Portrait of an artist through friends' eyes

SINGAPORE - Just a day before she was allegedly murdered, porcelain artist Nancy Gan Wan Geok was wondering whether she would attend the Bone Marrow Donor Programme's fund-raising gala in May.

And the deciding factor, it seems, was the cast on her left wrist, which she got from falling at Botanic Gardens. It was to be removed in the middle of next month.

A friend of hers told MyPaper: "She said: 'If my cast is still on, I think I won't come. Friends might want to write on it, and I don't want that. I am conservative'."

The decision was taken out of her hands. Madam Gan, 69, was found dead in the swimming pool of her bungalow in Victoria Park Road in Bukit Timah on Wednesday morning.

Her Indonesian maid, Dewi Sukowati, was charged yesterday with murdering her. Dressed in a red polo T-shirt and sporting short dyed hair, the 23-year-old remained expressionless as the charges were read to her.

She will be remanded at Changi Women's Prison for three weeks for psychiatric assessment. She arrived here only recently and Madam Gan's is believed to be the first home she has worked at.

Lawyer Mohamed Muzammil, who was instructed by the Indonesian Embassy here to represent her, said that she is from a village called Pati in Central Java, and that the embassy is trying to get more information on her.

Yesterday, Madam Gan's son, Mr Victor Lim, was at the Singapore General Hospital mortuary to identify her body. He had been overseas on a work trip and returned to Singapore upon hearing the news.

Mr Lim was the "apple of her eye".

Another friend said that the pair were very close because she spent a lot of time bringing him up as a single mother. They also went on holidays together.

Mr Lim is one of two children she had with her first husband, a doctor. After he died, she was married to Hong Kong politician Hilton Cheong-Leen.

She lived in Hong Kong for a while with him. It is not known when she moved back here. Her stepdaughter's former husband later went on to marry popular Taiwanese actress Brigitte Lin Ching Hsia.

Madam Gan was devoted to her Swiss Club Road bungalow, where she had parked her paintings, and even a kiln. While it was being renovated, she moved to the Victoria Park Road bungalow.

She would, however, check on the progress of the construction work every day. Works were to be completed in about three months' time.

Just the afternoon before she died, Madam Gan had met a friend for lunch and given her a rose made of clay and painted by her.

This was routine for her. She always gave this friend a handmade gift when they met - which was four or five times a year.

Friends also attested to her "marvellous" cooking, which included a sit-down eight-course dinner, during which she served a vegetarian dish and char siew.

"Her Chinese food was quite famous in town," a friend said.

She was quite the critic of meals whipped up in restaurants, but was equally health-conscious.

Friends spoke about her kindness and described her as vivacious.

"She was very energetic and I was surprised to find out she was 69 as she was very healthy, spirited and dynamic. She looked 10 years younger," said Mr Gilbert Cheah, managing editor of luxury magazine Singapore Tatler.


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