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Tyre tycoon's obituary goes viral

THE 'SAMSENG' SON: Mr Ong with his mother, Madam Han, and daughter, Andromeda Wang, nine.


    Jun 13, 2016

    Tyre tycoon's obituary goes viral

    FOUR hours - that was the time it took for businessman Ong Tiong Yeow to write his father's obituary, a frank, heartfelt poem that has since gone viral on social media.

    Four hours was also how long he took to pack his things and leave his family home as a 23-year-old, after his father Ong Peck Lye threw him out for standing up to him.

    The elder Mr Ong, a wealthy rubber-tyre businessman, died aged 82 of pneumonia last Wednesday and was cremated yesterday. He is survived by his wife Han Boon Keng, 82, a housewife, and three sons aged 46 to 54.

    Mr Ong, 52, his second son, penned the tribute as a poem in first person, based on conversations he had with his father in the latter's last days.

    The verses depicted the complex humanity of his father - his charitable nature and flamboyance, and also his ego and conflicts with his family.

    "I dared to live, and now I dared to die," concludes the poem.

    "I am Ong Peck Lye."

    The obituary, which was in The Straits Times on Friday, was shared on Facebook by user Robin Rheaume and has since garnered over 4,000 likes and 1,185 shares. Many were moved by the poem's honesty.

    The late Mr Ong was born into poverty, fatherless from a young age.

    He worked his way into prosperity after he co-founded Stamford Tyres.

    He showered his children with privilege but their relationships were complicated - at some point, he evicted all of them from their bungalow in Upper Serangoon.

    Mr Ong said his older brother was thrown out after he converted to Christianity and married into a Eurasian family. His younger brother followed suit after coming out as gay. Both left Singapore, the oldest moving to Australia and the youngest to the United States.

    Said Mr Ong: "My father died before he had the chance to ask my brothers to forgive him."

    He himself was ordered to leave when he fought with his father about the treatment of his mother.

    "The poem is also a tribute to my mum. My father bullied her, scolded her, kept mistresses - but she tahan (Malay for endure) until the end."

    Madam Han said in Mandarin: "We had good times and bad times.

    "He was a generous man.

    "I loved him and he loved me."

    She and Mr Ong nursed her late husband through seven years of dementia.

    In the obituary, Mr Ong dubbed himself the "samseng" (which is Malay for gangster) son. This was because in his youth, he was rebellious and did poorly in school, he said.

    Said Mr Ong who has a nine-year-old daughter: "We have only one chance in life to be a husband and a father. We learn what we can from our parents but we have only one chance to get it right."