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Dr. Chao Duangduen na Chiengmai celebrates her 81st birthday with friends and family

Under the Spotlight – Dr. Howard Graves

Dr. Chao Duangduen na Chiengmai celebrates her 81st birthday with friends and family

Group Picture with most of the party guests. (Photos Muang Chamber Chiang Mai)

By Dirk Weeber Arayatumsopon

In the small restaurant Nasi J outside the city on Saturday , May 22, Dr. Chao Duangduen na Chiengmai, President of the Chiang Mai Cultural Council and granddaughter of Major-General Chao Kaeo Nawarat, the last Chao Luang Lanna ruler, celebrated her 81st birthday with about 50 guests; in the main family members, members of the Muang Chamber Chiang Mai, Lions Club, Eden Chiang Mai and Phuenthai German International Organization (Thailandfriends e.V.). Speeches were given and a cake was presented. But instead of blowing out the 14 candles, Dr. Chao Duangduen na Chiengmai playfully used a piece of paper to put out the candles.

Dirk Weeber Arayatumsopon kisses the hand of Dr. Chao Duangduen na Chiengmai to congratulate her on her birthday, Wuttipong Arayatumsopon looks on and Khun Raya sits to her left. (Photos Muang Chamber Chiang Mai)

She really enjoyed the celebration and it was clear that even the curfew could not dissuade the happy atmosphere in the restaurant. She received many beautifully wrapped gifts, photos were shown of the previous year’s celebration and happy reminisces of the previous year were shared.

We from Chiang Mai Mail wish Dr. Chao Duangduen na Chiengmai a long life and the very best of health and many more excellent birthday celebrations to come.


Under the Spotlight – Dr. Howard Graves

By Jai-Pee

This iconic man – this pillar of foreign society resident in Chiang Mai – this kind and gentle giant of a man – this erudite and knowledgeable scholar – this wonderful and charming personality – how can one begin to assess the magnificent contribution Howard has made to the arts and cultural life of this city? These words rang through my mind as I stood in the lift rising high above the Mae Ping to meet Howard in his tasteful residence. I needn’t have worried – one question from me and half an hour later I had more than enough for this short but deserved tribute.

Dr. Graves in his recent performance in the ballet, Sleeping Beauty.

Howard embarked on a secondary public school teaching career in New York over fifty-five years ago. His original degree was in biology and chemistry and he began a meteoric-type rise through the complex strata of academia, adding a Master’s and then a Doctors degree to his accomplishments. This latter was in Curriculum Development and Instruction and this landed him an internship, the first of its kind, at New York University. But all the while, Howard had been fostering his other great interest, that of the performing arts. At kindergarten age he had played the somewhat passive role of a tree in a school play but being the very opposite of passive, Howard was to use the theatre as a means of developing that extrovert side of his character that today still endears him to so many people. His most recent theatrical appearance was in the ballet Sleeping Beauty a couple of months ago here in Chiang Mai where he played the part of one of the prince’s fathers.

That aside, Howard moved eventually to Montgomery County, Maryland where he his work was to blossom and flourish: Howard is an energetic and innovative man and these characteristics, plus his radiant personality were to assist him in developing initiatives that were quite startling in education at that time – as an administrator, for example, he introduced the ground-breaking idea of paying teachers for a full twelve months rather than the ten-month paid contracts that had been the previous norm; with his attitude of ‘everything’s possible’ he retrained on the job to become a knowledgeable teacher in the elementary sector; his great passion for working with young people led him into teaching the upper echelons of the most talented and gifted fifth graders where he was to establish a unique and inventive way of promoting their learning through firing their imagination and expanding their creative talents using projects that were outstandingly successful. The man had made his mark and when a colleague and friend of his moved to a Principal’s post in Singapore, it was not long before she sent for Howard who followed her there where he worked until he retired. It was here that he became involved in the great British Pantomime, that unique blend of serious scripting, slapstick and humour that was to suit his personality so well – he was the first ‘foreigner’ to play the notorious part of the Dame in a pantomime based on the nursery rhyme “There was an old woman who lived in a shoe”.

Fortunately for us in Chiang Mai, that noble part in the pantomime was to lead him to eventually take up residence here in Thailand. While rehearsing for the pantomime in Singapore, he took a vacation in Pattaya, sat on the beach and began learning his part; he also started to learn about Thailand and it was not long thereafter in around 1987 that he moved to that infamous seaside resort where he stayed for four years. Luckily for us, he came to Chiang Mai later to teach English at Chiang Mai University, a job that he did for a couple of semesters. After arriving here, almost predictably, Howard quickly became involved with a whole range of influential friends and within a very short time he had become a pillar of local society as well as an important goodwill ambassador, very successfully bridging that essential gap between ‘farang’ and Thai. This imposing figure of a man, immaculately dressed in the most eye-catching and stunning of attire, supporting with tremendous energy everything he is able to do in the performing arts arena, still has a great glint of creativity in his eye. He presides over the Chiang Mai Opera Club, still performs on stage and is a regular member in the audience of plays, recitals, concerts and other performances. This is a flamboyant man who adores being with people and he is one of those unique men who have successfully brought the stage and real life together.

He is a wonderful leading light and inspiration to us all. His example and his lead are contagious and even as he approaches eighty years of age, he still has a number of projects up his theatrical sleeve which include establishing a small converted house for live theatre, making a DVD of live ballet performances, and establishing a readers’ theatre. As I sat back in my chair, quite exhausted after this fascinating and detailed run-through of Howard’s life, I wondered just where his energies and enthusiasm come from – and of course, on reflection, they originate in his constant interaction with like-minded people with whom he is so much at ease. If anyone knows how to bottle and market this unique blend of personality and energy, then they would make a fortune. Thank you, Howard, for sharing your gifts, talents and energies with so many people and in such a selfless and unstinting manner.