SINGAPORE - The moving love story between an Australian-born woman and a Singaporean man who have been married for 46 years has touched the hearts of many, including Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam.
Mr Shanmugam on Tuesday shared a video about the elderly couple, Mr Tan Soo Ren and his wife Raelene, on his Facebook page.
"Raelene and Soo Ren's story of love, courtship and married life in Singapore is very sweet and heartwarming. Wish them many more years of marital bliss," he wrote.
The video takes viewers through the story of the couple who met in London in 1965 when Mr Tan was studying architecture, and when Madam Raelene, who is Australian, was working.
"I was coming home from work one very rainy day and you turned up at Kilburn Station with a spare umbrella, and you simply said 'I thought I'd come and meet you so you wouldn't get wet'," Madam Raelene says to her husband in the video.
"I knew then that this was a really special person."
At that time, inter-racial relationships were "relatively unknown," Madam Raelene recalled.
From London they moved to Sydney, then they sailed to Singapore from Sydney "for a visit" in 1970, and have stayed here since. They have two chlidren, Lauren and Darren, and four grandchildren.
The couple has shared more details of their story with the Singapore Memory Project, including Mr Tan's childhood experiences during World War II, and how Madam Raelene overcame her initial loneliness in Singapore.
In 1973, she and Australian friend Pat Chong founded the Cosmopolitan Women’s Club, which catered to women in cross-cultural marriages. At its peak, the club had about 200 members. It closed about 10 years ago.
She also found a niche here as an etiquette consultant, and has written four books on table etiquette for different cultures.
In a 2007 interview published in the Strait Times, she was asked what she would do if she could live her life again. Her answer?
“I’d marry Soo Ren even earlier,” she said. “He’s my best buddy.”
The couple now help each other through their illnesses.
It was in a house off Orchard Road, 1970s: “Eating at the table was a bit of a drama for me… because everybody would ask everyone else to eat. Father, mother, grandfather, sister… have your meal. By the time I asked everyone to eat, they’d finished and left the table. I’m still sitting there.” These 30 or so family members who ate meals with Raelene, welcomed her and her Singaporean spouse Soo Ren when they arrived from London five years after Singapore become independent in 1965 – a time when interracial relationships were rare. Is there a pioneer you are most thankful to? Honour their contributions by sharing your fondest memories in the comment section or tag #GreatestGift #sgmemory
Posted by irememberSG on Sunday, 12 April 2015
Madam Raelene underwent radiotherapy for skin cancer which damaged her eyes, while her husband suffered a stroke which left lasting cognitive impairment.
After the 11-minute video was posted on the official Facebook page of the Singapore Memory Project, irememberSG, it was viewed almost 100,000 times in just a day. The project aims to capture and document "precious moments and memories related to Singapore", according to its website.
What is the secret to their long-lasting marriage then? Madam Raelene put it down to compromise, and a sense of peace. Refering to differences in opinions about things like curtain colours, she said: "These things are unimportant in the big picture. It's actually very nice to come home and know it's a peaceful home."