Mr Joseph Conceicao, a former Member of Parliament and veteran diplomat, died on Tuesday night from a heart attack. He was 95.
An MP for Katong from 1968 to 1984, he was also a diplomat between 1977 and 1994, serving twice as ambassador to Russia, as well as ambassador to Indonesia and high commissioner to Australia.
In an interview with The Straits Times in 2001, he recalled a planned meeting between founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow in 1990.
Mr Lee had waited in his hotel for three hours but the Russian leader, who was in his last year in power, did not appear.
"Everyone panicked, including the Russian protocol officers, who disappeared from the hotel because they knew Mr Lee as a hot-tempered man," he said.
But Mr Lee told him coolly: "Don't be agitated, Joe. You must realise this is a great opportunity for us. We are sitting and watching the vanishing of an empire!"
The two leaders finally met and the following year, the USSR collapsed.
CONCERNED ABOUT EURASIANS
As trustee of the association, Joe was always concerned about the welfare of the community. He wanted to make sure that our programmes to help the needy were targeted and efficient.
EURASIAN ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT ALEXIUS PEREIRA, on Mr Joseph Conceicao, who was known simply as Uncle Joe to the Eurasian community because of his caring and jovial nature.
Mr Conceicao was Ambassador to Russia until 1994.
Mr Barry Desker, non-resident Ambassador to the Vatican and Spain, remembers Mr Conceicao for his sound grasp of Singapore's key foreign policy interests, and having the confidence of Mr Lee and former deputy prime minister Goh Keng Swee.
Mr Desker, who succeeded Mr Conceicao as ambassador to Indonesia in 1986, added: "He had built excellent ties with the Indonesian military, in particular, General Benny Moerdani, the commander-in-chief of the Indonesian Armed Forces."
Ambassador-at-large Professor Tommy Koh said his friendship with Mr Conceicao went back to the 1960s. "He was a very good diplomat and made many friends for Singapore," said Prof Koh. "And as a pioneer, he had helped to build the Singapore of today."
Mr Desker also remembers Mr Conceicao as a dedicated teacher, who began his working life teaching O-and A-level English literature at St Patrick's School.
"I was one of his students from 1962 to 1964. He was particularly effective in my case in promoting an interest in literary criticism," he said.
Mr Conceicao pursued his literary interest after retiring from the foreign service in 1994. His 2004 autobiography, Flavours Of Change: Destiny And Diplomacy, Recollections Of A Singapore Ambassador, described his experiences during the Japanese Occupation.
He also chronicled Singapore's racial riots in the book Singapore And The Many-Headed Monster.
A linguist, he learnt Russian in addition to English, Malay, Mandarin, Latin and his native Kristang, a Portuguese-Malay patois spoken by Portuguese Malaccans.
He was a former director of the Singapore Press Holdings Foundation and was also involved in the then Adult Education Board, then National Museum Board and the People's Association.
To the Eurasian community, he was simply Uncle Joe because of his caring and jovial nature, said president of the Eurasian Association Alexius Pereira.
He said: "As trustee of the association, Joe was always concerned about the welfare of the community. He wanted to make sure that our programmes to help the needy were targeted and efficient."
Yesterday, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in a Facebook post that Mr Conceicao was always generous with his time and was a fount of sound advice.
Former foreign minister George Yeo shared on Facebook a photo of their last breakfast meeting in June, with veteran civil servant J. Y. Pillay also present.
Mr Yeo told The Straits Times: "In the last year, his health was visibly getting frail, but his mind remained acute. He never lost his impish sense of humour."
Vice-chairman of racial harmony advocacy group OnePeople.sg Gerald Singham said Mr Conceicao engaged youth at its racial harmony camps with his personal recollections of how people living in Chinese and Malay kampungs came together to protect one another during the racial riots in the 1960s.
His nephew John Conceicao told The Straits Times: "He was the patriarch of the large Conceicao clan, loved his siblings and expressed it in words and actions."
The wake will be held at 5000K Lagoon View from 1pm tomorrow and from 10am to 10pm on Saturday and Sunday. He will be cremated at Mandai Crematorium next Monday at 12.05pm.
Mr Conceicao is survived by his wife Anita and three children.