Even on his final journey, rojak master Lim Ngak Chew, 71, found a way to be near his popular Balestier Road Hoover Rojak stall at Whampoa Makan Place.
Yesterday morning, the funeral cortege carrying Mr Lim's body drove past the hawker centre on its way from Lorong 7 Toa Payoh, where his wake was held, to Mandai Crematorium, in accordance with his wishes. Mr Lim died last Tuesday from colon cancer after battling the illness for nearly three years.
About 50 people, including long-time customers, stood solemnly outside Whampoa Makan Place to bid a final farewell to the man affectionately known as the "rojak uncle", or "Ah Shui" to his fellow hawkers.
Mr Lim - who was famous for Chinese rojak that included century egg, jellyfish and ginger flower- often enjoyed talking to his patrons.
Sales manager Lydia Wong, who has been patronising Mr Lim's stall since she was a child, was among those who turned up at the hawker centre.
There were often long queues at the stall, with customers having to wait for 30 minutes during peak hours, said Ms Wong, 40.
"He knew the right amount of ingredients to put in," she added. "I hardly try other rojak stalls. They are nowhere as good as his."
The long-time hawker was diagnosed in 2014 with terminal-stage colon cancer that had spread to his liver.
Mr Lim, who founded the stall, handed it to his younger son, Stanley, 46, who has been running it since December 2014. Another son, Matthew, 49, is a manager in an electronics firm, while a daughter, Su Jiuen, 51, works in the civil service.
Fellow hawkers described Mr Lim as a friendly man who worked hard. Some hawkers even grew up under his watchful eyes.
Madam Joyce Lim, 58, who helps out at the Zhong He Drink Stall three units from Mr Lim's stall, said the hawkers at Whampoa Makan Place are "very close".
She had known Mr Lim for about two decades, and said he would often help others to serve customers when they were busy. She added: "He would come by to chit-chat with us. Sometimes, he would also eat with us."
Despite his illness, the affable Mr Lim would still find time to visit the stall while undergoing chemotherapy. He would do so at least twice a week, sitting a few tables away and chatting with regulars.
Mr Lim started his rojak business in 1961 from a pushcart in Toa Payoh. After receiving his hawker's licence in 1971, he settled at a spot opposite Hoover Cinema - where Shaw Plaza is located now - in Balestier Road.
In 1978, he moved to Whampoa Drive Food Centre, now called Whampoa Makan Place, where the stall is currently located.
Balestier Road Hoover Rojak has been on the Singapore Michelin Guide's Bib Gourmand list for the past two years.
The rojak stall is closed for business for a week till Thursday.