Family remembers Othman Wok as kind, loving father who was also devoted to his constituents

Former Cabinet minister Othman Wok died on Monday (April 17) at the age of 92. Mr Othman was Minister for Social Affairs from 1963 to 1977 and Singapore's ambassador to Indonesia from 1977 till his retirement from politics in 1981. ST VIDEO: NG KAI LING
Pioneer cabinet minister Othman Wok with his daughter, Lily, in a file photo.
Pioneer cabinet minister Othman Wok with his daughter, Lily, in a file photo. PHOTO: 2000 OTHMAN WOK

SINGAPORE - On Sunday night (April 16), pioneer cabinet minister Othman Wok's daughter Lily was persuading him to turn off the TV and go to sleep.

It was 11.30pm and they were at Singapore General Hospital, where Mr Othman had been warded since April 6 for a chest infection and stomach complications.

Madam Lily, 60, said she usually does the night duty in caring for him.

"I will read some prayers for him and pat him to sleep before I go off," she recounted his final hours to The Straits Times on Monday (April 17), after Mr Othman died just after noon. He was 92.

She said her father finally went to sleep at 11.45pm, and seemed fine at midnight, although his breathing was laboured.

In the morning, doctors called the family at about 8.40am and said Mr Othman might not survive much longer, so they went immediately to the hospital.

He was placed on a ventilator and breathed his last at 12.21pm.

"We tried our best to take care of him to the best of our ability, but I think God knows better, and you know we are quite happy to let him go. He passed away...peacefully, so we are happy with that," Madam Lily told reporters during the wake for Mr Othman outside the family home in Kew Avenue in Bedok.

Madam Lily, a housewife, described him as a kind and loving father who was also devoted to his work when he was MP for Pasir Panjang constituency from 1963 to 1981.

"We know that we are more or less like his second family compared to his political work. We totally got it and we appreciated that as well," she said with a laugh.

But he always made time for the family, especially when he returned from his overseas trips as Singapore's first Minister for Social Affairs, a post he held from 1963 to 1977.

"Whenever he (came) back from his travels, he (spent) at least one night with us, sharing his overseas stories, souvenirs," she said.

One lesson he often drummed into them was the importance of racial harmony as he lived through the 1964 race riots. He also emphasised humility, she said. "You could be the president's daughter or the king's daughter, but humility should be your middle name," she recalled him saying.

Mr Othman had been in and out of hospital since last November, and his last message to his children was to live peacefully with each other and maintain good relationships with one another, she said.

Madam Lily's husband Munir Shah, 64, a management consultant who described his father-in-law as kind and compassionate, said he had been frail in recent years.

"He had a good run...It had been a great inning, to use cricket terminology. All of us were well prepared for this eventuality."

The family had taken his death calmly, he said and added: "Life in this world is just a transient passage, so for us it's a journey that would not end here but in the hereafter.''

Mr Othman had led a very fulfilled life for 92 years, said Madam Lily.


"We hope that he will always be remembered as part of the Singapore Old Guard and a contributor to the harmony of Singapore," she added.

The public can pay their respects at his home at 46 Kew Avenue on Monday night and Tuesday morning (April 18)from 6.30am till 11am.

The family would like to grieve in private for the last hour before the cortege leaves for the mosque at noon on Tuesday.