In Memoriam – Caroline Meifu Woo

Long-term and enthusiastic member of the Commission

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It is with great sadness that we learn of the passing away of Caroline during the penultimate week of November after a short but intense illness. As wife of MingKo ‘Hok’ Woo, Vice-chairman of the Commission from its inception in 2002 to his retirement in 2007, Caroline attended every single annual meeting. And she was never just an attendee – she was an active and enthusiastic participant, especially on the fieldtrips, always a smiling face and an inquisitive traveller. She also made a unique contribution to the work of the Commission by her generous monetary donation that enabled a number of young scientists to attend our conferences, deliver papers and publish in international journals.

Many of us remember her from long before 2002. She was the same staunch and happy participant in the three previous IGU Water Study Groups in the 1990s: on Regional Hydrological Response to Climate Change, on Climate Change and Extreme Hydrological Events (a theme proposed by Hok) and the one on Water Sustainability which morphed into the Commission in 2002.

Caroline was a seasoned traveller and keen ‘amateur’ geographer. She visited every single continent and sailed every ocean on this planet, from the Arctic to the Antarctic, from high plateau to coastal swamps, from deserts to jungles, fiords to resort beaches, historical sites to modern cities, from a stormy Cape Horn to a sun-drenched Caribbean, and more. Indeed, Caroline and Hok seemed to travel even more after retirement, with a penchant for long ocean cruises. She was as interested in the people she met on her travels as in the places she visited.

How hardy she was. I recall only one incident when the environment beat her. That was at the Regional Hydrological Response meeting in Tibet, where she contracted a severe respiratory disease that caused her to take a temporary break from travelling back to Canada and spend some time in hospital in Hong Kong. The low level of oxygen in Lhasa may well have lowered her immune system and turned a common infection into a life-threatening one.

Caroline Meifu Woo was born in Guangzhou, China in 1946 and attended school in Hong Kong, before emigrating to Canada for her university studies. She obtained a B.Sc. from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C. before moving across town to do an M.Sc., specialising in Operations Research in the Faculty of Commerce at the University of British Columbia in 1974. That same year, she married her geographer and moved to Hamilton, Ontario. Caroline worked as a computer systems analyst until she retired in 2010. After retirement, she volunteered to work in Toronto Zoo to pass on information to and interact with visitors and children.

In recognition of Caroline’s unique contribution to the work of the IGU over two decades, the Commission’s Steering Committee is proposing to honour her with the posthumous title of Special Honorary Member of the Commission.

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A drawing of Caroline used at the ‘Remembering Caroline Meifu Woo’ ceremony organized by her husband on December 10th 2016.

Honorary Doctorate awarded to founding Commission member

The Commission cordially congratulates prof. emer. Mingko (Hok) Woo, who served as Vize Chair of the Commission from 2002 to 2007, for being awarded the degree of Doctor of Environmental Studies, honoris causa, from the University of Waterloo on June 14 this year, in recognition of my “outstanding contributions and pioneering works in the fields of cold region hydrology, wetland ecosystems, and hydrological modelling”. While coping with the loss of his wife Caroline we wish him the strength to continue with an active retirement life and thank him for his continued interest in the work of the Commission.

Tony Jones (Commission Chair 2002-2012)

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