'Samseng Son' pens touching poem for father's obituary
Those who went through the obituary pages in The Straits Times on Friday might have come across the obituary of one Mr Ong Peck Lye.
It came with a touching poem on Mr Ong's life, written in the first person, and addressed to his family.
The last stanza went as follows: "At last I got to see my legacy, ensured, enshrined in good hands. I dared to live and now I dare to die. I am Ong Peck Lye."
The poem resonated with netizens, too, many of whom shared it on their Facebook pages.
One Facebook user, Ms Robin Ann Rheaume, posted a picture of the obituary that received more than 1,500 likes and was shared more than 600 times.
One comment said: "I love that. It's so beautifully written and so honest. It says a lot. Thanks for sharing this."
HEARTFELT: Mr Ong Tiong Yeow (above) wrote the poem in four hours. TNP PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR
It turns out the poem was written by Mr Ong's second son, Mr Ong Tiong Yeow.
The New Paper on Sunday visited the wake at the Singapore Casket Building on Lavender Street and spoke to the author of the poem.
Mr Ong, 52, said: "I wrote it as though my father was the one who wrote it. I truly believe that it was what he would say if he could.
"It was a way for us and my father's friends to remember the man.
"Many who came to the wake said that when they read the poem, it was exactly the sort of person my father was."
The second son said he was petulant when he was younger, which was why he styled himself as the "Samseng (Malay for gangster) Son".
As his two brothers had emigrated some years back - one to Australia and another to the US - Mr Ong had lived and listened to his father's stories till the very end.
His father died from pneumonia on Wednesday at the age of 82 and is survived by his wife and three sons.
Mr Ong Peck Lye was one of the founders of the Stamford Tyres business empire, which began life offering rethreading services to the British army in pre-war 1930.
He was born poor as his father had died early, leaving his mother to care for him and seven other siblings through World War II, said his son.
But the late Mr Ong rose from poverty and continued to build on the family business he started with two siblings.
He later married Madam Han Boon Keng, who was from a rich rubber plantation family in the Riau Islands.
His son shared how his father "showered his family" with status symbols to show his love for the family.
Mr Ong, who runs a franchising company for beauty pageants, said: "He used to tell us how he would have to walk barefoot to school when he was younger to avoid wearing out his shoes."
Mr Ong said the poem was meant to be a frank look into his father's life and he hoped it would show that no man is perfect.
"He was a proud and chauvinistic traditionalist. He knew he had made mistakes in his life and family," he said.
It was Madam Han who took the hard edge off his father, he added.
This was all before his father's struggle with dementia started seven years ago.
Mr Ong shared how his father's deteriorating health required the close attention of his mother and himself until the very end.
His family asked him to write something for his father's obituary and he did so in four hours.
When told that his poem had touched many readers, Mr Ong was surprised at first.
He told TNPS: "I wrote this poem because I just wanted to share that every family has an inside story, and that everyone can read this and understand that every family has problems.
"I glad that it resonated with people and that they can identify with it."