SINGAPORE´S ´MR. CHARITY,´ EE PENG LIANG, DIES AT AGE 81

Singapore
1994-09-02 00:00:00

Ee Peng Liang, known in Singapore as "Mr. Charity," died of heart failure in his home surrounded by his family Aug. 24. He was 81.

Ee, prominent in the Catholic community and a social work volunteer for 50 years, was president of Singapore´s Community Chest for 10 years, during which he helped set up funding mechanisms for social welfare projects in Singapore.

When he resigned as president in 1992, the Community Chest was dispersing S$27 million (US$17 million) annually in aid to 44 member agencies.

Ee served as president of the Singapore Council of Social Services from 1958-1992 and also set up the island´s Catholic Welfare Services.

His son, Lawrence Ee, 52, said that a few hours before his father died, he was talking about helping scouts raise money for their new headquarters.

His funeral Mass was held Aug. 28 at Holy Family Parish, the church where he attended daily Mass and served as a communion minister the past 10 years. Archbishop Gregory Yong Sooi Ngean conducted the funeral service.

Former Singapore president Wee Kim Wee, a close friend of Ee for some 30 years, delivered the eulogy, at one point breaking down.

"If there is one social worker who has touched every single household in Singapore, it is Doctor Ee," Wee said in a voice hoarse with grief.

Wee noted that Ee served on boards for more than 50 public organizations, held offices in 31 charity groups and was a member of 10 clubs. Ee often worked from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., Wee said, yet he always had time to donate.

Last year he was named pro-chancellor of Nanyang Technological University.

Attending Ee´s wake at the family home Aug. 25 were President Ong Teng Cheong, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and many current and former ministers.

Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew sent a message of condolence that said, "I was deeply moved by (Ee´s) preoccupation with other people."

In a memorial service Aug. 30 for staff and students of Marymount schools, headmistress Evelyn Schoonbeck said Ee´s generosity with time always impressed her. He attended every event Marymount invited him to, she said, including graduations, sports days and even once a school fair on recycling and ecology.

Ee sat on the management boards for Marymount, Christian Brothers and Canossian Sisters schools. He was also involved with the Redemptorists.

Father Alfred Chan, Ee´s parish priest for 18 years, recalled that Ee had called his appointment as communion minister a spiritual high point. Ee´s serving spiritual food to people matched his efforts to give physical comfort to the disabled and disadvantaged, Father Chan observed.

Ee came from a poor Hokkien family and grew up in the Kallang gasworks area of Singapore in a family of eight. He began life as a stenographer in a law firm, took an external degree as an accountant and in the 1940s founded an accountancy agency that would grow into one of Singapore´s largest.

The company merged with the international firm of Ernst and Young in 1986, but Ee continued to work there as an adviser up until the day of his death.

In July he was awarded the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) achievement award for community service. He received the Darjah Nila Utama, Singapore´s highest civilian award, in 1992 and was named Knight Commander of the Order St. Gregory, a papal award, in 1974.

He leaves behind his wife, Mary, and children Theresa, Lawrence, Cecilia, Agnes and Gerard. He had six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Ee always said he was propelled into social work out of gratitude for cheating death three times during World War II, when he served as a sergeant in the Straits Settlement Volunteer Force.

Twice, when Ee and others were summoned to Japanese occupation headquarters in Singapore, he was not among the men arbitrarily selected and executed.

Of the third time he was commanded to report, daughter Theresa relates, "I was 3 at the time and insisted that I accompany Dad. The Japanese officer there happened to have a 3-year-old daughter at home.

"He gave my father a letter of free passage and asked Dad to take me home."

Of these incidents, Ee was fond of telling reporters: "I felt God had spared me for something, and not just for myself."

END

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