24 APRIL 1924 – 8 SEPTEMBER 2008

My father passed away on 8 September, 2008 (08-09-2008), which fell on the eighth month, ninth day of the Chinese Lunar Calendar (08-09-2008). We remember him today as we gather before his niche to pay our respect at Mandai Crematorium. It’s been four years since his passing but memories of him still linger on. A truly humble but wise and righteous man of few words, his absence has left a big void in our hearts and he is dearly missed.

Born in the year 1924 in Shantou, China, my father came to Singapore at the tender age of 11. His hometown was plagued by drought and famine at that time and, being the eldest son in his family, the burden of supporting them was inadvertently placed on his shoulders. Entrusted to an older villager, he made the long and dangerous voyage to Singapore, a foreign land faraway from his hometown. He toiled for many years, taking on various arduous and laborious jobs, scrimping and saving every cent he earned so that his family back home could have a better living. In his twenties, he got married here and having learnt the ropes of merchant trading, he eventually set up his own import and export business. Although he had to raise ten children of his own, he never once relinquished the responsibility of looking after his family in China, a responsibility he continued to uphold up until his last day at 85 years old.

A story I could never forget is one that he shared with us when I was 13. He told us how he would stare longingly at the Rock Buns in a glass jar sold by an Indian mama across his lodging each day. Each time, he would promise himself to buy one to try on his payday but this never materialized because when each payday approached he would decide once again to save on that craving and remit all that he had to his family in China.

My father’s life is a great model for my siblings and I. The greatest respect I have for him is his perseverance. Through his sheer will power and discipline, he overcame many tough obstacles in his life to provide not only for his family in China but also for us. There was never a single day we had to starve. He also taught us many of life’s invaluable lessons – the importance of honesty and integrity in dealing with others and the value of love and respect towards ourselves and for others. A thrifty man, he gave generously to charity and would not hesitate to help others who were in needs. His advise for us about his debtors was, “If they do return (the money), receive it quietly.  If they don’t, do not ask.” Such is my father, a man well-loved and respected by his peers.

Today, in remembrance of a wonderful father and grandfather, my daughter Sheryl and I made his favourite tea time treat – ROCK BUNS (click here for recipe) for everyone in the family as a reminder of his unconditional love and sacrifices, and of his ever benevolent spirit in always putting others’ needs before his.

We will always remember you, dearest Ah Pa.


“Say not in grief ‘he is no more’ – but in thankfulness that he was” – Hebrew Proverb