Leaders pay tribute to Mrs Wee Kim Wee

President says she was an unsung heroine in Singapore's history; others remember her caring nature

The late Mrs Wee Kim Wee had a natural warmth and caring nature which endeared her to everyone she met, said former president Tony Tan Keng Yam yesterday.

Dr Tan was among those who attended her wake and paid tribute to the wife of Singapore's fourth president for her contributions.

He said the late Mrs Wee, who died on Saturday aged 102, will be missed by many people.

Her devotion and care to the late Dr Wee throughout their marriage is something which will touch Singaporeans, he added.

"She has lived a full life, both in her public duties which she carried out conscientiously even when she had some difficulty walking, and also as a wife, mother and grandmother," he said.

People found it very easy to confide in her because of her natural warmth, Dr Tan added. "She always showed she was interested and that she cared."

Born Koh Sok Hiong, Mrs Wee met Dr Wee in 1936, and they married the same year. Dr Wee served as president from 1985 to 1993.

Their daughter, Ms Wee Eng Hwa, 75, said her mother had a great heart, especially for the poor.

President Halimah Yacob and her husband Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee at Mrs Wee Kim Wee's wake at her home yesterday. With them are two of Mrs Wee's daughters - Ms Wee Eng Hwa (back facing camera) and Dr Wee Hong Neo.
President Halimah Yacob and her husband Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee at Mrs Wee Kim Wee's wake at her home yesterday. With them are two of Mrs Wee's daughters - Ms Wee Eng Hwa (back facing camera) and Dr Wee Hong Neo. ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

SERVING THE PEOPLE WITH GRACE

I remember her as a very kind person, very gentle. And the way she opened the doors of the Istana to those who may otherwise not have had a chance to be there.

PRESIDENT HALIMAH YACOB, about Mrs Wee.

She recounted how Mrs Wee would always give the karang guni man cake and a drink whenever he came by. "It came naturally to my mother and she always taught me never to be proud, to always be humble in all my interactions."

Dr Wee's background as a former journalist helped prepare Mrs Wee for the Istana, Ms Wee said.

"She knew how to listen to people, empathise with them and entertain them. She was able to stand by him and participate in all his activities, as he dealt with heads of state."

There was a steady stream of people into her home at 25 Siglap Plain yesterday as family and friends paid their respects to Mrs Wee who, in her casket, was dressed in her favourite outfit - a pale yellow cheongsam with blue flowers made by her tailor in Shanghai, a silver necklace and a small black handbag.

President Halimah Yacob said Mrs Wee was an unsung heroine in Singapore's history.

In a Facebook post, Madam Halimah said Mrs Wee served the people with grace, and was a steadfast advocate of education and providing opportunities for disadvantaged children and youth.

Among her contributions, Singaporeans will perhaps most of all remember Mrs Wee for her selfless dedication to Dr Wee, Madam Halimah added. "Their love story will remain an inspiration to many."

She attended the wake yesterday evening, and told reporters that Mrs Wee will also be well remembered for her contributions to the culinary world through her recipes.

Mrs Wee published a cookbook of her recipes, Cooking For The President - Reflections & Recipes Of Mrs Wee Kim Wee, after her husband's death in 2005.

"I also remember her as a very kind person, very gentle. And the way she opened the doors of the Istana to those who may otherwise not have had a chance to be there," said Madam Halimah.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean arrived at the wake soon after Madam Halimah. He said he had observed how Mrs Wee was a wonderful and gracious lady, as he had attended many occasions with Dr Wee and Mrs Wee, from the time he served in the Singapore Armed Forces to after he entered politics.

"They were a wonderful couple and she was a lovely lady," he said.

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said Dr Wee and Mrs Wee served Singapore with distinction.

He told reporters during an event yesterday that he met Dr Wee and Mrs Wee many times when he was a senior civil servant, and they were always very gracious.

"They have conducted themselves extremely well, they have showed great care and concern for the community, they have done an outstanding job, so I'm very saddened to hear about the passing of Mrs Wee," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2018, with the headline 'Leaders pay tribute to Mrs Wee Kim Wee'. Print Edition | Subscribe