By Bob Harris
In Queens, Harbachan Singh is a well-known civic activist from Community Board 8, the Saul Weprin Democratic Club, the Queens Civic Congress and the Holocaust Center at Queensborough Community College, but his wife Susil H. Singh was an active civil and community servant in her own right.
Many times she came with Harbachan to civic events, but her quiet dignity hid the worldwide and local activities she was involved with. Sadly, she died Thanksgiving Day after a brief illness.
The funeral was held at the Sikh temple in Glen Cove, L.I. Her husband, a former senior U.N. official, read his own deeply touching poetry in Punjabi and English. A number of federal, city and state officials sent condolences. Her children and grandchildren paid tribute to her devotion to the protection of life and the environment.
Susil Kaur, 74, was the eldest daughter of Sikhs in Malaysia who came from Punjab, India. Her father was a parliamentary draftsman in the attorney general’s chambers. She joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Malaysia, served at the Association of the South East Nations Conference in Kuala Lumpur and was subsequently posted to the Malaysian embassy in London, where she met Queen Elizabeth II in Buckingham Palace during a reception.
Harbachan was an administer and interpreter for the police department in Malaysia and followed her to London when she was posted there. He studied law in London and married her at that time.
The couple immigrated to the United States and became citizens. Susil worked as the personal assistant for the permanent representative of Malaysia to the United Nations and later in 2003 as an assistant director of the World Environment Center in New York, in which she was a director of programs in many parts of the world.
She checked on various corporations to determine if they should get awards for good environmental practices. She then worked as director of the Center for the Women of New York. This group started with an office in Queens Borough Hall, a building in Fort Totten. This organization works to help women obtain jobs, solve problems and succeed in the workforce.
Susil was always passionately dedicated to serving others. For her ongoing charitable work she received many awards, including one from the U.N. Secretary General U Thant for the job she did for the World Youth Assembly. She was also the recipient of the World Environment Center Award in recognition of her distinguished work.
She lived in Briarwood and left behind her loving husband, three married children and seven grandchildren. The Susil H. Singh Memorial Fund has been established in her memory at Cornell Cardiology-New York Presbyterian Hospital. For more information, call 917-826-1725.
GOOD NEWS OF THE WEEK: A tourist quietly snapped a photo of Police Officer Larry DePrimo giving a pair of boots to an elderly homeless man standing in Times Square. The officer saw the man on a cold November night and decided to buy him the boots from a nearby store.
The picture was posted on the Internet and has gone worldwide. A nice gesture in this holiday season.
BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK: The Rockaways were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. Sand, mold and dried material are everywhere. People are cleaning up with shovels and brooms. Dust is in the air. People are coughing, which is now called the “Rockaway Cough.”
Should the workers be given heavy-duty breathing masks? Families and children are coming back and breathing in this dust. Is the air safe to breathe? Are we going to have respiratory illnesses like those caused by the polluted air after Sept. 11, 2001?