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Man leaves flat to good Samaritan neighbour

WARM-HEARTED: Mr Tan (in grey) started giving away free meals five years ago after recovering from a cycling accident.


    Feb 26, 2016

    Man leaves flat to good Samaritan neighbour

    AN ELDERLY man, who died of cancer, left his three-room flat to a charitable neighbour who had provided him with free meals for three years.

    Retiree Tan Cheng Tey, 65, and his wife Maria, 45, live in a two-room rental flat at Block 23, Chai Chee Road.

    They have been giving away daily free lunches to the needy in their neighbourhood for five years, Chinese newspaper Lianhe Wanbao reported yesterday.

    Teo Poh Soo, one year Mr Tan's senior, was one of these residents. Although Mr Tan said he was quiet and kept to himself, the pair became fast friends and were like brothers.

    In October last year, the single Mr Teo died of cancer and left his three-room flat, understood to be worth about $300,000, to Mr Tan.

    Mr Teo had decided to bequeath his flat to Mr Tan 11/2 years ago, and the latter was astonished at his decision.

    "He said, 'I know you have a good heart and have no hidden aims. I've put your name under my flat; in the future, when I go, I don't have to worry what happens to my house. You can also move in and don't have to stay in such a small flat'," Mr Tan told Wanbao.

    On May 21, 2014, Mr Teo sat down with Mr Tan and lawyers for the signing of his will.

    Aside from his house, Mr Teo also left Mr Tan all his money.

    As he spoke of his old friend, Mr Tan grew emotional and said: "I often think of him. He was quiet but had such a good heart."

    Mr Tan, known as Ah Tai to his friends, had begun giving out free meals to the elderly five years ago after he suffered nerve damage from a cycling accident.

    The subsequent hospital stays affected him emotionally.

    "I suddenly felt that I was useless, as if there was no meaning to life," he said.

    He then decided to do some good and started his free lunch initiative, with his wife's full support.

    Neighbouring residents flocked to Mr Tan when they heard of his scheme, and one of them was Mr Teo, who lived at Block 21, Chai Chee Road.

    "He was a bit reclusive and did not like to talk to people," Mr Tan told Wanbao.

    However, he said Mr Teo would take the initiative to chat with him when they met.

    "After we got familiar with each other, he would look for me every morning. Even when the other neighbours had left, he would stay back and help clean up," he added.

    "Sometimes he would nag at me, asking me why I prepared so much.

    "Others may not understand but I understood - he was worried that I spent too much."

    Mr Teo was diagnosed with cancer in September last year and put in intensive care. Mr Tan and fellow residents visited him daily but he died three weeks later.

    After settling his friend's funeral arrangements, Mr Tan donated the remaining $18,000 of Mr Teo's savings to church institutions.

    He and his wife spend $50 on the free meals daily.

    Asked about the costs, Mr Tan smiled and said that he has savings and can manage.

    He heads to the market early each day to get groceries and spends the morning cooking in the kitchen.

    He takes the cooked food to the void deck at 2pm daily, where about 40 residents from the surrounding three blocks come to eat.

    His lunch menu may not be anything fancy but Mr Tan puts thought into keeping it healthy.

    "I try my best to use less oil. Sometimes I will fry kway teow, sometimes I will make steamed fish and bittergourd soup. I hope that it's nutritious," he said.

    A resident who gave his name as Mr Huang, a 59-year-old retiree, praised Mr Tan for being so warm-hearted and giving to the elderly.

    Feng Yinglan, a 57-year-old housewife who often takes her granddaughter to have Mr Tan's meals, agreed.

    "I'm very happy that we have him. He really does take care of us old folks," she said.