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A leader, inspiration, friend – tributes pour in

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MH17 Amid fields of sunflowers, the remains of those who perished in the downing of MH17 are scattered in a quiet Ukrainian village of Grabovo, some 500 kilometres from Kiev.

Along with the Malaysian Airlines aircraft, the world lost leading scientists, a top chef, educators and community leaders.

"The cure for Aids may have been on that plane, we just don’t know,” Aids consultant Trevor Stratton who was attending a pre-event of a conference in Melbourne, which was supposed to be attended by more than 100 of those on board.

“You can’t just help but wonder about the kind of expertise on that plane,” he is quoted by the Daily Mirror as saying.

In tributes for the 298 on board, family and friends share that what remains of their loved ones are more than flesh and bones.

Here are some their stories:

The leading scientist: Joep Lange, HIV/Aids researcher (The Netherlands)

Pioneer, luminary and leader were words used repeatedly in reports the world over describing University of Amsterdam professor Joep Lange.

The Dutch scientist’s most significant contribution was the 1998 study that ushered the drug “triple cocktail” – a cocktail of medication, which CBC News said “tempered the virus from a degenerative, fatal infection to a chronic and manageable ailment.”

According to his friend Tobias Rinke de Wit, Lange (left) was not only working to get treatment to hundreds of people living with HIV but also on researching other disease like cardiovascular diseases, for the developing world.

He was among dozens on board who were en route an AIDS conference in Melboune, Australia.

They also include WHO spokesperson Glenn Thomas, whose family said died “doing what he loved”.

The passionate educator: Ng Shi Ing, university lecturer (Malaysia)

“I remember you as the spunky one, who once told me with the deepest conviction that “education is the fundamental to solve the world’s problem”. You inspired me…

“I remember how we came together and bonded because of an organization that believed world peace is achievable. And I am reminded from this tragedy, how faraway we are from achieving that,” her friend Hui Woon Tan writes on Facebook.

Ng, or JC to her friends, was returning from an international conference in the Netherlands.

The day before the incident, Ng (right) changed her Facebook cover photo to a scenic picture of herself, one-year-old son and a friend in rowboat on a lake.

“May we have many more dinners together,” Ng, 33, captioned a photo with her husband, a submariner with the Royal Malaysian Navy based in Sepanggar, posted in 2012.  

The Muar-born Universiti Malaysia Sabah lecturer in Teaching English as a Second Language was travelling with her only child and sister.

The celebrated cook: Fan Shun-Po, Michelin star chef (Hong Kong)

The celebrated Hong Kong-born chef and his Malaysian wife made a change in their usual travel route that proved fatal.

Fiftysomething Fan Shun-po and Jenny Fan, who run a restaurant in Rotterdam, would usually fly from Amsterdam to Hong Kong before visiting Kuala Lumpur.

This trip however they decided on the direct flight to KL that landed them on the ill-fated MH17 flight.

According to the South China Morning Post, Fan had wanted to take her elderly mother from KL up to Penang.

The multi-talented actress: Shuba Jaya (Malaysia)

The Malaysian bombshell was a shy teenager in a cubicle, starting out as copywriter at the New Straits Times twenty years ago, her friend Siva Keyser Soze Chandran writes, but boy, did she bloom.

From stills from the feature film ‘Relationship Status’ to a contemporary dance performance.

To a magazine cover and a family portrait, her Dutch husband Paul and Shuba gently dotingly watching their baby daughter – the tribute Facebook album of Shuba shows her with a ready smile, her curls billowing behind her.

“You were too young to have gone. You were so happy in your marriage, so many dreams and things to accomplish. You had your beautiful child to look forward to painting smiles and sunshine everyday,” Siva writes.

Shuba was also recognised by Prestige Magazine as one of Malaysia’s top 40 individuals under the age of 40.

The perfect couple: Elaine Teoh and Emeil Mahler (Malaysia, the Netherlands)

To her best friend, Penangite Teoh was "a gentle heart, always a kind-spirited human being and sincerely a very loving person” but most of all, she was family.

Penangite Teoh (right) and her boyfriend Emeil Mahler, a Dutch national, were returning from a holiday and was visiting Kuala Lumpur before returning to Melbourne, where both 27-year-old finance professionals lived.

"Seeing her so happy with the love of her life makes me, as a friend, genuinely grateful that fate brought them together... their relationship is one that I would wish for everyone,” Bernama quotes her best friend Tan Sook Theng as saying.

The Age reports that Mahler was a travel junkie, who spoke four languages, while Teoh was described in The Rakyat Post as a “beauty with brains” who “excelled in everything she did”.

The passionate devotee: Ghaffar Abu Bakar, chief steward (Malaysia)

A devout Muslim, Ghaffar was active in lobbying the government and Malaysia Airlines to stop serving alcohol on board and to allow female Muslim flight attendant  to wear headscarves if they wish.

According to The Malaysian Insider , his  friend Halim Hassan wrote that he had also written to the Islamic Development Department and spoken to then acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein on alcohol on board.

“We have now lost a fighter in our jihad against alcohol…but we will continue this struggle,” Halim is quoted as saying in a Whatsapp message to fellow devotees who frequent the mosque Bukit Indah, Ampang, where Ghaffar resided.

The football fans: John Alder and Liam Sweeney (UK)

Alder and Sweeney, described by the club as Newcastle United’s “most loyal supporters”, barely missing a game and travelling to New Zealand to support the team in a friendly tour there.

“Both men were familiar faces at every Newcastle United away game and attended not only first team games but Reserve and Academy matches too.

“John was a lifelong supporter and a familiar sight in the stands for almost half-a-century, having barely missed a single game in that time.

“Liam will be known to many fans during his time volunteering as a steward on supporters' buses to away games,” the club said in a statement.

The family of six: Tambi Jiee and family (Malaysia)

Tambi Jiee was a Shell employee and was returning home to Kuching after six years in Kazakhstan, with his wife Ariza Ghazalee and four children – Mohd Afif, 19, Mohd Afzal, 17 Marsha Azmeena, 15 and Mohd Afruz 13.

Mohd Afif was a student at Taylor’s University while his siblings were studying at an international school in Kazakhstan.

Ariza was reportedly an avid social media user, and posted a picture of the family’s packed luggage before boarding MH17.

Community glue: Maree and Albert Rizk (Australia)

A handwritten sign leaning against a promotional picture of Albert in the Raine and Horne Sunbury, Victoria shop front simply stated: "There are no words, only whys."

For folk in their neighbourhood, the Australian couple were community stalwarts, always volunteering support for the local football club, the Age reported.

While Albert was part of the committee, of the club which he and his son once played for, his wife was always helping in the canteen.

The team honoured the fun-loving couple, who were returning from a month holiday in Europe, with a minute of silence before a game last Saturday.

"They were a huge part of the community," one friend said. "We'd have weekends away together with all our friends and we were just all very tight so it was a shock to us all."

Maree is also the step-daughter of Kaylene Mann, who lost her brother on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which is still missing after it went off radar screens last March.

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