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Guided by his faith


Dr Martin Koo: Born December 5 1939 Died October 3 2023

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Martin Koo was born in Sitiawan in Perak, Malaysia, the seventh of 14 children, and the third oldest boy.

He moved to Adelaide from Singapore in 1969 to take up a position as an anaesthetic registrar, training at the RAH, QEH, Modbury and Children’s hospitals. Wife Philomena followed later with their daughters Grace and Elaine, with daughter Lisa born in Australia.

After completing his training Martin became a Fellow of the Faculty of Anaesthetists, Royal College of Surgeons, and in 1974 began as a consultant at the RAH. He worked there until 1997 and over the years gained a reputation for being lively at work, highly skilled and was respected by his colleagues. He also was known for being fast – fast in his work and fast in eating his lunch!

With their daughters independent, Martin and Philomena left Adelaide for rural Australia. Martin practised anaesthesia first at Port Pirie (1998-2001), then Warrnambool, Victoria (2001-2008) after which he retired.

Philomena was happy to follow him across Australia, as long as she had a sewing machine and they continued ballroom dancing. She recalled how when it came to dancing, Martin ‘couldn’t put a foot wrong’. They attended ballroom dancing at Chandelier in Collinswood for many years and were also longtime members of the Osborne Over 50s Club and the Thursday morning ‘Come Dancing Club’.

Another of Martin’s great loves was fishing. On one occasion he attended a conference in Townsville, managing to fit in some fishing in his spare time.

He caught so many Barramundi that he couldn’t find an esky big enough to hold them all, so decided to throw out all his clothes, wrapped his frozen fish in newspaper and packed them into his suitcase.

When he arrived in Adelaide he discovered that his suitcase had been mistakenly loaded onto a later flight. The airport staff told him to return the next day to collect it, but he insisted on waiting for his precious cargo!

Martin and Philomena’s strong Catholic faith underpinned their marriage and family life. They were active parishioners of St Matthew’s Church in the Walkerville parish before going to Port Pirie and after returning from Warrnambool they attended Our Lady of Dolours Church, Kingswood.

In 1981 Martin supported Philomena and Phyllis Lim when they decided to create the Chinese Catholic Community (CCC) and was very active behind the scenes. When he and Philomena returned from Warrnambool he became involved in the committee as secretary, with the couple attending Migrant and Refugee meetings and other events representing the CCC. Martin also took charge of organising the shared lunch held after the community’s monthly Sunday Mass.

Martin and Philomena were invested in the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem in 2010, always attending events of the Order.

During a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with Philomena, Martin’s medical training came to the fore as he assisted a fellow Knight who had fallen and broken his leg. According to reports, Martin sprang into action, starting an intravenous line and administering saline to the patient.

At his funeral Mass at Kingswood on November 4, Martin was remembered as being a gentle, kind and humble man, someone who was a good listener, and showed his love in actions. His daughters spoke fondly of his guidance and Christian faith that had provided the strong foundation for their own lives.

Taken from the eulogies given by his daughters Grace, Elaine and Lisa, and wife Philomena.


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