SINGAPORE: They lived all over the world, in Britain, South Africa and Australia, but it was Singapore that the couple finally decided to make their home.
And when both of them died in old age, Jo and Gerry Essery left a generous S$6 million legacy to be divided equally between three charities here: Assisi Hospice, National Kidney Foundation (NKF) and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).
According to Dr Tan Hwa Luck, the executor of the couple's estate and a close friend of more than 30 years, Mrs Essery was 89 years old when she passed away in 2013, while Mr Essery was 92 when he died in 2015.
In a joint press release, the charities expressed gratitude towards the couple for the posthumous gift.
Assisi Hospice’s CEO Choo Shiu Ling said the donation will help the hospice provide assistance to needy patients.
"(The) majority of our patients are from low-income families with issues not just relating to their health and finances, but also social challenges that may compromise well-being of their family members," Ms Choo said.
She added that the hospice has named a hall used for staff clinical training, talks and seminars Essery Hall in appreciation of the couple's generosity.
NKF chairman Koh Poh Tiong said that with one new case of kidney failure every five hours, the donation was "timely and crucial" and came as a "welcome relief".
“We are touched and grateful to Jo and Gerry for their generosity, love and benevolence. Their S$2 million heartfelt legacy will go a long way in our mission of ensuring that no needy kidney patient will die because of no access to dialysis," Mr Koh said.
The money will go towards building a dialysis centre in Marsiling, set to start construction in October and begin operating in April next year. It will have 22 dialysis stations which will benefit 132 kidney patients living or working in the north-west of Singapore.
Madam Halimah Yacob, the Member of Parliament for Marsiling-Yew Tee, said Mr and Mrs Essery's "long-lasting and meaningful gift" will be "a sanctuary for many poor and needy kidney patients for many generations to come".
Meanwhile, the SPCA said it has already used S$300,000 from the donation for its new building fund and for sponsorship of an open-air education pavilion, named Essery Education Pavilion, which hosts activities such as education talks and dog training sessions.
The remaining money will go towards the upgrading and maintenance of the SPCA Animal Welfare Centre in Sungei Tengah, as well as to improve animal welfare services, the SPCA said.
"A LOVING COUPLE"
Mrs Essery was born in Singapore and lived here until the start of World War II, when she left for South Africa.
Mr Essery, on the other hand, was born in Britain and came to Singapore in 1931, as his father was working as an engineer here. When the Japanese invaded Singapore, his father sent him to Australia. A few months later, he travelled to South Africa where he was reunited with his family.
It was also there that he met Mrs Essery. They got married in South Africa in 1945, when they were about 18 or 19 years old.
The couple moved to Australia in the 1950s, but decided to make Singapore their home after Mr Essery got a job in a glass production company here.
For more than four years in the 1970s, Mrs Essery was on the management committee of the SPCA.
She was affectionately called "Mrs E" by the charity's staff and helped foster many kittens and puppies over the years, also taking sick animals home to nurse them back to health, the animal welfare group said.
"When not busy helping around the shelter or office, she would be out with SPCA officers assisting with cruelty cases," it added.
Dr Tan described Mr and Mrs Essery as a loving couple. "They started with very little but they worked hard and learned how to live a simple life, which continued as a way of life for them till their old age. They were generous and very involved in helping others, hence I am not surprised that they donated their money for good causes.”