Goodbye, Rudy Mosbergen

SINGAPORE - Talk hockey and Rudy Mosbergen's name always crops up.

He was a hockey Olympian, a national coach and the man behind so many school sport successes (Swiss Cottage and Raffles Junior College) when he was principal.

He (right) was also the principal of Naval Base Secondary, long after I left the school in 1963.

Each time I join alumni reunions, former students who respected him as principal in the mid-Seventies would sing the praises of a man of many talents.

Educator, sportsman and musician, Mosbergen died on Sunday, aged 85, after, what his family and friends described as "serving Singapore with a great innings".

Educated at St. Joseph's Institution (SJI) and later, the University of Malaya, he graduated with honours in history.

Former newspaper honcho Denis Tay, 74, said: "He taught me English at SJI at O levels in 1956. And I must say that he was one of the best teachers I had.

"He was easygoing, but behind the smile was a strict disciplinarian who cared for his students."

The founding principal of Raffles Junior College (1982-1987), Mosbergen played hockey for Singapore at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne.

His teammate at the Olympics, Ajit Singh, 87, said: "We were both fullbacks, and we had a good understanding.

"With Ronnie Barth, we were a formidable trio and I specialised in short corners.

"Rudy was a stalwart also for the Singapore Recreation Club (SRC)."

He coached the team before the Asian Games - German Horst Wein took over during the Games in 1970 - and one of his players, fullback Farouk Merican, said: "I never saw him play but, from what I understand, he was a wonderful fullback. He was a good coach and an absolute gentleman who conducted himself very well.

"If we had more men like him, things would work very differently in Singapore hockey. We've lost a very good man."

Mosbergen retired in 1989 at the age of 60, one year after rejoining his alma mater SJI as deputy principal.

He continued to be a strong advocate of the integration of Raffles Institution and the Junior College, which finally occurred in 2009.

Also a writer and a music lover, Mosbergen continued to impart his experience through his writing and songs even until a few years ago.

He published the book, In the Grip of a Crisis, in 2007, where he describes his experience as a teenager during the Japanese occupation.

He also served as a organist and choirmaster at several churches for 60 years, from 1942 to 2002.

I remember Mosbergen as a friend of the press. Whenever I had approached him during his coaching days for quotes, he was always obliging.

He once told me: "We need you as much as you need us."

Mosbergen leaves behind wife Rita and son Nigel (who played hockey for SRC) and two grandchildren.

This article was first published on Feb 25, 2015.
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