Michael Fam used to go to work 'with three briefcases'

PROMINENT businessman Michael Fam, who died on Saturday at age 87, left a legacy in both the private and public sector.

His wide contributions are summed up in one particular memory which his son has of him.

"He used to go to work with three briefcases," recalled Mr Richard Fam, 58, a retired businessman.

One briefcase was for his work with major local firm Haw Par, which he brought back from the brink of bankruptcy.

Another was for the Housing Board, of which he was chairman from 1975 to 1983, and a third for his day job with building materials firm Hume Industries, of which he was eventually chairman.

"That really showed how he worked. He was very busy," said Mr Fam, at the wake last night at Mount Vernon Sanctuary.

"But he still had time for us. He would visit his pet projects and show us around."

There would have been many such projects under construction.

After chairing the HDB, Mr Michael Fam chaired the Mass Rapid Transit Corporation from 1983 to 1991, seeing Singapore's first two MRT lines to completion in 1990. He was also executive chairman of the Fraser and Neave Group (F&N) from 1983 to 2007.

"I never see him as actually having retired," said his son. One moment he was hard at work, and the next, he had become ill: "There was no transitory phase."

Mr Fam, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer about two decades ago, is survived by his wife Dulcie, 88, his children Richard and Anita, 51, and five grandchildren.

More than 100 people turned up last night at Grace Service Hall to pay their respects.

Among them was academic Kishore Mahbubani, who had known Mr Fam socially. He said: "I never had the pleasure of working with him, but I admired what he had done."

For Mr Richard Fam, his father's achievements were not something that struck him when he was growing up. "I knew he worked hard. But it's only later on in life that you recognise what he was up to - the scale, the impact of what he's doing."

Anita's children Timothy and Gillian Goh remember their grandfather for simpler things. "We had lunch with him every week, and he liked his ice cream a lot," said Timothy, 14.

The wake continues tonight. A private funeral will be held tomorrow.

This article was first published on December 29, 2014.
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