Dozens turn up at wake of Singaporean kayaker Puah Geok Tin

Friends and relatives of Madam Puah Geok Tin paying their last respects at the wake held in the void deck of her home in Tampines Street 12 on Aug 17, 2019.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - Friends and relatives gathered at the wake of Singaporean kayaker Puah Geok Tin, who drowned during a trip in Malaysia, painted a picture of a woman who lived life large.

Long-time friend Florence Yeo, 52, said she had a pact to live out her old age together with Madam Puah.

They had also often joked that they would "wreak havoc" at the nursing home when they can no longer live on their own.

Speaking to The Straits Times on Saturday (Aug 17) at the wake of the 57-year-old who went missing on Aug 8 while in choppy waters off Mersing, Madam Yeo said she got to know Madam Puah through the now-defunct Punggol Point Canoe Club more than 30 years ago.

She described her friend as "thoughtful", who took good care of people around her.

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"In the past, when we had a girls' night out, she would send everyone home in her van and make sure they were safe," she added.

"It's our good fortune to have known her for so many years."

Madam Puah together with her kayak partner, Mr Tan Eng Soon, were separated from their group while on a five-day expedition.

Her body was found on Wednesday in Terengganu waters and brought home on Friday, accompanied by her son Louis Pang, and other relatives.

Malaysian authorities are searching Terengganu waters between Kemaman and Merchang for Mr Tan, 62, after a reported sighting of a body clad in a life jacket in the area.

Dozens of friends and relatives of Madam Puah turned up on Saturday to pay their last respects at the wake held in the void deck of her home in Tampines Street 12.

"I know I have to share my mom's love, because she has a tremendous amount of friends," Mr Pang had told ST earlier in Mersing while she was still declared missing.

He added that his mother loved spontaneity, and her schedule was always packed with activities.

"She's the kind of mom who says, 'Go, go - go and have fun please.'"

In one corner of the wake, there was a booth decorated with lights and snapshots of Madam Puah and her loved ones.

"Given my aunt's character, we thought she would like this," said Ms Jen Pan, 35.

"She loved happy events. She wouldn't want anyone to be sad," added Ms Pan.

Plastered on the walls were blown-up photos from the last photo shoot that Madam Puah's family had done together at Gardens by the Bay, two weeks before she left for the expedition.

Mr Pang, 24, had previously told ST that the shoot was one of his fondest memories.

"As we grew up, it became less easy for the family to get together," he said. "But the best part of our family is that every time when we come together, we make the best out of it."

Mr Pang also spoke fondly of a family trip to Gold Coast in 2016.

"We caught a lot of sunrise and sunsets together. Those are moments that I hold very closely to me."

Madam Puah's daughter, Ms Ranie Pang, said that her family has such close bonds because of her mother.

"I want to keep that going. That's her greatest desire - for the whole family to be close," added Ms Pang, 27.

"And just try to continue to love like she does, and to live like she did."

Her father - Mr Peng Mun Kit, 56 - was at the wake but did not speak to reporters.

Madam Ong Siew Leng, who is Madam Puah's godsister, told ST in Mandarin at the wake: "Jo (Madam Puah) used to say, 'I don't want to be the last one to go. Everyone will be gone by then, and I'd have cried so many times.'"

"Now that she's the first one to go, she must be feeling so lucky," said Madam Ong, teary-eyed.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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