Sunday, October 3, 2010

Wife of Singapore MM Lee Kuan Yew dies at age 89

UPDATED SINGAPORE : Madam Kwa Geok Choo - the wife of Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, and mother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has died on Saturday.

Mrs Lee Kuan Yew, age 89, passed away peacefully at home at 5.40 pm.

A statement from the Prime Minister's Office said the wake is held at Sri Temasek, official residence of the Prime Minister located within the Istana grounds, from October 4-5.

Visitors who wish to pay their last respects may do so on October 4-5 from 10am to 5pm.

Members of the public may call 6835 6614 for any queries.

A private funeral will take place on October 6 at Mandai Crematorium.

The family requests that no obituaries and no wreaths or flowers to be sent.

All donations will go to the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI) Health Research Endowment Fund.

In her, Kuan Yew met his soul mate and mental match

Madam Kwa was one of 8 children.

An outstanding student at Methodist Girls' School, she also topped the 1936 Senior Cambridge Examination for the whole of Malaya and Singapore.

At Raffles Institution, she caught the attention of a young Lee Kuan Yew when she gave him unexpectedly stiff competition for a Queen's Scholarship.

But academic rivalry aside, he knew he had found his equal, and his soul mate.

Their relationship grew through the years of Japanese Occupation, and by September 1944, love had blossomed.

When World War II ended, Mr Lee left to study law in England in 1946. But he was miserable until she joined him at Cambridge University a year later.

The two married secretly on 23 December 1947.

She had just turned 27, and he was 24.

Mrs Lee said: "You can't explain these things ... He had tremendous aplomb, self-confidence, very jaunty, he was a handsome young man."

If I had married somebody else, I might have become a different person - LKY

When they returned to Singapore in 1950, they tied the knot again, this time with their parents' full knowledge.

When Mr Lee got more involved in politics and became Singapore's Prime Minister in 1959, it was Mrs Lee and his younger brother, Lee Kim Yew, who built up and expanded Lee and Lee - the law firm all 3 had set up in 1955.

The way they were
Mr Lee once said his great advantage was that he had a wife who could be a sole breadwinner and bring the children up.

That was his, quote, "insurance policy," which allowed him to play the role he did in Singapore's history.

In October 2003 - Mrs Lee suffered a stroke while on a visit to London.

Fortunately, she made a swift recovery and was again seen in public at her husband's side at community events, and on official trips overseas.

And she was there when Lee Hsien Loong was sworn in as Singapore's third Prime Minister.

Although she had shied away from a high profile, her contributions to Singapore had been most significant, and pivotal to its history.

"If she weren't an influence, supposing I had married somebody else, I might have become a different person, not that I would be a different person, but the things that I would have been able to do, the kind of backdrop I would have had, family, support, would have been different," said MM Lee. -Agencies


Kwa Geok Choo (Chinese: 柯玉芝; pinyin: Kē Yùzhī; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Kua Gio̍k-tsi) (1921 - 2 October 2010) was one of the partners in law firm, Lee & Lee.

Kwa is also the wife of Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore, mother of Lee Hsien Loong, and a former pupil of Singapore's Methodist Girls' School and Cambridge University, where she was a Queen's Scholar from Malaya.

In Lee Kuan Yew's biography, he stated that he first met Kwa in 1944 at a party, and courted her from 1946. Kwa married Lee Kuan Yew in secret in London in 1947 and then remarried in Singapore on September 30, 1950, and they have two sons and one daughter.

Her eldest son is Lee Hsien Loong and her second son is Lee Hsien Yang. Her daughter is Lee Wei Ling. She has one brother, Dr. Kwa Soon Bee who retired as Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, and two sisters, Mrs. Yong Nyuk Lin and the late Mrs. Earnest Lau.

During Lee's years as Prime Minister and Senior Minister, Kwa was frequently seen with her husband, especially on diplomatic trips and meetings with other foreign ministers. After suffering two strokes in May and June 2008, she was bedridden and unable to speak, but remained cognitive and could understand speech.On 2 October 2010, Kwa died at the age of 89 years old, at 5.40pm Singapore time.

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