SINGAPORE - Despite living in a rental flat himself, Mr Tan Cheng Tey has been cooking lunch at his own expense for the seniors in his area for five years.
But the 65-year-old retiree did not expect an appreciative neighbour and friend to bequeath a three-room flat to him.
Since an accident five years ago, which made him rethink his attitude to life, Mr Tan has been serving lunch to about 40 seniors in the Chai Chee area, buying ingredients out of his own pocket.
One of the regulars at Mr Tan's lunches was Mr Teo, who lived in a neighbouring block.
Mr Teo did not talk much about himself or his family, but the two became fast friends. They would even go to the market together to buy ingredients.
"He's a very humble man, but he was lonely, every day he was with us," said Mr Tan.
After having lunch with Mr Tan and his wife for about three years, Mr Teo turned up at the workplace of Mr Tan, who was a security guard then, in mid-2014 and asked him to go to the lawyer's office.
He was determined to leave his flat and all his assets to Mr Tan.
At the time, Mr Tan agreed, but he joked with Mr Teo, who was a year older: "You and I are the same age, maybe I will die earlier."
But on Chinese New Year's Eve last year, Mr Teo had a serious accident and ended up in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
Mr Tan said they searched high and low for him then as they were having a new year gathering, but the hospital called him only a few days later.
Mr Teo was diagnosed with cancer, and Mr Tan took care of him for about eight months, Lianhe Wanbao reported.
In October, Mr Teo returned to hospital for an operation. He did not survive the procedure.
"I didn't expect him to pass on so fast, everyone misses him," said Mr Tan.
Mr Teo also left him about $18,000, but he has donated the money to their church.
Legal procedures to transfer ownership of the flat are still ongoing, and he has not decided if he will move into his old friend's house, Mr Tan said.
With cash from the sale of the house, he will be able to continue serving more free lunches, he said.
Mr Tan's lunch programme began five years ago after his accident.
While recovering in hospital, friends from church came and prayed for him, he said. When he recovered, they asked him to help cook for some of the elderly in his area.
There are a few blocks of rental flats at Chai Chee Road where many seniors live, including Mr Tan and his wife, 45-year-old Maria.
Mr Tan told The Straits Times that he started out cooking packet lunches for just a few people, but he saw that many more needed help.
He also wanted to cook tastier and more nutritious food for the elderly. The elderly found the packet lunches too plain, he said.
"They complained that it had no taste, although it's good for them," he said genially.
Over time, his lunch operation expanded and he now serves free lunches at the void deck. About 40 seniors turn up each day, he said.
Posted by Lianhe Wanbao 联合晚报 on Thursday, 25 February 2016
He tries to vary the dishes, and even accepts requests from them. Some of the dishes he serves include curry fish head, century egg porridge and mee siam.
He used to pay the food bill of about $30 to $50 a day from his salary as a security guard. He continues to do so, even after retiring last year.
He quipped: "My rent is low and I don't go shopping. I'm an old man, even if I have nice clothing, I have nowhere to go."