Monday, January 5, 2015

In search of the family's roots (Part 1).

This concluding portion of a story on commemorating SG50, in today's ST page 1 (Jan 5), got me thinking:

My late eldest brother Tee Chuan had started putting together the family's roots but he died on May 1, 2011. His hard work on our family history died with him -- as his computer hard disk was found to be inaccessible.

But I remembered at least one email from him that dwelt on extended family matters. I dug into my messy email archive and... found it! It was an eye-opener:

My Dear Brothers and Sister,
I am now back in Kuala Lumpur and have decided to up-date you on 2 matters.

Tua Kor's Funeral

Our Tua Kor, Khoo Ghee Soon who is our father's sister, passed away peacefully on Friday 27.3.2009 after a short illness. Paik Sim and I attended the funeral service at St Teresa Church (near Mount Faber) and the cremation at Mandai Columbarium and Crematrorium on 31.3.2009. 

Tua Kor was a teenager when I lived in the same attap house with her in Pasir Panjang. She married Chua Siak Bee who owned a few prawn ponds and a starfruit orchard in what was 10th Mile West Coast Road and now referred to as Jurong. She had a sweet cheerful disposition. Whenever Grandmother and I visited her she would catch a substantial quantity of prawns, slaughter a chicken and cook Hokkien Mee for us. 

She would always give us a basket of starfruit and a packet of freshwater prawns to take away. She was widowed for more than 30 years and single-handedly brought up 3 sons and 2 daughters and helped to raise 2 grand-daughters now working in Sydney as a doctor and an accountant. These two arrived Changi Airport when Tua Kor was still breathing but reached her bedside in the hospital half an hour after she had expired. However, they did see her in November when she nearly died but miraculously pulled through.

Paik Sim and I visited her on Chinese New Year's day and even though she was frail and on a wheelchair (suffering from Parkinson's Disease) she was in high spirits and invited us to visit her again the next time we go to Singapore. Now she is gone. She was given a very good send-off and had many relatives and friends at the 3 nights' wake and the funeral itself. Please see photo of the cortege.

Sar Kor's Grave

I know Tua Kor very well and also Jee Kor who had been taken away by the Japanese as a comfort woman and vaguely know that our father had a third sister, our Sar Kor, who died before reaching the age of ten. I had been pestering other relatives to show me Sar Kor's grave for a long time and at last on 31.3.2009 Khoo How Tiam (our Sar Chek's 2nd son) took me there.

Sar Kor's grave is in Bukit Brown Chinese Cemetery, along Lorong Halwa approachable from the end of Kheam Hock Road and the end of Sime Road. It is about 30m down a slight slope perpendicular to the largest tree in the cemetery. Engraved in the centre of the gravestone is Sar Kor's name, Miss Khoo Ghee Piow. Engraved on the left side is the name of our kampong in China, Nan Ann 14th Precinct. Engraved on the right side is the date of her death, 23rd Year of the Republic of China 12th Moon 14th Day which I reckon is equivalent to 18.1.1935.

As it was Cheng Beng time, How Tiam and I cleared the undergrowth and cleaned the gravestone.


Tee Chuan

Wow! I just want to add that, from recollection, my late father Khoo Ghee Tam told us that our ancestral home in China's Fujian province was in Lam-uah (other spelling variations include Lam Oa, Lam An, Nan'an, and Nan Ann), Chap See Tor (14th Precinct?), Um Beh Lor (not sure about this but it seems to reference the road leading to the village.

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