tribute to Ms Cooke, my beloved Headmistress

Pony Tails (2 not 1)
Plaits when hair touches the collar
Black or white ribbons only
Knee-length skirt (not more than 2 inches above the knees)
Short and clean finger nails
Spot checks of bags
Folk dancing
Choral Speaking
Speech Day
Food sale
Prefects' Campaign
Weekly Flower Arrangement
Raffia strings
Broom and dustpan
Chalk and duster
Toilet duty
CU Camp

The above list may be mere words to some but to us from BBGS, these are the things that mould our character to be the women we are today. Together with the lyrics of our school song, which we sang during our weekly assembly, our values were formed and have been tried and tested through the years.

Thank you Ms Cooke for implementing all these disciplines although we may have resented them at that time. I remember so clearly the sound of your shoes coming through the corridor and how we pretended to be doing our work in complete silence. We could even hear a pin drop. How I wish my children could go to schools with Principals that could emulate Ms Cooke.

Ms Cooke has fought the good fight, she has finished the race. She is now with her Maker, her Heavenly Father. Many of us have been touched by her in our lives and in our values. Good bye Ms Cooke. We love you and miss you but we shall meet with you again, one day

Chan Wai Heng, Class of 1976 (Melbourne, Australia)

MUST VIEW --A video tribute from a grateful BBGSian in Melbourne, whose life was turned around because of this great lady, Miss Elena M Cooke...

Yoke-Ying Chin (Singapore)

I was born too late to be in BBGS while she was the headmistress, but a couple of my sisters were, and one of them, my eldest sister, will faithfully have tea with her whenever she is back from the UK. I used to wonder out loud to my sister, why would Ms Cooke have time for you? I did, however, have the privilege of personal encounters with her after I left BBGS and was still attending JIC. That was when I was 'old' enough - as in not turn and walk the other way out of fear of having to talk to her and say all the wrong things - to approach Ms Cooke after morning service at JIC to stop by and say hello or greet her, she would always ask after my eldest sister. Amazing memory, she had.

My earlier memory of Ms Cooke was being taught Bible Knowledge by her in BBGS; one of those before school hours classes or was it after school hours? I can't remember which year I was in. Sigh! I remember, huh! Ms Cooke is taking our class for Bible Knowledge and how I tremble in anticipation of that first lesson. It passed in a blur. But I do recall being so in awe of her and not a little terrified - I must be very young then :) - and she would point to any one of us and go, 'You recite such and such a passage', and you would have to get up and recite it all from memory. So terrified I was to get it wrong, not that she would have an unkind word to say when you get things wrong, but the eagerness of wanting to get it right so she can be proud of me, and not call on me the next time.

I remember distinctly she used to tell the class, during her lessons with us, stories about what she and her sister would get up to behind her father's back. I was so fascinated by her stories and I remember thinking and being a little cheered by the thought, 'Wow, she is human too'.

Which of us, BBGSians, will ever forget the click-clock of those heels down the pristine corridors of BBGS? I always had a smile on my face years later after I left school and Malaysia and was walking down similar looking corridors, all white and with thick columns, of the old Supreme Court in Singapore. The sound of my heels brings me back to those school days of Ms Cooke walking down our school corridors to the flurry of activities in each and every classroom lined along that particular corridor; the sudden rush to straighten a picture frame or a desk, the last minute dash to remove some unseen dust of the blackboard AND the hush - that hush that only the sounds of her heels could command. I remember how we dusted and how we straightening any and every movable object in sight before she appears at our Bible Knowledge classes, and the classroom was not even ours!

As I grew 'older' I was less terrified of her but my respect for her grew, especially when stories of how she has helped this student and that student selflessly get told and retold. And yes, that mantra, which she personified throughout her amazing life, 'Whatever your hands find to do, do it well', etched forever in our memories and hearts.

Thank you, dear Ms Cooke, for lovingly and tirelessly toiling for us all in BBGS, even years after you left BBGS, and in JIC. You now have rest from your toil and I believe you would have heard those well-earned words from our Lord, 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant'. Till we meet again...


Amreeta Kaur, Class of 1979 (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
Dearest Ms Cooke, you moulded us to be achievers, you were stern but underneath that tough exterior you were soft and loving to all your students. I remember when i was in form 2 and my sister was in form 5 (1976) when she was diagnosed with cancer, it was Ms Cooke who held a special prayer session during assembly to pray for my.sister`s health. My sister, Aneeta recovered and fought the cancer, but after 20 years she succumbed to the cancer and passed away in 1997. Ms Cooke, i will always remember yr kind words of encouragement to my parents. Ms Cooke, RIP.- 


Ras Adiba Radzi, Class of 1985 (Malaysia)
Today we bade farewell to Miss Cooke,and it was as if she brought along with her,bits and pieces of our lives-her family,her children,her friends,her students. Our last gift for her was singing the BBGS song. We stood tall & united,our beautiful voices filled the air,just like the good old days. We sang with love but pain in our hearts,as tears rained down our cheeks. Adeiu Miss Cooke, we will always have you in our hearts and in our everyday. Go shine the heavens now...


Roberta Wong, Class of 1977 (Malaysia) 
Proud to be a BBGSian! 
Like I said, Ms. Cooke has left a wonderful legacy,to Malaysia and the world (BBGSians are all scattered all over the world, wonderful isn't it?) ... her teachings and her influence lives on in all BBsians who pass through the doors of BBGS through the decades.

They are the great granmas, granmas and mums and daughters of today who in turn guide the younger generation on how to be upright, decent and honourable....traits which everyone should be proud to have. 

Do not mourn her passing, instead celebrate her life as she has given us much to celebrate!


Lim Mung San (Malaysia) 
My personal memory of Miss Cooke:

My classmates and I had the privilege to experience her leadership for only a year, and my everlasting memory of her was this incident:

One day, we were creating havoc in class because - oh Glory! - no teacher was in sight! Suddenly that dreaded click-clock sound from her court shoes was heard down the corridor. And suddenly there she was, at the door of the classroom, with arms akimbo, brows furrowed, and she cried disapprovingly in the best British accent ever, "Why, the auDACity of it ALL!"

Instead of being terrified (which I was for two seconds), I became instantly fascinated by that wonderful new word which I had not heard before : AUDACITY! 

These days I get a kick mimicking that cry with that accent and stresses on just the right syllable a la Ms Cooke whenever my friends get overly snarky with me, "WHY, the auDACity of it ALL!" And my pals become equally fascinated by that word which people seldom use in this part of the world! :-D

Irene Siew Yoke Har, Class of 1975 (Malaysia) 

would like to thank Ms.Cooke so much for helping to instill so many precious life's values in my life. Looking back the years in BBGS, all the activities we do in our school, with our class and school mates, our teachers, and our dear Ms. Cooke, had helped to guide how I live my life.

In BBGS, I loved doing and going to the numerous food sales to help raise the school building fund. The thought of making money for the school building fund was not the priority.

The joy of tasting delicious cooking like the coconut candy, cookies, kuih, chicken porridge, fried noodles, jellies, chicken curry from so many home cooks provided the added incentives to go to school even though when there was a dragged test to come.

Through the food sales activities, we learn to teamwork, recruit, plan, organize, budget, manage, negotiate ( buy 2 free 1), package, present, compete, market, and practically got a real-life degree in business administration without realizing it.

And of course, most of us are great cooks. Our reward those days were beating the next class in raising more money, but the highlight was the bright smile from Ms. Cooke saying well done !

Ms. Cooke was my discipline model. During our form six, when we were young and hot blooded women, some of us were not happy with the choice of school captain, even though it was through voting.

When we confronted our teacher and Ms. Cooke, we got the lashings of our lives. She told us that when it is time to choose, we choose but when a final decision is made after much considerations, we should abide and be loyal to help the chosen person to perform her duties, even though it is against our personal dislike. This had help me to disciplined myself to stay on projects or jobs even though I may have some personal dislikes towards team members.

Being a BBGSian, we had toilet duties during break times to clean toilets. We had duties to arrange our class tables and chairs in neat lines using a long string, ensuring 90 and 180 degrees angles from all sides.

We take turns to bring fresh flowers and arranged them to freshened our classroom. We learn to be competitive because we have competitions in toilet cleanliness, class room arrangement, flower arrangement.

We learn to celebrate our success when we were announced during school assembly that we won the competition. Our prefects will checked our nails, hairs, shoes and skirt length, punctuality.

If we failed the standard of perfection, our prefects will do their duty of punishing us. Sometimes, Ms. Cooke will even give free hair cuts for those deserving students. For all these, I learn to appreciate clean toilets, well arranged rooms, fresh and sweet smelling flower, clean nails, neatly combed hair, clean shoes and punctuality.

I remembered prior to our HSC exam, Ms. Cooke came and advice us one day that when we think we are doing our best, the best is not enough. We have to do our VERY BEST. It is with these words that I often push myself to do my very best in all my endeavors, especially when I failed the first time around.

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