Kayaker a caring friend and loving mum, say loved ones

Madam Puah with (from left) her husband Peng Mun Kit, 56, her daughter Ranie, 27, and her sons Louis, 24, and Eugene, 26, during a family photo shoot at Coney Island last year. Above: Madam Puah and Mr Tan Eng Soon (in the green kayak) posing for a p
Madam Puah Geok Tin's elder son Eugene Pang paying his respects at the wake in Tampines yesterday. ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY
Madam Puah with (from left) her husband Peng Mun Kit, 56, her daughter Ranie, 27, and her sons Louis, 24, and Eugene, 26, during a family photo shoot at Coney Island last year. Above: Madam Puah and Mr Tan Eng Soon (in the green kayak) posing for a p
Madam Puah with (from left) her husband Peng Mun Kit, 56, her daughter Ranie, 27, and her sons Louis, 24, and Eugene, 26, during a family photo shoot at Coney Island last year. PHOTO: QIHUI FROM LITTLE PANNY PHOTOGRAPHY

Friends and relatives who gathered at the wake of Singaporean kayaker Puah Geok Tin, who drowned during a trip in Malaysia, painted a picture of a woman who lived life large.

Long-time friend Florence Yeo, 52, said she had a pact to live out her old age together with Madam Puah, and often joked that they would "wreak havoc" at the nursing home when they could no longer live on their own.

Speaking to The Sunday Times yesterday at the wake of the 57-year-old who went missing on Aug 8 while in choppy waters off Mersing, Madam Yeo said she got to know Madam Puah through the now-defunct Punggol Point Canoe Club more than 30 years ago.

She described her friend as "thoughtful", and someone who took good care of people around her. "In the past, when we had a girls' night out, she would send everyone home in her van and make sure they were safe," she added.

"It's our good fortune to have known her for so many years."

Madam Puah, together with her kayak partner, Mr Tan Eng Soon, were separated from their group while on a five-day expedition.

Her body was found on Wednesday in Terengganu waters and brought home on Friday, accompanied by her younger son Louis Pang and other relatives.


Madam Puah and Mr Tan Eng Soon (in the green kayak) posing for a photo taken during the Mersing expedition. Madam Ong Siew Leng, her godsister, took the picture before the two went missing. PHOTO: ONG SIEW LENG

The Malaysian authorities are searching Terengganu waters between Kemaman and Merchang for Mr Tan, 62, after a reported sighting of a body clad in a life jacket in the area.

Dozens of friends and relatives of Madam Puah turned up yesterday to pay their last respects at the wake held in the void deck of her home in Tampines Street 12.

"I know I have to share my mum's love, because she has a tremendous amount of friends," Mr Pang, 24, had told The Sunday Times earlier in Mersing, while she was still declared missing.

He added that his mother loved spontaneity, and her schedule was always packed with activities. "She's the kind of mum who says, 'Go, go - go and have fun please.'"

MUM'S LEGACY

I want to keep that going. That's her greatest desire - for the whole family to be close... And just try to continue to love like she does, and to live like she did.

MS RANIE PANG, Madam Puah's daughter.

In one corner of the wake, there was a booth decorated with lights and snapshots of Madam Puah and her loved ones.

"Given my aunt's character, we thought she would like this," said Ms Jen Pan, 35. "She loved happy events. She wouldn't want anyone to be sad."

Plastered on the walls were blown-up pictures from the last photo shoot that Madam Puah's family had done together at Gardens by the Bay, two weeks before Madam Puah left for the expedition.

Mr Pang had previously told The Sunday Times that the shoot was one of his fondest memories.

"As we grew up, it became less easy for the family to get together," he said. "But the best part of our family is that every time when we come together, we make the best out of it."

Mr Pang also spoke fondly of a family trip to the Gold Coast in 2016. "We caught a lot of sunrises and sunsets together. Those are moments that I hold very closely to me."

Madam Puah's daughter, Ms Ranie Pang, said that her family has such close bonds because of her mother. "I want to keep that going. That's her greatest desire - for the whole family to be close... And just try to continue to love like she does, and to live like she did," said Ms Pang, 27.

Her father - Mr Peng Mun Kit, 56 - was at the wake but did not speak to reporters.

Madam Ong Siew Leng, who is Madam Puah's godsister, told The Sunday Times in Mandarin at the wake: "Jo (Madam Puah) used to say, 'I don't want to be the last one to go. Everyone will be gone by then, and I'd have cried so many times.'

"Now that she's the first one to go, she must be feeling so lucky," Madam Ong said, teary-eyed.

Vanessa Liu

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 18, 2019, with the headline 'Kayaker a caring friend and loving mum, say loved ones'. Print Edition | Subscribe