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Tribute for Hwa Chong vendor who worked for 62 years

'GREAT LOSS TO SCHOOL': Mr Yeo was usually the first to reach HCI and the last to leave, turning up at 4am to clean the floor and leaving after the lights were dimmed at 8pm.


    Jun 17, 2016

    Tribute for Hwa Chong vendor who worked for 62 years

    A WELL-LOVED canteen vendor, who had sold drinks and fruit at Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) for 62 years, died on Monday at age 85.

    Yeo Kim Swee was usually the first to reach the school and the last to leave, arriving at 4am to clean the floor and leaving after the lights went out at 8pm, Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao reported yesterday.

    Mr Yeo, who worked in the High School section, is said to have been jovial, well-respected and liked by teachers and students alike.

    His signature papaya milk drink was popular among students, who would pay him their respects during Chinese New Year. Some gave him thank you cards and alumni returned to hand him red packets.

    Known as "Uncle Chwee", the vendor would ride a motorcycle to work daily, and was even known to offer free drinks or food to needy students.

    His son, Yang Qindi, 52, who also helps at the school, told Wanbao that his father had given his all to the school and stopped turning up for work only when he could no longer walk.

    According to Mr Yang, his father was diagnosed with late-stage prostate cancer in November. His condition worsened last week and he died at 8.50pm on Monday.

    The vendor was so beloved by students that a group of them did a project on him called The Life And Times Of Uncle Ah Chwee.

    They describe him on the Weebly site as working from the age of 10 at a grocery store during the Japanese Occupation, and starting work at the high school division of HCI, which was then The Chinese High School, at 22.

    Mr Yeo had also been honoured at a ceremony last March, for his "62 years of excellent service", as an "extraordinary pioneer of Hwa Chong", where he was given a "spontaneous standing ovation", according to Facebook page ProEd Consortium.

    Said mathematics teacher Cai Wenwu, 40: "Sometimes, we would ask him to prepare drinks at the last minute for school activities and he never rejected or complained. That's how he was. "

    HCI principal Hon Chiew Weng posted a notice on the school website on Wednesday informing staff and students of Mr Yeo's passing.

    He paid his respects at the wake on Wednesday afternoon, along with other staff members.

    The school also sent a wreath and Chinese couplet to the wake.

    Dr Hon called Mr Yeo a low-key, loyal man who did not seek fame or reward, and described his passing as "a great loss" to the school.

    The wake is being held at Block 301, Shunfu Road until Sunday morning.