Adieu Val, rest in power.
By Liz Miller and Nupur Basu
Valerie Lew Yee-Sun
October 23, 1974 – August 17, 2022
Valerie Lew became a member of IAWRT in November 2011 during the 34th Biennial Conference that took place in Kuala Lumpur. She helped to coordinate the Awards and guided us to all of her favorite Kuala Lumpur sites. She then became further involved as a board member and over the years she filmed conferences, helped IAWRT members advance their knowledge of evolving web platforms and electoral voting systems, and brought her wisdom, her keen commitment, and wit to our organization.
Valerie loved a good challenge. She began her career as a sound engineer and location recordist, listening to and absorbing the sounds and the challenges around her. From there she became a producer of corporate videos and television documentaries and eventually founded her own company. Val was a specialist in solving problems. She put others at ease while she made the most complex circumstances seem feasible.
Take for example the Board Elections of IAWRT International in 2020. As a member of the Election Committee, she enabled the organization to hold its first election entirely online. As a co-member of that EC, we watched her plan the online shift effortlessly. There were days when planning meetings went late into the night but Val was always energetic, and always excited to navigate us through the tech challenges. Thanks to her, this first-ever online election of our organization went off without a hitch.
When Valerie wasn’t following film crews and stories around the world she was diving or jumping out of airplanes or pursuing other thrilling challenges. It was on a skiing holiday in the Alps that she had her stroke, after which she had to be transported on a chopper to the medical facility where she had therapy thereafter for months under the care of her beloved husband, Basil Rudolf Gelpke.
Nupur shared how she first met Valerie:
“I had first met both Val and Basil at the biennial in India in 2015 when they were filming a documentary in India on Sati (the horrible practice where a young widow had to burn herself on the funeral pyre of her dead husband to mourn his loss, a custom that was later banned ). Both Val and Basil were making the film and requested an interview with me. While giving the interview I watched the two of them work wonderfully together as a team and as a TV professional had admired their skills and professionalism. This encounter was to spark a friendship with Val which was further nurtured in the biennial in Manila.”
Liz also reminisced about her first meeting with Valerie.
“I first met Val in Kuala Lumpur. We developed a fast friendship around training IAWRT members in emergent technologies, and our love of film and adventure. Together we planned a safari in Tanzania for IAWRT board members and in Morroco, I had the chance to meet her soul mate. Basil and Val were partners on every level – working together, adventuring together, and enhancing each other’s lives.
Valerie’s love of life and wicked humour made her an endearing and treasured friend for those of us who got to know her well. Conversations with her were always engaging whether it was on the rights of the media, the state of world politics, Buddhism, or about the highly evolved animal kindgom.”
Val, Liz from Canada, Nupur from India, Kristine Ramm from Norway, and Ilang Ilang Quijano from the Philippines were to bond further as members of the Long Documentary Committee. They had to work through the challenges of navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic. Valerie always had an out-of-the-box solution, which made her an invaluable member of any efforts of our organisation.
Valerie was loyal and generous to her friends, her family, her partner, and to IAWRT, her extended family…
Her loss is irreparable to IAWRT and to some of us personally. All we can say with a heavy heart is – Adieu Val, your love and laughter will always resonate and be treasured.