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Fri, Oct 08, 2010
The New Paper
Little-known facts of the late Mdm Kwa Geok Choo

Excerpts from eulogies delivered by Mrs Lee's family members give a rare glimpes into the life of the late Mdm Kwa Geok Choo.

"Without her, I would be a different man, with a different life."
-Minister Mentor, Lee Kuan Yew


"One of the earliest photos of my happy childhood shows me at Fraser's Hill, a chubby cheerful toddler taking my first tentative steps. Mama is hovering in the background, ready to catch me if needed, and yet allowing me to find my own feet. She played this role in raising Loong, Ling and me: Always there for us if needed, but helping us become strong independent individuals."
- Mr Lee Hsien Yang, 53, the youngest child of Mr and Mrs Lee Kuan Yew

 


"She encouraged me to treat the children of the staff who lived in the Istana grounds as friends without any thought of status. To this day I remember Flora, Stella, John and Aloysious, the children of the butler, Peter, a Catholic Indian. I played rounders with them, and we watched the black-and-white TV in their small sitting room."
- Dr Lee Wei Ling, 55, Mr and Mrs Lee Kuan Yew's daughter

 


  • PM Lee described Mrs Lee as loving but strict

"Mama has always been part of our lives. Papa was busy with political work, so she did most of the bringing up of the children - me, Ling and Yang. "She nurtured us, taught us, disciplined us, took care of us, and fussed over us."

 

"...she enforced clear rules, encouraged us to do well, and took pride in our successes. She kept the first school prize that I ever won, for doing well in kindergarten - a pencil sharpener in the shape of a tiny trophy, in the display cabinet at home. It is still there today.

"Mama did not believe in spoiling her children. When we were small, she would walk with us down Oxley Road to a little stationery and book shop along Orchard Road, now long gone.

  • PM Lee also spoke about how his mother once rescued him.

"We would visit our maternal grandparents at Pasir Panjang regularly. Their house was on the seafront, and at high tide the water would come right in to the seawall.

"We would swim in the sea, and Mama would sit on the steps watching over us. Once when I had almost learnt to swim but not quite, I got into difficulty using goggles and a snorkel, and nearly drowned. Mama had to plunge in fully dressed to rescue me. She was not amused."

  • He also spoke about how his mother fussed over her family.

"When the boys went away to university, she fussed over us at long distance.

"She was a skilful knitter, and knitted us sweaters to stay warm, one after another. I still have one of them, a favourite rust-coloured one, patched many times at the elbows but still warm.

"We stayed in close touch during my years abroad. Once a week I would sit down to write a long letter home, and Mama and Papa would each write me a long letter too...

"The years passed. Even in old age, Mama kept a motherly eye on her children. She would follow my public appearances on TV and in the press, and comment on my dress or demeanour. After one particularly long evening function which both my parents and I attended, she reproached me: 'You were bored stiff, and looked it.'

"She kept the first school prize that I ever won, for doing well in kindergarten - a pencil sharpener in the shape of a tiny trophy, in the display cabinet at home. It is still there today."

-Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, the eldest son of Mr & Mrs Lee Kuan Yew

 

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