SINGAPORE - His rojak stall had a special place in his heart.
Even on his final journey, rojak master Lim Ngak Chew, 71, who died last Tuesday (Aug 22), found a way to be near his popular Balestier Road Hoover Rojak stall at Whampoa Makan Place.
On Saturday (Aug 26) morning, the funeral cortege carrying Mr Lim's body drove past the hawker centre on its way from Block 7A Lorong 7 Toa Payoh, where his wake was held, to Mandai Crematorium, in accordance with his wishes.
About 50 people, including some long-time customers, stood solemnly outside Whampoa Makan Place to bid a final farewell to the man affectionately known as the 'rojak uncle', or 'Ah Shui' to his fellow hawkers.
Mr Lim, who was famous for making rojak that comes with ingredients such as century egg, jelly fish and ginger flower, was remembered fondly as a jovial man who enjoyed talking to his patrons. He died from colon cancer after battling the illness for nearly three years.
Among those who said their last goodbyes was sales manager Lydia Wong, who has been patronising Mr Lim's stall since she was a child.
The stall often boasts long queues, with customers having to wait for half an hour during peak hours, said Ms Wong, 40.
"He knew the right amount of ingredients to put in," she added. "I hardly try other rojak stalls. They are nowhere as good as his."
The long-time hawker was diagnosed in 2014 with terminal-stage colon cancer that had spread to his liver. He was given at most a year to live at the time.
Mr Lim, who founded the stall, handed it to his younger son, Stanley, 46, who has been running it since December 2014.
Another son, Matthew, 49, is a manager in an electronics firm, while a daughter, Su Jiuen, 51, works in the civil service.
For Mr Lim's fellow hawkers, Mr Lim was a friendly man who worked hard. Some hawkers even grew up under his watchful eyes.
Madam Joyce Lim, 58, who helps out at the Zhong He Drink Stall three units from Mr Lim's stall, said the hawkers at Whampoa Makan Place are "very close".
She had known Mr Lim for about two decades, and described him as one who would often help others to serve customers when they were busy.
She added: "He would come by the hawker centre to chit chat with us. Sometimes, he would also eat with us."
Despite his illness, the affable Mr Lim would still find time to visit the stall while undergoing chemotherapy. He would do so at least twice a week, sitting a few tables away and chatting with regulars.
Last Friday (Aug 18), Mr Lim visited his stall and had his last taste of rojak.
Mr Lim started his rojak business in 1961 from a pushcart in Toa Payoh. After receiving his hawker's licence in 1971, he settled at a spot opposite Hoover Cinema - where Shaw Plaza is located now - in Balestier Road.
In 1978, he moved to Whampoa Drive Food Centre, now called Whampoa Makan Place, where the stall is currently located.
Balestier Road Hoover Rojak has been on the Singapore Michelin Guide's Bib Gourmand list for the past two years.
He was also recognised as a Hawker Master for Chinese rojak in 2013 in Singapore Press Holdings' search for the best hawkers.
The rojak stall is closed for business for a week till Thursday (Aug 31).