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SR Nathan 'gave his best years and more' to Singapore: PM Lee

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EVEN after retiring as president of Singapore, SR Nathan continued to engage with Singaporeans from all walks of life to share his experiences gleaned from the many decades of his illustrious career in public service.

At the state funeral service that is currently underway at the National University of Singapore's University Cultural Centre, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Mr Nathan had stayed active in the final years of his life, continuing to "engage and share his stories with civil servants, teachers and school leaders, as he had done when he was President".

"Time and again, he placed nation before self," said Mr Lee. "Quietly and without fuss, he gave his best years and more, to Singapore."

This was after Mr Nathan retired in 2011 as Singapore's sixth and longest-serving president.

Mr Nathan was born in 1924, and died on Aug 22, 2016. The 92 years of his life saw him start off as a school dropout, but would later rise through the ranks in the civil service, diplomatic corps and, later, take the highest office of the land.

But beyond these achievements, Mr Lee also noted in his eulogy on Friday that, through his personal interactions with Mr Nathan, the former president still remained as sharp and focused as ever in the later years of his life.

"He had hoped that Singaporeans, especially young Singaporeans, would draw a key lesson from his memoirs, which is 'to not give up'," said Mr Lee.

Mr Lee was the first of seven eulogy speakers at the state funeral service.

The speakers represent sectors in Singapore that Mr Nathan had left his mark on, namely his personal friends, the diplomatic corps, civil service, labour movement and civil society.

Ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh will speak after Mr Lee. Other speakers to follow include former senior minister of state for foreign affairs Zainul Abidin Rasheed, ambassador to Mexico and former chairman of Community Chest Jennie Chua, Fairfax Asia chairman and chief executive Ramaswamy Athappan, labour chief Chan Chun Sing, and Ambassador-at-large Gopinath Pillai.

The service is expected to end at 5pm, and will be followed by a private cremation at Mandai Crematorium.

After he died on Monday night, a private wake was held for Mr Nathan on Tuesday and Wednesday. His body was then lying in state at Parliament House on Thursday.

Earlier on Friday, thousands thronged the streets as the state funeral procession for Mr Nathan left Parliament House at 2pm.

It passed by landmarks that are significant in Mr Nathan's life, such as City Hall and NTUC Centre.