News

Now - Beloved 'Auntie Jenny' of Block 33

CONTENTED: (Above) Miss Jenny Toh, with church volunteer Ms Wong Mei Poh, happily obliges balloon sculpture requests for the kids living in the block.

(Above) She lives alone in a two-room studio apartment with her cat. TNP PHOTOS: GAVIN FOO

The residents of Block 33 in Eunos Crescent have been receiving leaflets inviting them to block parties at the 14th-storey corridor for the past three years.

"Oh, it is from Auntie Jenny," says Mrs Seng, a housewife in her 40s and a mother of three.

"She is always the one who says 'Hi'. I let my kids play at her place and they attend her parties."

Another resident, Madam Lisa Mak, has known Miss Jenny Toh since she moved into the block eight years ago.

"She came over by herself to say hello. She comes to 'makan' (Malay for 'eat') with me and the other neighbours.

"I don't usually like to mix with others but Jenny helped me get to know many people around here," says the housewife in her 50s.

Twice a year, on National Day and on Christmas Day, members of the block congregate at Miss Toh's two-room studio apartment for a potluck party and wine tasting. She also makes balloon sculptures for the kids.

Residents even call her place "Pub 33", exclusive to people from Block 33.

Miss Toh, now retired from her job as a trainer at an indoor play centre, lives alone with her cat.

She knows the rubbish collector, the fishmonger and the "uncle selling newspaper", she says.

"The people in this block have issues with old age, sickness, family, loneliness... I am their listening ear.

"I would like to think that my bubbly personality has rubbed off on them. They are all my friends," she says.

She boasts of the chicken curry she prepared for the Christmas party last month, saying that she uses only the freshest ingredients.

She spends about $100 for each party, out of her own pocket.

"Most of it is spent on wine," she admits, adding that a party cannot go on without drinks.

Few know that three decades ago, this gregarious lady almost lost her life at sea.

Those who do, don't ask much about it as Miss Toh will always play it down.

"Well, it was a random event that could happen to anybody," she says.

But since the incident, her outlook in life has changed.

Instead of simply settling down with a husband and children like her six siblings, Miss Toh remained single, devoting her life to others instead of herself.

"Nope, I don't feel lonely. I have so many people here. After the incident, there was a time when I thought to myself, 'What now?' Then I decided to enjoy life with the people around me."

She has vision problems as she has cataracts in her eyes.

She also jokes about death freely, as if she was living on borrowed time.

"I have seen death twice and almost died myself. Talking about death is natural for me."

EMERGENCY CORD

An emergency cord dangling from the ceiling of her home - a standard feature in studio apartments - remains tied up and out of reach as she "doesn't want her cat to pull it".

Says Miss Toh, who moved into the apartment in 2006: "I told my contractor to do up my place nicely because I am going to die here. But don't worry about me. If my neighbours don't hear from me in a few days, they'll know I am in trouble."

As she speaks to TNPS, four young children from around the block turn up to greet "Auntie Jenny".

She pulls out a chest of balloons from her days working at the play centre, and begins sculpting balloon animals for them.

She obliges every request, from dogs to flowers to fashion accessories.

"They love these," she says, laughing.

Housewife Wong Mei Poh, 52, who frequently visits the block as part of her church's outreach programme, was the one who introduced us to Miss Toh.

Three years ago, she was surprised to find such a tight-knit community on the 14th storey of Block 33.

"This area has many studio apartments meant for old folk and retirees, but I have never encountered someone like Jenny in all my visits," says Ms Poh.

"She is truly a remarkable woman."

"After the incident, there was a time when I thought to myself, ‘What now?’ Then I decided to enjoy life with the people around me."

— Miss Jenny Toh Swee Neo