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‘Dad was quiet, humble yet had true grit’


Man of tenacity and integrity: Tan values Tiong Lay’s unwavering support and encouragement.

Man of tenacity and integrity: Tan values Tiong Lay’s unwavering support and encouragement.

KUALA LUMPUR: YTL Corporation managing director Tan Sri Francis Yeoh remembers his dad, Tan Sri Yeoh Tiong Lay, for the many values the late tycoon embodied – one of which is his tenacity to never default on paying his bills.

“He would never let anybody down and even when business was bad, he would still pay his bills. He never wanted to owe people any money,” Francis told reporters after Tiong Lay’s wake at the family home here on Thursday night.

Francis, the eldest of five sons and two daughters, recalled telling his father during the financial crisis that he wanted to “fight and work with him and let my siblings study”.

“But he wanted me to get a good education, set a good example to my siblings and to think about and run the business differently,” he added. The YTL founder passed away aged 88 on Wednesday. Not a man of many words, Tiong Lay was humble and taught his children to be so and to never boast, said Francis.

He said his father once told him: “Son, you can never work harder than me and your grandfather. I’ve worked all my life and my biggest problem is that I didn’t have a good education.”

“That’s why for YTL now, we’re so involved in education,” said Francis. Patriotism featured prominently in his father’s life, too.

“I remember him running out to the Malay and Chinese villages in Kuala Selangor on May 13, 1969, risking his life with the district officer to calm everybody down.

“He told them that all of us were brothers and we would have a bright future together,” said Francis as he shed a tear.

His father, he added, loved all 27 of his grandchildren, who, regardless if they carried the Yeoh surname or not, would have something from him as a gift equally.

Puan Sri Tan Kai Yong, in her eulogy issued to the media, said Tiong Lay was her pillar.

“My life is incomplete without him. He has been a good husband, always humble and genuine, gentle and warm. He was a filial son, a firm father. To others, trustworthy, to self, disciplined. When he was a young man, Tiong Lay was a diligent early riser.

“He worked very hard,” she said, adding that his down-to-earth attitude and integrity won the respect and love of his acquaintances.

She said the aspect of Tiong Lay that she valued most was his unwavering support and encouragement. Tan added that Tiong Lay cared a lot for their younger generations’ education, moral character and their unity and it was his hope that they would always be helping, supporting, and loving one another.

She also said that her husband constantly stressed on remembering their cultural and family roots and being thankful for them.

“On behalf of my family, I would like to express our gratitude to all family and friends, members of society from all walks of life, to all who have been present for Tiong Lay’s wake services and to those who have sent flowers and messages of condolence, for all your love and care.

“Lastly, it is with a very heavy heart that I present my eulogy to Tiong Lay, my dearest husband, who left us suddenly on Oct 18.

“May you rest in peace in the bosom of our Lord. Till we meet again,” Tan said.

The couple have been married for 64 years.

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Thousands pay final respects to business magnate Yeoh

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