PETALING JAYA, June 19 — La Salle Brother Felix James Donohue, 86, who died at the Assunta Hospital here yesterday after a long illness, was the last of the Irish component of a Roman Catholic teaching order that began setting up schools in Malaysia in 1852.
Most of the several hundred brothers who came to Malaysia and Singapore from that year on were Irish.
Felix’s death brings the Irish complement of that contingent, which was also composed of Canadians, French, Germans and central Europeans, to a close.
His passing means the order in Malaysia has seen the last member of its expatriate contingent.
The last but one member of the Irish contingent was Brother Vincent Corkery, who died at the age of 87, in Ipoh, on March 23 last year.
Felix first arrived in Penang in 1952, where he taught English and Literature at St Xavier’s Institution for six years, before returning to Ireland in 1958 to read for a Bachelors degree.
He returned to St Xavier in 1961 to teach the Sixth Form classes English, History and Economics.
From 1964, he was assigned to St Paul’s Institution in Seremban, where he was deputy principal until 1970 when he was elevated to headmaster.
After five years in St Paul’s, he was assigned to La Salle Petaling Jaya as principal where he served until his retirement in 1988.
His tenure in St Paul’s and La Salle PJ were, according to those who knew him, most satisfying.
His confrere, Brother Anthony Rogers, who knew Felix in St Xavier’s, said Felix was the first of the Irish Brothers to come to teach in Malaya before doing graduate studies.
Rogers’ ties to Felix extended from adolescence till both were residents at the La Salle Provincialate in PJ.
Following graduate studies in University of Malaya and a diploma in education stint at St Paul’s, when Felix was the principal in the mid-1970s, Rogers enjoyed close ties with Felix.
“He was the first of the La Salle Brothers to come to Malaya before graduate studies such that he gained experience in teaching and knowledge of the country and its people before undertaking tertiary studies and then returning to resume teaching,” said Rogers.
“His life was emblematic of the dedication of the Brothers to their lifelong mission as educators. He was dedicated to the ideal of an all-round education of the young and his encouragement of sport, especially of rugby at St Xavier’s and hockey at St Paul’s, was tremendous.”
Residing at the La Salle Provincialate after his retirement, Felix remained in contact with former students and kept in touch with developments as adviser of the board of governors of La Salle PJ.
Felix enjoyed good health until November 2014 when a fall he suffered in Singapore, where he had gone to attend and deliver an eulogy at a memorial for a contemporary confrere of his, Brother Kevin Byrne, resulted in long bouts of hospitalisation at Assunta Hospital.
He died at the hospital yesterday after a two-and-a-half month stay.
His wake will be held at the Paul Miki Room in St Francis Xavier’s Church in Jalan Gasing, PJ, at 8pm from today till Wednesday. The funeral will be held at the same church at 10am on Thursday.