Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Bernard Leo, 1958-2005



My old buddy Bernard Leo departed this miserable world for a better one last night, succumbing to cancer after a bold and spirited fight. A gentle soul with hardly a mean bone in his body, Leo was the most devoted Led Zeppelin fan I've ever known, and tried to emulate his big hero John Bonham every time he sat at his drum kit at home.

He had his faults — he was as human as all of us, after all — but in many ways he was better than most of us, as he hardly ever raised his voice, never bore a grudge, and was as helpful as he could possibly be to anyone who sought his assistance.



We — Leo, Ajaya, Raja, Mathi and me — were firm friends during our teenage years, most of which we spent obsessing about music that ran the gamut from mainstream and quirky pop (Elton John, the Sparks, Loggins & Messina...) to blues and progressive rock (Led Zeppelin, Queen, Rory Gallagher, Jeff Beck, Rick Wakeman, ELP, Yes...).

We were an odd bunch, cycling and clowning around on modded bicycles and going on camping trips that turned out to be mirthful adventures.

Unlike the others, Leo was fairly even-tempered, which made him a natural moderator in petty quarrels that arose. He wasn't always successful in solving the mainly juvenile issues, but he was not one to be easily daunted or discouraged.

All of us were astounded when Leo joined the Police Force as a probationary inspector, but when he rose to the rank of Assistant Superintendent and carved out a niche as a no-nonsense prosecutor with many successful cases, we realised that he had found his true calling.



At the time of his passing, Leo had risen to the rank of Deputy Superintendent and was in charge of a Police Field Force contingent in Kota Kinabalu.

The last time I saw him — about six months ago — Leo seemed cheerful and hardly showed any trace of illness. Unsurprisingly, it was difficult to shut him up each time the conversation turned to Led Zeppelin.

It was a shock when more than three months ago we discovered that he was terminally ill. Not one to give up easily, Leo took treatment in his stride and was in a cheerful mood when I spoke to him more than two weeks ago.

I mentioned my idea of writing a book about the railway roots of our hometown, Prai, and he brightened up at the prospect, expressing keen interest in the project and remarking that he knew some old railway people in Kota Kinabalu who had worked in Prai.

Two days ago, a friend of his based in Parit Buntar called to tell me that Leo was in a bad way. A day later, Leo had gone "gentle into that good night".

We will all miss Leo, a kind soul we're all proud to have known and been good friends with.

Leo, we know you will be reunited with your long-lost dad and jamming with John Bonham in music heaven. Have the time of your life, mate!

7 Comments:

Blogger pinolobu said...

My wife is related to his wife. I went to his home at Kg Kambau, Penampang, Sabah last night for prayers and this morning at 11am to St Michael Church for the requiem mass.

side note: this is yet another demonstration of the power of the internet - somehow we're all linked in some ways - me to malaysia's greatest unknown musician.

3:59 PM  
Blogger Sean said...

Hello everyone, my name is Alexander Sean Leo…I am the son of Bernard Leo. Even though it has almost been a full year since my father has left us, my mum and I only recently found out about the wonderful song by ‘Archtop Soul’ called ‘Leo’s Song’. We had no idea that there would be an entire album dedicated to my dad. He being a good man and a greater father loved his music, and I know that he really would appreciate all the things his friends and his family had done for him throughout his life. My dad always use to tell me about the wild stories he and his childhood friends use to do when they were all still naughty little rascals.

My dad also told me that as he and his friends grew older, so did their intense passion for music. Even tough he and his childhood buddies lived far apart from each other, they always kept in touch with one another and their passion for music never faded away…Large collections of cd`s, albums, music documentary’s and music instruments became their hobbies.
I myself being a music enthusiast and also a new fan of the Archtop Soul, I love listening to their songs especially ‘Bored Dude Blues’, ‘Talk About’, ‘The Ride’ and of course ‘Leo’s Songs’.

My mum and I, we really appreciate all that you have done for my dad.
Once again, thank you and keep rockin Archtop Soul.
God Bless…

10:54 PM  
Blogger archtopsoul said...

Hi Sean. RS here. The CD is out. Give me an address and I'll send a few copies. Cheers and best wishes.

Song clips can be sampled HERE.

5:23 AM  
Blogger archtopsoul said...

RS is fine. Never really got used to being called uncle, even by my 10 nephews and nieces!

Will send the CDs by PostLaju this week.

BTW, am planning a special site for BL for the first anniversary with pictures and stuff and some specially composed music. Would be great if you could scan photos and email them to me as attachments at archtopsoul@gmail.com before Sept. 10.

I've asked everyone who knew your dad or was touched by his wonderful spirit to share their memories. Would appreciate it greatly if you and your mum could do the same.

Cheers.

2:31 AM  
Blogger archtopsoul said...

Have sent the CDs. Keep a lookout for 'em. And tell me if you need more.

Actually, the original plan was to sell the album and pass the proceeds to charity in Leo's memory. But at this stage, I'd rather just give it to anyone who's keen on checking the music out. Cheers.

6:23 PM  
Blogger Sean said...

RS, so sorry couldnt send u any photos before the 10th..i had internet connection problems n its now the 12th..tomorrow is my dads 1st anniversary...n me n my mum will try to send photos to u as soon as possible...

7:51 PM  
Blogger archtopsoul said...

No worries. Take your time. The anniversary site is already up. You can check it out HERE.

Cheers.

11:18 PM  

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