WHEN Alan Chan was preparing to become principal private secretary to Lee Kuan Yew back in 1994, he asked one of his seniors in the civil service how he could apply for leave when he was in this new role.
Mr Chan, now the chief executive officer of media group Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), recalled how he was quickly chided for thinking about going on holidays instead of working together with Mr Lee, "a man who lives and breathes Singapore", for the good of the country.
"I never felt so small as I did that day. Indeed, here was the man who worked every waking hour for Singapore, thinking constantly how to improve our conditions of living," said Mr Chan during a memorial held at SPH on Thursday for the late Mr Lee, Singapore's first prime minister who died on Monday at the age of 91.
More than 700 people attended the hour-long event, where some staff who had interacted with Mr Lee in the past shared some of their personal stories.
Han Fook Kwang, the editor-at-large of The Straits Times, recalled his first meeting with Mr Lee over lunch in a small dining room at the Istana in 1989.
"The lunch menu was always the same - vegetable soup, a small piece of steak, potato chips, and fruits, lots of fruits. I've never seen anyone eat so much fruits at lunch. For Mr Lee Kuan Yew, it was the main course," said Mr Han to much laughter.
"But we were not there for the food. You also don't have to worry about eating and talking at the same time. He did most of the talking."
The four other SPH staff who spoke were from Lianhe Zaobao, Berita Harian, Tamil Murasu, and Support Services.
SPH chairman Lee Boon Yang, a former Cabinet minister from 1991 to 2009 when Mr Lee was senior minister and then minister mentor, said in a statement that he was "privileged" to have served under Mr Lee.
"(He) was always very focused and serious. He seldom engaged in small talk. He would drill deeply into every issue whether it was a policy revision or something new. It could be quite uncomfortable to be grilled by him. But I always got the feeling that it was nothing personal. He did it to get the best result for Singapore."
Dr Lee recalled how in September 2000, Mr Lee gave him a copy of the second volume of his memoirs, From Third World to First. "On the inside cover, he wrote: 'Your generation has to write the sequel to this story'. We owe it to Mr Lee to build on his legacy and create the best possible sequel to the Singapore Story," said Dr Lee.
At the end of the memorial service, the staff rose and observed a minute of silence and sang the National Anthem.
IN DEPTH: Lee Kuan Yew: 1923-2015