SINGAPORE - When Hong Kong actor Chow Yun Fat threw a wedding banquet here in 1987, he turned to Singapore's most esteemed florist at the time.
Mr Michael Ong Teong Seng, the founder of florist shop Fleuridee, was a pioneer of the floral arrangement scene here.
On Saturday (Oct 2), the 74-year-old died from complications due to Covid-19.
Mr Ong had spent more than 40 years of his life dedicated to his craft, having opened Fleuridee at Shaw Centre in the 1970s.
His sister, Mrs Lillian Clonts, 63, told The Straits Times that he built a name for himself with his artistic creations, progressively building up his base of clients from the various office workers in the area.
"The secretaries on their lunch break would find his floral arrangements quite uniquely creative, so would order from him, and some became regular customers," she said.
Mr Ong was also the appointed florist for many visits here by foreign dignitaries.
These included state visits by former United States presidents, the Sultan of Brunei and Britain's Queen Elizabeth II.
He is described by friends and family as a man of quick wit and humour who brought joy to every person he crossed paths with.
Mr Ong, who was not married, was also one of the earliest adopters here of ikebana, a Japanese style of flower arrangement.
His niece, Ms Vera Ong, 51, who works in the sports industry, described him as Singapore's premier florist during his heyday.
"He had an amazing wealth of knowledge when it came to flora and botanics," she said. "You could take a picture of any flower and he could tell you exactly what it is."
Mr Ong, who had high blood pressure, suffered a stroke last year but recovered, and was mentally sharp and well.
He began feeling unwell on Sept 1, and told his family about it during dinner on Sept 3. They initially thought it was an allergic reaction but told him to get tested anyway.
He tested positive for Covid-19 on Sept 4, and was taken to a hotel to be isolated the same day. Ms Ong said he spent several days in the hotel and appeared to be getting better.
But within a week, he was taken to Changi General Hospital (CGH).
"He was still okay initially, with my cousins still calling and speaking to him from the United States," said Ms Ong.
"But his condition took a sudden turn and he was moved to the intensive care unit (ICU)."
A tube was inserted in Mr Ong's throat and he was placed on oxygen support. His lungs also had an infection.
Ms Ong said it was difficult for the family as none of them was able to see or speak to Mr Ong from then till his death about three weeks later.
She said Mr Ong, who was fully vaccinated, died at CGH at around 6pm on Oct 2.
Aside from his legacy in floral arrangement, Mr Ong's work in other art forms can be found around Singapore. Pictures of his paper sculptures that involved several months of folding and cutting of newspapers are hung in Japanese restaurant Mikuni at Fairmont Singapore.
He is also known to have turned to painting and block stamping in the later part of his life, with his pieces inspired by nature.
As at Monday (Oct 4), a total of 121 people have died from complications due to Covid-19.
Mr Ong's family said they have decided against holding a wake as senior citizens should not be encouraged to gather at this time.
But they are trying to arrange a memorial, and have put up a memorial page in his name at this website.