He's 81 and still makes house calls for repairs

While many people in their 60s are already easing into retirement, 81-year-old Peter Cheng is still busy fixing common household problems like leaky taps, faulty lights and changing toilet bowls for customers.

Operating out of a little shop in Katong Plaza since the late 1980s, the former military technician continued to apply his expertise to his handyman trade when he retired from the army at the age of 50.

Surviving two operations for cancer and a heart transplant, Mr Cheng, who is affectionately known as "Uncle Cheng" to his regular customers and friends, has kept a busy lifestyle with his other love, photography.

The example of Mr Cheng as an active and independent senior was highlighted by one satisfied customer in a Facebook post on Tuesday (March 8).

After Mr Frederick Chu wrote online about how impressed he was with Mr Cheng's service, the latter received a flood of calls yesterday from people asking for his service too.

"After changing my tap, he took (the) initiative to cement the sides of my sink, seeing that the old silicon has worn off. He didn't even charge me extra for the additional patching work for the sink. All he asked for is $30 for his workmanship excluding materials cost plus the tap he bought - in this case is $38," said Mr Chu.

"He even cleaned up my place upon completing his job even though I told him not too," added Mr Chu, who said it was a neighbour who recommended Mr Cheng to him.

When interviewed by AsiaOne at his shop, Mr Cheng, said: "I don't advertise. I get jobs through word-of-mouth. If you do a good job, people will recommend you to other people. Most of my customers are in the Katong area."

He starts work every day at about 9.30am and his attractive fees for a fix range from $30 to $50, which he says are still lower than the average of $70 that some handymen or plumbers charge for making an inspection, with or without a service.

He also believes in charging for a replacement part, such as a tap, at cost price. He earns at least $500 a month, and can sometimes gets up to $1,000, but this is "rare".

"It's enough for me to afford the photography trips to nearby countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam," said the father of four, who also receives a monthly allowance from one of his sons.

He sold off the family's private apartment last year and has been renting a room in a Housing Board flat in Kaki Bukit since January in order to be nearer to his shop.

"My family pays for the room rental. I eat anything I like, usually at the foodcourt in a nearby mall," added Mr Cheng, who takes the bus to work and to his customers' homes.

His children are all grown up and successful, holding jobs in IT and engineering. While his wife lives with their daughter in Simei, he often chats with them over the phone and has meals with them.

He only plans to retire in about five years' time and possibly move to Malaysia as the cost of living is lower there.

Yesterday alone, Mr Cheng received about 15 calls for his services - up from his usual two a week - after Mr Chu's post made its rounds online but he had to turn them all down. More importantly, he did so as he was preparing to leave for a trip tomorrow (March 11) to Port Dickson to watch and photograph migratory birds.

"I am looking forward to the trip again. I will come back next week but give me one day to rest and then I will do repairs again."


Above: Photos taken by Peter Cheng on his travels

Above: Peter Cheng's website