While we mourn the loss of the late Mrs Wee, we also celebrate hers and the former President Wee Kim Wee's love story and devotion to one another, which has remained an inspiration to many. Here are the things to know, and the lessons to learn.
Image credit: The Peranakan Association Singapore’s Facebook page
#1 She married at a very young age, after only a year of meeting Dr Wee
According to the book In the Mood for Cheongsam (2012), she was only 18 years old when she married Dr Wee who was then 21 years old, and that they had only known each other for a year before tying the knot in 1936. Theirs is a storied romance, with Mrs Wee, born Koh Sok Hiong, constantly by her husband’s side, as he rose from journalist to politician. They enjoyed 69 years of marriage and had 7 children, 13 grandchildren, and 17 great-grandchildren.
#2 Her wedding ceremony was conducted in Mandarin
She studied in Hwa Chiau Chinese and English School and Nanyang Girls’ High School before she was married to Dr Wee. In fact, their wedding ceremony was conducted in Mandarin in the United Chinese Library. She understood every word spoken, whereas Dr Wee revealed in his 2004 memoirs — Wee Kim Wee: Glimpses and Reflections — that he did not.
#3 She resolved to be the perfect wife to Dr Wee on their wedding night
She has said that on her wedding night, Dr Wee dug into his pocket, and pressed all the money he had then (about $1.75) into her hand and proclaimed that “I have no money. But whatever I have I give to you”. From that moment on, she resolved to be the perfect wife.
Image credit: SPH’s Information Resource Centre
#4 She was a huge support to him in his political roles, becoming his official party planner!
She drew on all the skills she had at hand to support her husband. She began cooking at the age of 10, learning culinary skills from her grandmother. When Dr Wee was appointed as High Commissioner to Malaysia and Ambassador to Japan and Republic of Korea during 1973 to 1984, Mrs Wee personally prepared food for dinner parties and receptions.
Dr Wee’s personal assistant from 1980 to 1983, Sylvia Toh, noted that Mrs Wee was exceptional at “managing a formal sit down official dinner for 20 guests” and that “she could even cook for Singapore’s National Day reception for 500 to 600 guests”.
#5 She was a devoted mother, working 24/7 to take care of her family.
In a 2011 interview, Mrs Wee’s daughter Maureen Wee Bee Neo revealed that her mother took care of everything for her children. She would cook for them, of course, but also give them haircuts and tailor their clothes. Dr Wee has reportedly said that as the family matriarch, she “put in almost 14 to 16 hours daily, seven days a week, 365 days a year” into taking care of the family.
Image credit: misterdanielboey.wordpress.com
#6 He dedicated an essay to her
The late and former President honoured his wife with an essay in his memoirs titled, "Till Death Do Us Part", writing, "Those who are going to make marriage vows - no matter what form they take - should think seriously about what they mean. Vows are made to be kept and one's word is one's bond."
Dr Wee described his wife as his soul mate. On 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."