January 4, 2010

Farewell to Lorraine Gribbens : Beloved and Amazing Pharmacist of Christ Hospital

I received two emails from far away telling me about Lorraine's passing. She has been one of the most amazing people in my life in Sarawak.

In times like this one has to share some stories with a friend and one could not be just alone with the memories - I am lucky to have a friend to share with. I drove to see Flor. And I believe she needed someone to talk to also.

Flor was the Kapit Methodist Girls' Hostel Matron from 1960 to 1972. She is originally from the Philippines and has been married to Eddy Woodford since 1965.

Lorraine was Flor's bridesmaid in December 1965.  Lorraine and the other bridesmaids wore beautiful blue gowns while the bride and groom were in Filipino national costumes. The Kapit Methodist Chinese Church had never seen such an international wedding before.

Flor was sad to know of Lorraine's passing (she has heard from all her friends already by phone).To her Lorraine was " a helping angel and a good and dependable friend in the last 50 years!" . Lorraine visited Miri when she last came to see Sarawak and her friends and there was a gathering in her honour. The coloured photos have become faded but good memories have lasted.

The Miss Lorraine we knew in 1964
Her recent photo.

Lorraine E. Gribbens : Passed away on 30th Dec. 2009

"Miss Lorraine" as we called her when she was working in Christ Hospital Kapit was well loved by all who worked with her and by those who knew her. She was a "mother" to many children whom she supported . And even after she left for the US she continued to send them money regularly. Her heart was for the Kayans and Iban children.

She was a very cheerful soul and a great motivator. I was thoroughly mesmerized by her when she took us to the Youth Camp in Rumah Giman in Ulu Sarikei. Smaller then all of us in physique she out walked us up the hills and down the vales. Peter Lau (KTS) carried a suitcase and many loaves of bread braved the rain and was almost running behind her. We trailed slowly far behind.

It was God who brought her to Kapit by default. Perhaps the word "default" was not commonly used then. She herself did not know that she would be posted to Sarawak. She allowed God to send her according to her purpose.

Lorraine was born on Chicago’s South side to Emma and Lee Earl Gribbens. Her mother died of cancer when Lorraine was only eight years old, and her father of heart problems nine months later. The uncle who was to adopt her died six months later before he could do so. Cared for by various relatives, she moved from place to place. She attended five grammar schools, including one in California, from which she graduated, and Lake View High School in Chicago.

Her first job was in 1938 as a proof- reader for $8.00 a week, a job she had for five years. Lorraine then found another job in a war manufacturing plant. By working nights and going back to high school during the day – an "older woman" among teenagers! -- she picked up some science and math courses she had missed.

God had plans for her! When the war ended, the plant closed. An acquaintance, whom she has not seen since that time, mentioned that the University of Illinois at Chicago needed laboratory workers – and the direction of her life was altered forever. She served as a lab assistant in the blood bank and studied at the same time. Later she enrolled as full time student of pharmacy. In 1953 she received a B.S. in Pharmacy.

The Dean of the College hired her as a Research Associate preparing allergenic extracts for skin testing in the Pharmacy Department at the University. Lorraine loved her work, but felt God was pushing her to do something else with her profession.

Inspired to work in the mission field in 1958 she was on her way to Sarawak, Borneo, as pharmacist at Christ Hospital, working primarily the Ibans. For several months she studied the Iban and Mandarin languages.

She planned for three years in Sarawak but she stayed 18 years perhaps the longest any American missionary had stayed since the Hoovers. She had asked"But how could anyone leave with so much to do, and so much need?"

While on her first leave in 1964, Lorraine was commissioned as a missionary, and also began work toward a Master’s degree in Christian Education at Scarritt College in Nashville. During her years in Sarawak, the Methodist Church built a modern hospital, and developed a Community Health and Motivation Program (CHEMPRO), a key factor in giving immunizations, doing public health teaching and helping prevent communicable diseases. The hospital is now operated by the Malaysian government; CHEMPRO continues under the church.

After leaving Sarawak she did not retire. She went to work in Fiji and left only in 1978.In 1979 Lorraine went to Harlan, Kentucky as a staff pharmacist at the Harlan Appalachian Regional Hospital.After retiring in 1985, Lorraine again heard God’s call, and, with some reluctance at first, was on her way to start out once more in another country to learn another language. She went to serve as a volunteer in Hospital Lumiere in Haiti, at the very time the chief pharmacist developed cancer and had to return permanently to the United States. His successor soon left for the U.S. on leave. Lorraine took over from her, but when she was ready to leave Haiti, the man who was to replace her was killed in an automobile accident. Once again, her 2-year term became a 3 1/4 year term, but, as she says, "God knew when help would be needed, so there I was." The two pharmacies included one in the hospital and one in a clinic 25 miles away. Five different governments were in power during her service there.

Articles about and by Lorraine have been published in the Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association, the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, and in Christianity and Pharmacy. She was one of 13 pharmacists, and the only woman, whose autobiography appeared in the book Remarkable Pharmacists, published in 1973. It was interesting to note that one of the other pharmacists was Hubert H. Humphrey, obviously better known for some of his later pursuits!

After retiring (again!), Lorraine moved to Asheville, living first at Givens Estate, and now at Brooks-Howell. She was very active in Biltmore United Methodist Church, as well as in the local and district United Methodist Women. As part of the Blue Ridge Braillers, she also helped school children in North Carolina by transcribing Braille -- lessons, books and tests -- a skill she learned prior to going to Borneo in 1958. As amazing as her life story, was the large circle of friendships she  maintained  from every period of her life.

The missionaries who worked in Sarawak will miss her dearly. And so will many of the young Sarawakians whom she "trained and touched" while she was here.

May God bless her soul. She is definitely heaven bound.

Ref :http://www.gbgm-umc.org/brooks-howell-home/Gribbens.html

(Lorraine was also bridesmaid to Mrs. Lau Kuoh Ding )


Anonymous said...

James Jemut Masing - Jelaing Mersat - Catherine - tutom and Clara - Mary Giman - Juwing - there were all there in Kapit with Miss L and Miss Florentina.

Anonymous said...

Her legacy touches many, be the persons were within the Methodist Circles or not. Lorraine was so close to every body's heart, including to myself being a student at the Methodist Secondary School Kapit up till 1972.

I was invited by "Mummy (Flor)" to meet with her at Miri during Lorraine's last visit to Sarawak. Her fond memories will be indelibly written in every Kapitian's heart.

One of my memories that Lorraine was so close to the locals was about the healing of a patient. The patient kept on asking for medicine from Lorraine but Lorraine gave the person a tea instead. Miraculously the patient was healed, not by medicine but by her mere confidence on Lorraine Gribbens!

May the eternal light shine upon her and may GOD grant her wonderful soul to rest in peace!

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Anonymous

Thanks for mentioning all those names. In fact there are more names and the list is extremely long. God bless her soul.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Anonymous
Thank you for writing in such a warm manner. I truly believe in Lorraine's skill as a healer. My friend travelling with me in a long boat had a few fingers "smashed " when we collided with a rock. She prayed over the hand and put a bandage around the fingers and prayed over all of us. When we arrived at the destination my friend's fingers were only swollen. There were no broken bones and strangely my friend remained calm throughout even though she was screaming at the beginning!!

Lorraine was able to cheer us up all the time. And she also cheered us on like a cheer leader!!

May more stories come in and I can forward all of them to the other missionaries.


Sarawakiana@2 said...

Forwarded from JWong and I.Chong

She willed her body to a local university hospital for the study of Parkinson's Disease. A memorial service is planned for her in Ashville. The Crisologos were with her to the end since her cousins are far away in Chicago. Nina Fowler

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Readers

To the very last Miss Lorraine was the Christian that she always was - and willed her body (like Ed Temple) to a local university hospital for research.

Dr. Crisologo was one of the longest serving doctors in Christ Hospital and also the last to leave Kapit.

The Fowlers also served in Sibu Sarawak.

For additional information please call Miss Ida Mamora 084330614


Bengbeng said...

her life must have been an inspiration to all those who knew her

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Bengbeng
Thanks. She had been a true friend and a "mother" to so many in Sarawak!!

We will miss her.

Anonymous said...

Dot Crisologo called yesterday to let us know that the memorial service will be at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, 7th of Jan, local time at the church Lorraine attended when she was able to get to church, the Biltmore UMC in Asheville. Her beloved minister, Rev. Ashley will be there to preach at her memorial service. Lorraine was very fond of this lady minister. She has been appointed to another church up North but has agreed to be there for Lorraine's special service. According to Dot Crisologo, Glenda Cox Jevans will be there for the service. I cannot go. Thanks for your prayers and please remember to let the students formerly of Kapit who Lorraine helped a lot know about her demise. She has been a great help to so many people. Prayerfully, Nina

Anonymous said...

Thanks Sarawakiana@2,

Hearing names of the past indeed brings me to the good old days where my late father was one of the Methodist Lay Preachers operating and covering areas like Ng Meluan and Seputin Kapit.

Instantaneously I recalled names like Jalip Manurung, Mamora (Pengajar Tuai), Burr Baughman, Vincent Sutlive, Joshua Bunsu etc. Those names were closely remembered because they were not only friends but mentors of my father. Just as what you have responded to the first anonymous the list of names is long but it did help me to reminisce and rekindle my past where I was being brought up in a closely knitted missionary outfit. It was simple but memorable life because it was full of love and happiness.

Inevitably the news regarding the the demise of Lorraine Gribbbens and the rest is very sad to me because these special people were all part of my happy and eventful past.

Anonymous said...

Forwarded by Mr and Mrs. K.D. Lau

Dear Friends,

Last night Dot Crisologo called me and gave me the following information regarding the memorial service for Lorraine Gribbens:

· The service will be on Thursday, January 7, at 3:00 p.m. in the Biltmore United Methodist Church, located at:

376 Hendersonville Rd

Asheville, NC 28803

Telephone: 828-274-2379

· The church is located at the intersection of I-40 at Exit 50. From the East or the West, take Exit 50 and turn right and an immediate left onto Yorkshire Road. The church is on your left on the hill.

I regret that Swan Choo and I will not be able to attend the service, but we will certainly be with you all in love and spirit for our dear friend Lorraine.

Blessings and Peace to All,


Ernest Heard, ED.D

Director of Library Services

Belmont University

Nashville, TN 37212

615-460-6424 (Office)


Sarawakiana@2 said...

an excerpt from an email from Mrs. Lilyc Lau...I would like you dear friends to have this small window into Lorraine's work in Kapit at weekends...

In 1960 Lorraine and I travelled up-river in a Longboat with 2 or 3 older students (to pull the longboat over the rapids) to 3 Iban longhouses every other weekend to hold Sunday School classes and worship services. We would go to the furthest longhouse which was a Christian longhouse on Friday evening for Sunday School, and on Saturday morning we would have the worship service. after which we would go to another longhouse for Suday School and Worship service, then in the late afternoon on Saturday we would go to another longhouse and have Sunday School class and worship on Sunday morning. Then homeward bound on Sunday afternoon to get ready for work the next day. It was all by His grace for His kingdom work, honor and glory be to Him!

Just share what I still remember. Three years ago we went to visit her and took pictures with her. ( It was our very dear Rev. Mary Lou Gilbert who drove us there to attend a Senior Conference at Lake Junalaska, NC. )

Have a very Blessed New Year in the Lord our God!


Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hearing names from the past....Jalip Manurung....

Dear Anonymous....I am sure your father must have taught you well.

Yes Lorraine and all the other missionaries have helped lots of people in Kapit area. Nanga Mujong is one place I will remember well too where a vibrant agricultural station and a mission were set up. If it had gone right on with support from all corners I truly believe then and now it would have been one of the growth centres of Sarawak and a wonderful hinterland for Kapit.

The Manurungs and the Mamoras have given most of their lives to serve God and the people well. B.Baughtman left a legacy of Iban hymnals and lots of Iban language documents for posterity. So did many others.

It was a pity that Christ Hospital had to be handed over to the government. Timberland and Normah came more than 20 years later!!

But I am sure the Hands of God will continue to guide all of us ....Blessed be those who are meek and humble.

Ann said...

Did know her, but may be when I was admitted to the Kapit Hospital during our Gyspy Baron Musical trip in 1968, she may very well had prepared my medication.

Her CV reminds me of Miss Fries.

Ann said...

I mean didn't know her. ( As opposed to last comment did know her.)

Anonymous said...

Dear Sarawakiana@2,

Yes my father had.. with his simplicity and profound love. That's why I still feel the pain and I still miss him so much even after 9 years of his dead.

Ng. Mujong agricultural and missionary center.

Unfortunately Ng. Mujong has not seen much improvement or growth than anticipated. Now there is no more agricultural station. Dr Swing would have been very sad today to see what he aspired and started is now a futile. Surprisingly, though still in existence the Methodist Missionary activity is not going to any formidable direction either. This is manifested by that fact that most inhabitants of the area (especially those from the Mujong tributary) were either absorbed to RC or practised back their old belief. The noted difference now is the availability of tar-sealed road from Kapit to Ng. Mujong (the opposite river bank)and likely to Gaat and Upper Balleh.

Heartily, I wish to commend you that your facility and network do bring me kind favour. The names and details of all these wonderful people gradually emerge one by one. Ernest Heard was my former Hostel Master/Teacher.I managed to communicate with him by ordinary mails several years after he left Kapit. This was made possible by courtesy of Lorraine Gribbens who gave me his mailing address. However I lost touch with Ernest Heard after few mails.

Lastly I wish to thank you and also your contributor, Mr & Mrs KD Lau for the email and mailing address of Ernest Heard. Praise the Lord!

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Ann
Nice of you to remember the episode in Kapit when the Gypsy Baron travelled to perform there. I am sure she was there.

She was a dynamite! And so enthusiastic in her little frame. I only wished that she and the other teachers had stayed longer in Sarawak.

May God bless her soul.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Anonymous,
I am delighted to know that you can make use of E. Heard's address and how the article helps ou reconnect with the past.

If you happen to be in Miri may be we could all gather in Flor's home one day for a small thanksgiving/memorial for Lorraine and share stories and look at her old photos...

today in the Borneo Post YB D. S. Dr. James Masing commented on her demise.

Praise the Lord.

Sarawak Interventional Cardiologist said...

I forward this short essay by Dr Clarence Lei, urologist @ Normah Medical Specialist Centre, written in response to the Borneo Post news. This essay was sent to Dr Simon Wong Ching King and me.


I happened to read a news article published in the Borneo Post of Tuesday, 5 January 2010 regarding American Missionary, Lorraine Gribbens who passed away in Asheville, USA on 30 December 2009. She was born in Chicago and had a degree in Pharmacy in 1953. In 1958, she volunteered to work in a small remote hospital in the virgin jungles in the centre of Borneo. It is a place called Kapit in the State of Sarawak, Borneo. She worked there for 18 years and when I was posted to work in the same hospital in January 1983, the hospital was still named Christ Hospital. It was set up by the Methodist Church from USA and all the wards were still named after the apostles of Jesus. The Malaysian Government Ministry of Health has just taken over the hospital although the Methodist Church still runs Chempro, Community Health Motivation Programme.

The system of healthcare carried on by the Ministry of Health was still essentially the same except that it became “Malaysianised”. I remember that the staff nurses only collected a nominal fee when the patient was discharged. The hospital built simple facilities (mainly for safe cooking and hygiene) for the relatives to live around the hospital. The pictures of the apostles had since disappeared and there were no open prayers before we began any operation. I do often say a prayer and indeed I had to pray very hard during my first week. I had just done an emergency Caesarean section for a young lady and the uterus would not stop bleeding as she had an adherent placenta or placenta accreta. In desperation, I had to remove the placenta and the uterus to stop the bleeding; that was the first time I did such a major operation.

We stayed in simple houses provided near the hospital. They were plenty of fish in the nearby river and I could easily purchase them every evening from the fishermen for a dollar or two. The soil around my accommodation were fertile as I could easily plant all kinds of vegetables throughout the year. There were so many patients, especially sick babies and infectious diseases to take care of that I had little time to think of the loved ones that we left behind and going to Kapit alone.

After completing the compulsory service, I was then transferred back to the government hospitals in Kuching and Kuala Lumpur. I had never been back to Kapit since but I understand that the medical infrastructure has expanded and the fish have vanished from the nearby rivers.

By Dr Clarence Lei Chang Moh
8th January 2010

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Dr. T.
thanks for forwarding this essay. I am very touched. It is good to know all these details after "we" have left the Kapit Christ Hospital to the Government. Personally I was only hospitalised once in Kapit Christ Hospital and remembered the Chapel (for regular prayers and personal meditation). I was in a special sick bay even.

The whole hospital was very small then but it was beautiful as a good hospital should be and the nurses were like angels who were so kind and patient.

I am sure the missionaries would also be very grateful to read Dr. Lei's essay. Please tell him I shall forward photocopies to those who do not have emails too. I will try to forward by email to the others.

May God bless you and your good work.

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