The eulogy of slain police worker Curtis Cheng was delivered by his son Alpha. Mr Cheng's funeral service was held at St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney on Saturday. This is the eulogy reprinted in full.
Scroll down for NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione's valedictory.
The little things that matter
I am here today, in the most tragic and difficult of circumstances, to represent my family; heartbroken from the sudden loss of a beloved husband and loving father. We are honoured by all the people that are here today to pay their profound respect. Dad was an unassuming man and would have never seen himself as deserving of such attention, kind words, and tributes. During this time, we as a family have mourned, but we have also been able to celebrate the life we shared with him and the little things that matter to us. In writing this eulogy and listening to stories about his life from friends, relatives and colleagues, I have come to appreciate even more the man I am proud to call my father.
Dedicated and patient
Dad was a tremendously dedicated and patient person. In Hong Kong, when I was very young, Dad worked two jobs to save up for us to emigrate to Australia. During this time, he also needed to study a second accounting qualification in order to meet skilled migration requirements. He was the first in the family to arrive and set up a small business. It was a difficult first couple of years and, upon closing the business, he fortunately got a job at the NSW police where he has proudly worked for the last 17 years. My Dad has worked incredibly hard and was the ‘go-to’ person for his colleagues because of his reliability and resourcefulness. People liked being around him because of his calm demeanor and positive outlook. His colleagues described him as a great mentor and invested time into people. The NSW police has become big part of his identity and his lasting legacy.
Fun and entertaining
There is a part of him that i thought only we as a family or those close to him know; his fun and entertaining side coupled with a light sense of humour. But I recently heard that the NSW Police family also knows this side. At the NSW ‘100 years of women in policing’ dinner. I have been told that after the dinner and when the music started, he did not hesitate to get up, head to the dance floor, and bust his moves. Before long he was in the middle of a dancing circle surrounded by cheering policewomen. I have it on good authority that there is video evidence of THIS event of which I have yet to witness. Well, I’m slightly embarrassed but hardly surprised, considering he told me how back in the 70’s, he won a disco dance marathon by dancing non-stop for over 24 hours during his university days in the UK.
Family first/personal sacrifice
Above all, Dad was a family man that always put us first. He devoted so much time to my sister and I and he put effort into understanding us as individuals. We have great memories of him cheering us on at our Saturday sports games, playing play station and Age of Empires with us. He would never hesitate to help my mum, my sister and I with our day-to-day tasks. He would even pause the game when watching his favourite soccer team Chelsea to help mum finish a presentation for work, or my sister with her studies or me with making important career decisions.
He believed in spending quality time with each other. During dinner time, the TV was always off and we were all at the dinner table. We discussed things that we have done, things that we are thinking about, things that we want to do. This seemed so small, but I am so glad that this little ritual meant we were able to spend such great time together. Through this and so many other little things, he has set a tremendous example for us as a family.
One thing I have been so touched by is how much he cherished my mother. There was no-one that he loved and cared for more. When we going through some of Dad’s thing in the past two weeks, Mum found the first gift she ever gave to him in his top drawer. I never knew him to be such a romantic.
Dad did everything in his own quiet little way. The lasting message I feel he wants everyone to have, is that we need to do the little things for the people around us: family, friends, colleagues or just the people that weave in and out of our lives. If we all do that little bit more, as Dad did for everyone in his life, I believe that we can live in a more harmonious, and gentle world.
May he rest in peace.
Mr Curtis Shu Kei Cheng: 28 November 1956 to 2 October 2015
A member of the New South Wales Police Force from 11 November 1997 to 2 October 2015
The 2nd of October 2015 was the Friday before a long weekend. Many people were getting away early, extending the time that they would have to spend with family and friends. And on most Fridays, Curtis Cheng would have done the same.
However, there had been the demands of preparing the current year’s budget, an enormous task, the last of it completed just a few weeks ago. And there was more to do for the Annual Report. So Curtis stayed back a little longer than usual.
Eventually satisfied he had done all that he could, Curtis left. In his customary, friendly way he said goodbye to his colleagues, wishing them well, and made his way towards the lifts to head home.
Improbable and unjust things happen. We read about them in newspapers and see them on television. We are shocked, often outraged, when they do. But when they happen, they invariably happen to someone else, somewhere else.
But Curtis was one of our own, one of our friends. His circumstances are our circumstances. And the pain and disorientation we feel at Curtis's death is all the more acute as a result.
Curtis Shu Kei Cheng commenced with the NSW Police Force on the 11th of November 1997, Remembrance Day. And we will always remember Curtis.
His resume was impressive. A lecturer of Accounting at the Hang Seng School of Commerce in Hong Kong. And thereafter at the Open University of Hong Kong. A Management Accountant at the Bank of Bermuda. And later an Administration and Finance Consultant in Hong Kong private enterprise.
He studied in Hong Kong and his postgraduate qualifications, including a Master of Science in Business Administration, were mostly completed in England. He amassed an impressive list of research and publications in accounting, management and education, and on arriving in Australia put his education and skills to good effect in running his own business facilitating trade for companies in China.
Curtis worked in our Financial and Business Services Directorate and his earliest work was introducing business planning to the Force. Systematically measuring what worked well, and what worked less well, to ensure we achieved the best results for the people of New South Wales. At that time this type of work was new, but is now acknowledged as being vitally important to operational policing.
In that first role and in the promotions that deservedly followed Curtis took great pride in his performance, developing a reputation for producing work that could be trusted. In an accountant's world he was gold.
Curtis continued to work in Financial and Business Services: in Corporate Performance, Finance Budget and Planning, Management Accounting, and as a Systems Accountant.
In recognition of his service with the NSW Police Force, Curtis received NSW Police Medallions recognising the milestones of 10 and 15 years service, the Commissioner’s Long Service Award for 15 years service, as well as the Commissioner’s Olympic and Sesquicentenary Citations.
And in between times, in 1998, the Australian Government recognised Curtis with Australian citizenship, an event he proudly announced to work mates.
Curtis was admired and respected by his colleagues, a gentle man in every sense. Hard working, measured, but unfailingly positive. As you would expect there has been a lot of reflecting over these past couple of weeks. Members of his team recounted Curtis’s familiar greeting, his hand on your shoulder as he asked you how your were. Genuinely interested in the answer.
He valued relationships and nurtured them over a coffee, or a shared meal. And if the topic turned to his beloved football, or his family, you knew you were in for a long chat.
One of his closest co-workers said:
“You know, we all get angry at things from time to time. There must have been things that made Curtis angry. But if there were, I never saw them. Not once. Not in all the years I knew him - he was nothing but positive.”
This year the NSW Police Force has been celebrating the centenary of women in policing. Just last month I attended a gala dinner - a highlight of those celebrations - close to a thousand people in attendance. And Curtis was there, showing his support. Resplendent in black tie, his NSW Police Force citations proudly pinned to his lapels. So proud to be part of the Force. So proud to help recognise a century of outstanding achievements by the women of the Force. It was a wonderful evening.
And more than a few of us were surprised, and we smiled, when Curtis hit the dance floor. This quiet, unassuming man from Finance, this man of numbers and spread-sheets, well he certainly knew how to move. He was a revelation. And he was soon surrounded by many others, up, relaxing, enjoying themselves. It was a night of celebration, a night to be positive, and Curtis led the way.
It is never easy to say goodbye to someone who meant so much to so many. The NSW Police Force has lost a respected and much loved member of its family, Selina, a devoted husband, Alpha and Zilvia, a loving and devoted father.
I can’t describe the devastation inside Police Headquarters and right across the NSW Police Force. The gentlest of friends lost to an act of terror. A man, the manner of whose death, stands in the starkest contrast to the gentle, honourable way he led his life.
But in the aftermath of this tragedy, my officers and I have been struck by the strength and unity of the Cheng family. Not an ounce of hate despite this senseless crime. At a time when they deserved our shoulders for support, they have shown a strength and grace of their own, an example to the rest of us, showing the way.
There cannot be any one of us, least of all Selina, Zilvia and Alpha, for whom Curtis’s death is not painful and incomprehensible. We meet it with grief and tears, shock and despair, hurt and anger. It makes no sense. Perhaps time will provide some answers. Perhaps it will dull the pain. But what cannot be allowed to be dulled is the contribution Curtis made.
I was leafing through Curtis’s Personnel File late one evening last week, reflecting on the man and his contribution. His most recent successful application for a promotion was there, and a couple of statements in particular struck me.
Discussing his data and information technology skills he said:
“One of my hobbies is to create forms and templates to make things organized no matter at work or at home”. And I smiled at the thought of Alpha, Zilvia, and Selina being gently organised on weekends or some other routine task by way of an Excel spread-sheet.
But Curtis also said this:
“Over the past years, I have enjoyed every minute working in the NSW Police Force. And if I am given the honour of becoming a system accountant, I have the confidence to maintain and enhance a harmonious and constructive team spirit.”
That was Curtis.
A man who loved his family, relished his work and held dear the opportunities and pleasures life in Australia afforded him. A man who didn’t take his good fortune for granted or keep it to himself, but who shared it with others through his positive spirit and generosity. At least while it lasted.
Curtis’s fate reminds us that life is fragile. It also reminds us that we are together responsible for the type of community we create. If a positive is to be taken from recent events, it is our collective realisation that our way of life, the freedoms and protections we enjoy, are not unassailable. They need to built, maintained and defended.
We owe it to Curtis to do that.
It is my honour today to posthumously confer a Commissioner’s Commendation for Service on Mr Curtis Cheng. In part the commendation reads:
For outstanding and meritorious performance of duty as a member of the New South Wales Police Force between 1997 and 2015.
Mr Cheng was a long serving member of Financial and Business Services, where he served with diligence and distinction, providing exemplary financial services to the New South Wales Police Force.
Mr Cheng was killed in a callous act of violence outside Police Headquarters in Parramatta on Friday 2 October 2015.
Mr Cheng displayed integrity, loyalty, commitment, professionalism and devotion to duty as a member of the New South Wales Police Force, and thus is highly commended for his service.
I am deeply honoured and, indeed, privileged to be able to represent every member of the New South Wales Police Force here today to farewell Curtis Cheng.
A man who served the people of New South Wales with honour, and with a caring and gentle heart.
A loving husband and father.
A cherished colleague.
We are grateful to have known you Curtis and to have worked alongside you.
Our prayers travel with you. May your loved ones be comforted. May you rest in peace.
A P Scipione APM
Commissioner of Police
17 October 2015