Thursday, February 25, 2016

Mrs Lee Choon Guan (Choa Chu Kang Christian Cemetery)

Mrs Lee Choon Guan (Madam Tan Teck Neo) holds the honor as the first Singapore woman to be awarded the Member of the British Empire (MBE) for her tireless service for the Red Cross during the Great War (World War I). She was also the first Chinese woman to be presented at court to King George V and Queen Mary.

Madam Tan Teck Neo is the second daughter of Mr Tan Keong Saik. She and her sisters were tutored at home by 3 tutors, one for English, one for piano and one for painting. She married Mr. Lee Choon Guan, J.P.  (1868-1924), after his wife (Madam Wee Guat Kim, daughter of Mr. Wee Boon Teck) passed away.

Mr. Lee Choon Guan was a founder of the Straits Steamship Company and for 11 years a member of the Singapore Legislative Council. He was also the co-founder of the Chinese Commercial Bank in 1912 and a director in a number of rubber and tin companies. Born in Singapore to Mr. Lee Cheng Yan, he initially work at his father's company, Lee Cheng Yan and Co, Chop Chin Joo as a merchant and financier.

Tan Teck Neo  /Mrs Lee Choon Guan
(source: NAS) 

Lee Choon Guan  (source: NAS)

Member of the British Empire ( M.B.E. )

Mrs Lee has traveled with her husband around the world 3 times. When the War (World War I ) broke out, they were in Belgium and she and husband return to England where they stayed at the Harrogate, a hot springs holiday resort. It was during this period she volunteered for the Red Cross and tended wounded Soldiers and civilians and has result was conferred the M.B.E.

Philanthropist and Socialite

Mrs. Lee Choon Guan is a Patron of the Po Leung Kuk,  Board Member of the Singapore Chinese Girl School, Children's Aid Society, the first President of the Chinese Ladies Association. She was a well known socialite and many newspaper mentions over the years of gatherings and parties held her home, Mandalay Villa. Mandalay Villa, on  No 29. Amber Road, was built in 1902 by Lee Cheng Yan (father of Lee Choon Guan) by the Katong seaside. It was a two-storey bungalow, erected over a land area measuring 53,000 sq ft.
Chinese Ladies Association 

Mrs Lee Choon Guan at Mandalay Villa
(source: NAS)

Mandalay Villa (source: PictureSG) 

Death

Mr. Lee Choon Guan passed away at the age of 56 in August 27, 1924. He is survived by Mrs. Lee Choon Guan, 3 sons, Lee Pang Seng, J.P. , Municipal Commissioner ;  Lee Pang Chuan ; Lee Pang Soo ) , 3 daughters ( Mrs Choa Eng Wan,  Mrs Tan Soo Keng and Miss Lee Poh Neo ). He was interred in the family cemetery in Upper Serangoon Road where his father, Mr. Lee Cheng Yan is also buried.

Mrs Lee Choon Guan passed away at Mandalay Villa, 29 Amber Road on February 27, 1978 at the age of 100. According to the obituary notice, she is survived by 6 grandchildren;  Mrs Lucy Chen Nee Sian, Mrs Alice Chua Boon Yew, Mrs Ivy Kwa Soon Chuan, Mr Herbie Lim Eng Kwan, Mrs Gladys Beng Boo Giap, Mr Roland Lim Eng Ser, 4 grandsons-in-law, 2 grand-daughters-in-law, 13 great-grandchildren, 2 great-grandchildren-in-law and 1 great-great-grand-daughter. She is buried in Chua Chu Kang Christian Cemetery.

Tomb of Mrs. Lee Choon Guan 

Tomb of Mrs Lee Choon Guan

Bukit Brown Cemetery Connection
Mrs Choa Eng Wan nee Lee Poh Lian
Mrs. Lim Chong Pang nee Lee Poh Neo
Tan Keong Siak and family 

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References
Untitled. (1919, March 27). The Singapore Free Press,
Mr. Lee Choon Guan. (1924, August 29). The Singapore Free Press, page 7
Advertisement. (1978, March 1). The Straits Times.
Mandalay Villa. Infopedia
Song, O.S. (1984). One hundred years history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press

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