SINGAPORE: Even though she stayed in her university's dormitory, 19-year-old Kathy Ong made sure to spend time with her family on the weekends. She would pack her bags and head home on Friday evenings or Saturday mornings from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and head back to school on Sunday.
"We are each other's soulmate," Kathy's mother Jacqueline Ong told Channel NewsAsia. As they chatted, the mother and daughter would do "brainless things", like Kathy's laundry from university, folding clothes, packing her bags and talking about everything that happened in Kathy's week at university.
"Both of us are very open to each other," she said. They would spend at least four hours on Saturdays talking about Kathy's student life, lectures, friends and even potential suitors.
"She always asked me to evaluate those guys who are interested in her, and she'll listen to my opinion. She told me clearly that she told guys 'no', if mummy said no," Mrs Ong said.
FILIAL DAUGHTER, CARED DEEPLY FOR HER MOTHER
Mrs Ong was speaking at the Church of St Teresa on Kampong Bahru Road on Saturday (Apr 21), where the wake for Kathy was being held. She died in a traffic accident on Thursday when the taxi she was riding in was involved in a collision with another car.
The mother and daughter were so close that they shared the same closet. Mrs Ong said that Kathy was so careful about spending money that she would first check out her mother's closet whenever she needed new clothes.
"Today I feel so bad. They told me to bring her favourite shoe and I realised that she doesn't have a favourite shoe because all the events that she attended, she wore my shoes," Mrs Ong said.
"I was just telling her last week that 'in your school holidays, you need to shop for a proper shoe'. The ones that she's wearing now, those are still my shoes," she added.
Kathy told her mother that when she got her first job, she would bring her grandfather to Australia, which is her favourite country, for a holiday at her own expense, Mrs Ong said.
She also added that Kathy cared deeply for her family - to the point that she would "care for me more like I'm her daughter and she's the mother".
Mrs Ong had donated an organ to her brother and since then, suffered frequently from ill health. She said that her daughter was especially concerned about her mother's health after the transplant.
"She always told me 'Mummy you cannot leave me'. She made sure to tell me that I cannot die because she needed me to help her choose her husband and to nurture her children to be like her," Mrs Ong said.
They shared hugs and kisses often, and Kathy would unabashedly hold her mother's hand when they were out in public.
Her friends took note of Kathy's care for her family, and said that she always put her family first. "Everything she has done so far, she always considered her parents at every step she took," said a friend at the wake.
"She was very torn. She wanted to stay in (at her dormitory) every weekend but she was the only child, so she also wanted to go back (home)," added another friend, who asked not to be named.
"I CANNOT THINK OF ANY COMMITTEE SHE WASN'T IN"
Kathy was part of Ora House under NUS’s Tembusu College and actively participated in student activities as part of the house committee.
The accident happened when Kathy was headed to Clementi with three other committee members to buy take-away dinner for an Ora House gathering. They were celebrating and bidding farewell to seniors from the house of about 130 students.
Her friends and professors said that Kathy took part in everything from performance arts, science and organising events to develop bonds among her Ora House peers. She participated in about five or six student body committees.
Master of the college Gregory Clancey described Kathy as “unusually active" compared with most students and was keen to volunteer her time in many student groups.
“She joined a lot of different groups, she was interested in so many things. She was in the college’s house committee and bonded the students together. She was very popular, had a lot of friends,” Dr Clancey said at the wake.
“She was a serious and yet very cheerful person and that’s why she was always so popular,” he added. Dr Clancey said that the college had arranged transport for about 120 students to go to Kathy’s wake on Friday. More plans are being made for other friends to pay their last respects before the final send-off on Monday.
Vice Dean for the Faculty of Science Chew Fook Tim said that Kathy was a “people person". "She knows them as an individual and a person that she wants to keep contact with,” he said.
At NUS, Kathy was pursuing a Bachelor of Environmental Studies and showed an interest in biodiversity.
“She has written a lot of blogposts, some for her assignments but she also did more, and it runs right through that she’s really someone who has a cause, someone who has a passion for biodiversity," said Dr Chew.
Ambassador-at-Large Tommy Koh, who is also the rector of Tembusu College, said that he remembered Kathy because she had attended his forum twice.
“She always came to the forum and was very interested. Even though there were 600 students, she was somebody I remembered having interacted with her. She always appeared and was a very charismatic person,” Professor Koh said.
“We’re going to be in grief for a long time as a community,” said Dr Clancey.