Malaysian-born former international badminton player and coach, Benny Khaw has passed away at 85 years old due to Covid-19 at the Kingston Hospital, after marrying his partner of 25 years, Julia Cox, 66, NST reported.
Their wedding was held at the same hospital he was warded in, attended by his stepdaughters, Eleanor Cox, 34 and Emma Perham, 38 as witnesses. They were married by Reverend Susan van Beveren.
Originally from Penang, Benny or Khaw Beng Eam represented Malaysia in the Thomas Cup once. He came to England in 1962 to study at the University of London and worked at the Customs Department. But for the most part of his life, he coached the game he loved.
Benny was rushed to Kingston Hospital on 2 January and tested positive for Covid-19. His condition worsen and he passed away on 17 January – nine days after their marriage. Julia, who works at the hospital was not infected by the virus since she got vaccinated earlier.
“Mum and Benny had talked about getting married but they never got round to it. When he went into the hospital, we thought he would be in for only a couple of days. Eventually, my mother said she would like to get married.
“The thought dawned on us whether Benny would actually come home. So mum and Benny discussed it,” said Eleanor, who was coached by Benny since she was nine and went to become England’s national player.
The strict regulation during the lockdown in the UK meant that marriage ceremonies are only allowed under exceptional circumstances; if one of the persons getting married is seriously ill and not expected to recover, or is to undergo debilitating treatment or life-changing surgery.
Adhering to the strict UK lockdown regulation, the health workers at Kingston Hospital turned the discharge room into a wedding ceremony in 24 hours, with white balloons and a wedding cake. Benny was wheeled in while holding his bride’s hands. He repeated the vows and could still sign the certificate.
Liz Raderect, the person in charge of Kingston Hospital’s Acute Assessment Unit (where the wedding took place), reportedly said that it was an honour to plan and put together the special celebration for Benny and Julia. “It lifted the whole team to be able to do something like this, in what has been a challenging time for everyone,” she said.
Benny and Julia met when she took her daughters for badminton lessons at Wimbledon Club, 25 years ago.
“He and my mother were inseparable. Benny said it was fate when my mother walked into the badminton club with us that day, because his life totally changed. He must have been nearly 60,” said Eleanor, who trained at Misbun Sidek’s training centre when they were on holiday in Malaysia.
“Badminton was Benny’s life. Everything that came into his life was because of badminton,” she noted.