Prominent Chinese community leader Tan Keong Choon dies

Prominent community leader Tan Keong Choon died on Oct 27, 2015.
Prominent community leader Tan Keong Choon died on Oct 27, 2015. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Prominent Chinese businessman and community leader Tan Keong Choon died on Tuesday last week (Oct 27), just two days shy of his 97th birthday on Oct 29.

His death was caused by diseases related to old age. On Tuesday (Nov 3), his family paid tribute to him with a full-page obituary in The Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao, describing him as "a visionary and pioneer of Singapore who dedicated his life to the advancement of Chinese education, philosophy and culture".

His family also thanked the doctors and nurses at Gleneagles Hospital, where he was admitted before he died. His family held a private funeral last Friday (Oct 30).

Mr Tan served two terms as vice-president of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and another two as president between 1969 and 1987. He was also chairman of The Chinese High School - founded by his uncle Tan Kah Kee in 1919 - for 26 years, until he stepped down in 1996. The Chinese High merged with Hwa Chong Junior College to become Hwa Chong Institution in 2005.

Hokkien Huay Kuan president Chua Thian Poh, 67, said: "I met him about 20 years ago and remember him as a passionate community leader, especially in the field of education. He also gave younger leaders very good advice."

Born in Xiamen, China, Mr Tan was the only child of businessman Tan Keng Hean, the younger brother of Mr Tan Kah Kee. When he was barely 18, and an undergraduate at Xiamen University in 1936, his father died of tuberculosis, aged 46.

The Sino-Japanese War broke out the next year, and he moved to Singapore and started a rubber business before getting into property.

He was also a long-time vice-president of the Hokkien Huay Kuan until the early 1990s, and was awarded two Public Service Stars - in 1978 and 1989. He was married and had two sons and a daughter, but his younger son died in a car accident in Thailand many years ago.