S R Nathan: 1924-2016

A big heart for troubled minds

People from all walks of life turned up at the Istana to pay their respects to the late President S R Nathan.
People from all walks of life turned up at the Istana to pay their respects to the late President S R Nathan.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

The Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) mourns the death of Singapore's sixth president and honorary member of SOS, Mr S R Nathan ("State funeral for S R Nathan on Friday"; yesterday).

He was very involved with SOS for many years from 2002, when he officiated at our agency's relocation to Cantonment Close.

When I first joined SOS in 2008, Mr Nathan invited me to the Istana to understand the needs of the agency. This resulted in additional funding support for our Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors service, which was close to his heart due to his own personal loss early in his life.

After that, Mr Nathan took a special interest in SOS work by inviting our board, staff and volunteers to the Istana in 2007 and 2011 to show appreciation for the work we were doing.

He also gave out a President's Social Service Award posthumously to the late SOS chairman Anthony Yeo at the Istana in 2009. It was received by Mr Yeo's son Eugene.

Even after he stepped down as president of Singapore, Mr Nathan continued to officiate at an event in 2012 (Laksamania - Lunch with a Heart) to help SOS raise additional funds, and made personal donations to SOS in 2013 and 2014.

He also fronted SOS' first truly mass outreach and awareness campaign for World Suicide Prevention Day 2015.

I recall the time I met Mr Nathan when he invited me to the Istana for a personal tea reception in 2008. He was humble, kind and compassionate. He was also a great listener as he was truly concerned about people facing a crisis, suicide attempters and survivors.

He had an excellent memory and whenever I met him again at events, he would always ask about SOS work.

He will be remembered for his great contributions to the nation and also to the people.

All of us at SOS are deeply saddened by the death of a truly inspirational leader, and I extend my heartfelt condolences to Mrs Nathan and the family.

SOS is very privileged to have had Mr Nathan as our honorary member, and it is with a great sense of loss and pain in our hearts that we have to say goodbye to a special person who will always be in our hearts.

Christine Wong (Ms)

Executive Director

Samaritans of Singapore

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2016, with the headline 'A big heart for troubled minds'. Print Edition | Subscribe