Lee Khoon Choy: A man of integrity
ESM Goh and son of the late Mr Lee Khoon Choy pay homage to the former PAP stalwart
Spotting a car of the same make in front of the old Odeon cinema, he related the story to his two young sons.
When asked why he had not accepted the gift, Mr Lee said that if he had, he would be known as a "corrupt politician".
"And worse - we boys would be known as 'the corrupt politician's sons'," recalled his son, National University Heart Centre deputy director Lee Chuen Neng. That left a deep impression on Professor Lee.
"My father was a man of integrity and was very passionate about Singapore," the eldest of his seven children told The New Paper yesterday.
Mr Lee, a member of the PAP old guard, died on Saturday morning at the National University Hospital where he had been battling pneumonia. He was 92.
"He was a kind father who instilled confidence in his children," said Prof Lee, 64.
He recounted the time he "did terribly" in his exams and had to repeat his Secondary 1 education.
"My father took me by my shoulders, looked me in the eye and said that I was not a stupid boy, and that I was going to be okay," he said.
Mr Lee's son-in-law, Mr Graham Bell, 62, called him a "wonderful father-in-law and a wonderful grandfather to my two daughters".
"He welcomed me into the family with open arms. When I asked for his daughter's hand in marriage, he asked: 'What took you so long?'. It was indeed a privilege to know him," Mr Bell said with a smile.
At Mr Lee's wake, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong recalled the time he organised a dinner for the old guard to get together with Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's first prime minister.
"Most of them had not met Mr Lee for years. It was emotional when they saw each other," he said.
President Tony Tan, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan and foreign dignitaries such as Japanese ambassador Haruhisa Takeuchi and Chinese ambassador Chen Xiaodong were also there to pay their respects.
PM Lee recounted how founding PM Lee had once described Mr Lee, who was also known as KC, as "a man who 'had it', a man of courage who did not melt under pressure".
In the early 1960s, pro-communist factions in the PAP - that later broke away to form the Barisan Sosialis - tried to woo Mr Lee.
He received a death threat in a letter with a bullet enclosed and had the threat repeated by protesting students, who chanted: "Lee Khoon Choy, enter the coffin."
"But KC did not buckle. He was steadfast and loyal till the end," said PM Lee.
Prof Lee said: "My father led a full and well-lived life. There was nothing wanting. We're here not to mourn his passing, but to celebrate his life and his achievements."
He also called his father the "leader of the band".
Quoting from American musician and songwriter Dan Fogelberg's song of the same title, Prof Lee said: "My life has been a poor attempt to imitate the man, I'm just a living legacy to this leader of the band."
My father was a man of integrity and was very passionate about Singapore.
- Professor Lee Chuen Neng, eldest child of the late Mr Lee Khoon Choy
LEE KHOON CHOY: RENAISSANCE MAN
Former politician Lee Khoon Choy was a man of many talents - he was a Japanese language teacher, journalist, author, musician, politician and diplomat.
Mr Lee, who was born in Penang, studied journalism in London after World War II.
He moved here to work for several Chinese newspapers before switching to write for The Straits Times for two years.
In 1959, on the behest of People's Action Party founding member S. Rajaratnam, he started his political career and was elected Legislative Assemblyman for Bukit Panjang.
The same year, his first wife, Madam Khor Swee Hoon, died of cancer, leaving him to care for their two young sons. In 1962, he married Madam Eng Ah Siam, with whom he had five daughters.
After 25 years in politics, Mr Lee retired in 1984as Senior Minister of State and Member of Parliament (MP) for Braddell Heights.
Mr Lee also had several stints as one of Singapore's longest-serving ambassadors, representing the country from 1968 to 1988 in eight countries, including Egypt, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea.
He was the ambassador to Indonesia in 1970, shortly after the end of Konfrontasi, a period of hostilities when Indonesia opposed the formation of Malaysia, of which Singapore was a part of from 1963 to 1965. Also, Singapore had hanged two Indonesian marines in 1968 for a bombing at MacDonald House that killed three people.
Former MP Teo Chong Tee recalled how Mr Lee helped to mend relations between Indonesia and Singapore.
"He persuaded our founding Prime Minister Lee (Kuan Yew) to wear a batik shirt on his official visit to Indonesia in 1973, and to scatter flowers over the graves of the two men. That helped to mend ties," Mr Teo told reporters at the wake yesterday.
After he retired from public service, Mr Lee became an avid painter and author, writing several books. His latest book on his political life and the old guard is scheduled to be released later this year.
Mr Lee is survived by his wife, seven children and 11 grandchildren.