Late Singaporean couple leave $6 million to NKF, SPCA and Assisi Hospice

Gabriel Choo
Jo and Gerry Essery left behind $6 million to three charities: the Assisi Hospice, National Kidney Foundation and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. (PHOTO: National Kidney Foundation)

Jo and Gerry Essery always had a heart for animals and people, especially the sick and needy.

When they passed on, they left behind $6 million to be distributed equally to three charity groups in Singapore, namely the Assisi Hospice, National Kidney Foundation (NKF) and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

Details of the couple’s donation were shared at a joint press conference held by the NKF and SPCA at the NKF Centre in Kim Keat Road on Thursday (29 June).

‘Nice, low-key couple’

Dr Tan Hwa Luck, a close friend of the Esserys for more than 30 years, attended the event and described the pair as “nice and low-key people”, adding that their “choice of funds” reflected “where their hearts were”.

“They earned their fortune from society, so they believe that they should give back to the society especially those who are in need, to make the future of the world a better one”, said Tan, who is also the executor of the couple’s estate.

Jo was born in Singapore while Gerry was born in Britain. Jo left for South Africa at the start of the World War II, where she met Gerry who was there with his family.

They got married in 1945 when they were still in their late teens and moved to Australia in the 1950s, although Jo did not enjoy living there. Subsequently, they became Singapore citizens in the 1970s and continued to live here since then.

Jo and Gerry, who have no children, died in 2013 and 2015 respectively, at the ages of 89 and 92.

(From left) NKF Chairman Koh Poh Tiong, Dr Tan Hwa Luck, the executor of the Essery estate, and Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob at Thursday’s (29 June) press conference at the NKF Centre. (PHOTO: Gabriel Choo/ Yahoo Newsroom)

Charities touched by couple’s generosity

NKF will be using its share of the money – $2 million – to build a new dialysis centre in Marsiling, which will feature 22 dialysis stations and serve up to 132 kidney patients who live or work in the area. Construction will begin in October and the centre is expected to start operations in April 2018.

With Singapore seeing one new case of kidney failure every five hours, NKF chairman Koh Poh Tiong said the donation was timely and crucial. “Their heartfelt legacy will go a long way in our mission of ensuring that no needy kidney patient will die because of having no access to dialysis”, he added.

Echoing this sentiment, MP for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC and Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob also expressed her gratitude for the donation. “We are most thankful to Jo and Gerry for their long-lasting and meaningful gift that will be a sanctuary for many poor and needy kidney patients for many generations to come,” she said.

SPCA has used $300,000 of its amount received on its new building fund and for sponsorship of an open-air education pavilion, which has been named the “Essery Education Pavilion” in honour of the couple. The remaining money will be used for upgrading and maintenance works of the SPCA Animal Welfare Centre in Sungei Tengah.

Dr Jaipal Singh Gill, the SPCA’s executive director, added that the couple’s gift is the largest donation the SPCA has received in recent years.

Assisi Hospice will use its share of the money to help its needy patients. Its renamed “Essery Hall” will also be utilised for various activities such as staff clinical training, tasks and seminars.

“The majority of our patients are from low-income families with issues not just relating to their health and finances,” said the hospice’s chief executive officer Choo Shiu Ling.

She added that the hospice is “deeply grateful for Jo and Gerry Essery’s generous donation of $2 million” and that they will continue the wishes of the Esserys in creating a better future for its patients.

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