MISSIONS: Missionaries to Sarawak 13 Eugene McGraw

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REV Eugene Oliver McGraw (1909-2009) was a multi talented missionary and educator who served all adult his life in Malaya and Sarawak, before and after the formation of Malaysia.

He was born in Falmouth, Indiana, USA, the oldest of four boys. He grew up in a farm in Harrisburg, Indiana. During high school years he built radios for fun and earned some pocket money. He graduated from the Earlham College and worked part-time there. He scored high marks in Physics and Bible Studies and won a scholarship to continue his education. In 1933, he graduated from Oberlin School of Theology. During this period he also studied German, Latin, Mandarin, Foochow Dialect and Malay in Southern California University. In 1956 when he returned from overseas to debrief he also took up industrial arts at the New York University. He was thus also good in wood carpentry.

He was appointed pastor of the Methodist Church in Mount Comfort, Indiana in 1935. Lacking of funds the church couldn’t pay him the very small salary that he had been promised, so after a year he left Mount Comfort and took a train to California and then a cargo ship to the Philippines, Indonesia, and Singapore and then the train up into Malaya where he became a Methodist missionary and teacher.

In 1937, Rev McGraw became the principal of the Methodist school in Sitiawan. He also served as the pastor of the Taiping Methodist Church. There he met his wife, Louise Leonard. They married in 1941. Shortly after they were married, they fled Sitiawan by ship because the Japanese army was invading. For six months as refugees, they fled to Indonesia and Australia with the Japanese army behind them. But they managed to see the sights of these places. While they were near Padang, on the South Coast of Sumatra, Japanese planes bombed their ship and McGraw escaped with some clothes and his camera.

After the war, on 15 June 1946, Rev McGraw travelled from Singapore to Sibu with Bishop Edwin F. Lee, Mrs Hoover and Dr Ding Lik Kiew, to discuss matters concerning the revival of the Sibu churches after the Japanese Occupation. The Bishop appointed McGraw as the Preacher in Sibu.

After the war, the Sarawak Methodist Church was divided into the North, Central and South Districts. Mc Graw served as the Superintendent of the Northern District. When he was in Sibu, he was instrumental in the building of the concrete Hoover House on Island Road. His knowledge of industrial arts and carpentry helped him bring about an awesome and historical building unseen before in Sibu. The McGraw family stayed there for four years.

In 1949, McGraw became the first principal of the Methodist Secondary School, Sibu. He was also a member of the Board of Directors. He was involved in the design works of the school buildings.

From 1952-1961, Rev McGraw served as the Principal of Methodist School in Sitiawan. He helped many students to obtain scholarships to study in England and also helped his alma mater, the Earlham College, to set up scholarships providing education opportunities for needy students.

He died on 9 July 2009, at the age of 100. He left behind a son, Paul and a daughter, Bonnie with 3 grandchildren and 2 great grand children. He also left behind many pages of letters that he had written to his parents.

Louise Leonard
(Mrs McGraw)
Louise Leonard McGraw (1915-2006) was born in Holbrook, Massachusetts, USA. She was the only child and her parents separated although they reunited many years later. She was a descendent of the Mayflower migrants.

Louise grew up with her mother and her maternal grandparents. When she was a few years old, the family moved to California, where she received her education. Louise graduated from a Teacher Training College in New Jersey and became an English teacher in the American Indian Reserve. In 1939, she was sent by the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society (WFMS) of the US Methodist Church to teach in Japan but was persuaded by her father to teach in Malaya, a British Colony. She arrived in Kuala Lumpur and suffered from dengue fever. Then she went to teach at Lady Treacher Girl’s School in Taiping. In 1941, she met and married Rev McGraw who was serving as a pastor of the Taiping Methodist Church. They were serving in Sitiawan when the Japanese invaded South East Asia.

After the Japanese Occupation, they were posted to Sibu. Later she followed her husband to serve in Malacca and Penang. They retired in 1971 and returned to USA.

On 22 November 2006, at the age of 91, she rested in the Lord.

Compiled by Menglei
Translated by Christina

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