Former president Wee Kim Wee and Mrs Wee being welcomed as they arrived at Jamiyah’s annual Hari Raya dinner, in 1997. The late Mr Wee had described Mrs Wee as his soulmate.

Known for her warmth, grace and culinary skills, the wife of Singapore’s forth president, Dr Wee Kim Wee passed away yesterday, two days after turning 102 on Thursday.

She had celebrated her birthday on Friday with some of her children and two friends at her home in Siglap Plain.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, her daughter, Ms Wee Eng Hwa, 75, said Mrs Wee had suffered from some breathing difficulties on Friday, which became worse yesterday (Saturday) afternoon. She was sent to Changi General Hospital in an ambulance that night but could not be resuscitated.

“They did their best, but couldn’t find any pulse except for the pace maker. She’s now peacefully at rest,” said Ms Wee, a lawyer who lived with Mrs Wee. “She’s done us proud, done so much for us, gave us her best.”

The late Mrs Wee Kim Wee was an unsung heroine in Singapore’s history, said President Halimah Yacob on Sunday (July 8) ST FILE PHOTO

In a Facebook post, President Halimah said that as the wife of one of the country’s most well-loved Presidents, Mrs Wee served the people with grace.

“She was a steadfast advocate of education and providing opportunities for disadvantaged children and youth,” Madam Halimah wrote. Among her various contributions, Singaporeans will perhaps most of all remember Mrs Wee for her selfless dedication to the late Dr Wee, Madam Halimah added.

Mr Wee Kim Wee and his wife in 1985.PHOTO: ST FILE

Born Koh Sok Hiong, Mrs Wee met Mr Wee in 1936, and they married the same year. The teenage sweethearts had seven children – one son and six daughters.

Mr Wee, who was Singapore’s president from 1985 to 1993, had described Mrs Wee as his soulmate. During their 60th wedding anniversary, he said: “She has been wife, mother, cook, tailor, washerwoman, doctor and barber of the family all rolled into one and put in almost 14 to 16 hours daily, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Fortunately, for me, there was then no NTUC or trade union to haul me up as a tyrannical exploiter.”

Mrs Wee presenting gifts to children during a police fun fair and carnival in 1985 at the then Police Academy in Thomson Road. ST FILE PHOTO

The couple were known as gracious hosts, and as president, Mr Wee often invited Singaporeans to the Istana for Mrs Wee’s famed Peranakan fare.

Since his death on May 2, 2005, Mrs Wee had kept busy cooking for her close-knit family and had a cookbook of her recipes, Cooking For The President – Reflections & Recipes Of Mrs Wee Kim Wee, published. The book, which took 21 years to complete, features over 200 recipes and their variations.

Though Mrs Wee had enjoyed most of her golden years in good health, she suffered a stroke in 2015 that left her using a wheelchair. She was also unable to eat the Peranakan dishes that she loved as she had to be tube fed.

Ms Wee said the family would move the matriarch to the kitchen whenever meals were being prepared so that she could smell the food and watch them cook. “She loved Peranakan food, nothing could match that for her,” added Ms Wee.

About 100 people held a party for Mrs Wee at her Siglap home when she turned 99 on July 5, 2015. The cake came with the number 100, Mrs Wee’s age then, according to Chinese custom. ST FILE PHOTOS

On July 1, the family threw a big celebration to mark Mrs Wee’s 103rd birthday according to Chinese custom, which deems individuals as one year old at birth. About 80 guests including friends and family turned up.

Mrs Wee leaves six children, 13 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren. Her wake will start in the late afternoon today at 25, Siglap Plain.


This story first appeared in The Straits Times.