Lucien Loh — proudly unafraid

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We have a most congenial tenant at Dakota House who knows how to turn lemons into lemonade, thanks to a keen sense of humour. Who knew he’d been a Manitoba French teacher for over 33 years and substituting for four more across the road at Collège Jeanne-Sauvé?

“Those that can, do; those that can’t, teach,” he says with a twinkle in his eye.

Lucien Loh was born in 1926 in Shanghai, China.

Photo by Anne Yanchyshyn

Lucien Loh is a 96-year-old retired Manitoba teacher who taught French classes until he was 84.

“Shall I write you’re Asian?” I enquired.

His unequivocal reply: “I feel Chinese, I look Chinese, so say I’m Chinese.”

“Then tell me about your French name,” I pressed…

Originally, his name was Tse-Ya in Mandarin, China’s official language. He studied grades 1 to 6 in a Chinese school district, where they used a Mandarin dialect, but he attended grades 7 to 12 in Shanghai’s French Concession district, hence his French name and fluency in French. His teachers were Roman Catholic missionaries from France.

China adopted communism in 1949. Lucien’s ease with Chinese, French and some English got him jobs as secretary and translator at the French Embassy and at an International French shipping company. Although married with a family of two, Lucien was transferred, alone, to a branch office in British Hong Kong in 1964.

Yet another international company offered Lucien twice his salary to assist setting up a manufacturing plant in French-speaking Cameroon in Africa. But he soon returned to Hong Kong with six-months back-pay, and his language skills got him employment as teacher and translator for Alliance Francais.

In 1967, Expo in Montreal, Canada, was hiring, and Lucien was accepted to run the Thai pavilion.

“They were looking for a Thai person but felt that I looked Thai enough,” he quipped. The bonus was a free pass to all pavilions.

A French/Chinese company then invited Loh to take a job in Winnipeg. His wife and children followed in 1975. After studying, his daughter became a Great-West Life employee, and their son and family settled in Calgary.

Lucien started teaching French on permit at Glenboro High School for one year, then earned three degrees at the University of Manitoba: bachelor’s degrees in pedagogy, arts, and education.

After 33 more years teaching French full-time at Ashern High, Lorette Collegiate and in North Kildonan, he retired at age 79 in 2005 , but continued substitute-teaching at Jeanne-Sauvé until 2011. Such stamina! He has time now for his favourite pastimes: “reading and learning.”

The Lohs moved to Dakota House in 2020. To their extreme sorrow, their daughter succumbed to cancer last year. They appreciate the empathy and friendliness of Manitobans, but Lucien also has a soft spot in his heart for French-speaking Montreal.

Anne Yanchyshyn

Anne Yanchyshyn
St. Vital community correspondent

Anne Yanchyshyn is a community correspondent for St. Vital.

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