Relatives remember a generous, kind uncle

Late President SR Nathan.
Late President SR Nathan.PHOTO: TABLA

A family man, Mr S R Nathan never missed a birthday, wedding or celebratory event of a family member.

His relatives recalled that, as long as he was in Singapore, he would be at their Deepavali gatherings and marked with them important milestones in their lives.

If he did not see a relative at a family function, he would call and check that he or she was all right.

Professor Cham Tao Soon, 77, president emeritus of Nanyang Technological University, remembers him as a doting grandfather.

He recalled that Mr Nathan, on finding out he was going to Madrid, asked him to get a Real Madrid jersey for his grandson, a fan of the popular Spanish football club.

Such thoughtful acts were recounted by many at the late former president's private wake at his Ceylon Road home yesterday.

They painted a picture of a humble man who valued hard work and discouraged name-dropping, and had a great capacity to remember little details about people.

His habit of writing thank you notes for the smallest favours and giving gifts were also highlighted.

Former minister of state Ch'ng Jit Koon remembers a Chinese calligraphy work that Mr Nathan gave him after learning the art. It was of the Chinese character for "friend".

His almost 20 nieces and nephews said he was a generous uncle who often bought them gifts.

Retiree Indrani Suppiah, 69, said her uncle made an effort to invite all his relatives to his 90th birthday party two years ago, a big celebration attended by top political leaders. "He treated everyone fairly. It didn't matter what our social standing was," she added.

Mr Nathan stressed the importance of hard work, academic excellence and equality. He would also remind them not to use his name or position to get advantages in life.

A nephew said he would never forget Mr Nathan's reminder: "Nobody has died from hard work."

Mr R.S.S. Nadarajah, whose mother is Mr Nathan's cousin, added: "He would tell my daughter to study hard as education was the only way forward."

Similarly, he encouraged neighbour M. Ravichandra, a businessman, in his quest to climb Mount Everest. The 50-year-old, recounting Mr Nathan's moral support, said he achieved his ambition this year.

But when he returned last month, Mr Nathan had taken ill. Tearing up, he said: "He told me to tell him about it on my return. But now, he's no longer with us."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2016, with the headline 'Relatives remember a generous, kind uncle'. Print Edition | Subscribe