Words from the Wise: Helen “Pat” Lee lived in Singapore and Bangkok

Pat Lee, 91, lived in Singapore and Bangkok as a young woman. Photo: Contributed /
 Pat Lee, 91, lived in Singapore and Bangkok as a young woman.

J: So you were in Desert Hot Springs, Calif., and you just came to Greenwich three years ago?
P: Yes.
J: So were you born there?
P: Oh, no. I was born in Haddonfield, New Jersey. My father bought land and built a golf course.
J: How did you get to California from there?
P: I lived all over. I left New Jersey on my honeymoon. I was married on the golf course, and right after that we went to New Orleans and we lived there for about six years. Then we came back. It was so many years ago. We went back to California.
J: Was that Desert Hot Springs?
P: No, Northern California. Then a couple years later we went over to Bangkok, Thailand, in 1962.
J: What brought you to Bangkok?
P: Well, my husband was with Kaiser Aluminum, and we stayed in Bangkok for five years with them. That was a wonderful place. I had two kids when we went over there. Jamie was 7 and Bonnie was 5, and they were included in on everything. There were big parties.
J: Did you come back because of Kaiser Aluminum?
P: Well, our tour was over so we came back here, to Northern California, for two years and then we went to Singapore for 10 years, and we loved every moment of it. It was great. We had servants, and there was golfing. Great golfing.
J: When you got there, was that your first time being in Singapore?
P: Yes.
J: What was it like? What was the temperature?
P: It was something like this.
J: And what did it look like? The plants —
P: It was quite a bit of growth, of foliage around. Sort of tropical, and well-maintained. A lot of businesses are over there.
J: And the streets?
P: They were paved beautifully.
J: Was it blacktop or brick or cobblestone?
P: Like the streets here.
J: Oh, so like we have outside.
P: Oh no! It was definitely better than this (laughs)! But that was when Jamie, my son, played in the men’s golf tournament and came in eighth among the pros. And in Bangkok, he was 10 years old and played golf on the high school golf team.
J: At 10? That’s impressive.
P: And he played, at 15 years old, golf at the men’s tournament in Singapore, with the pros.
J: How did you meet your husband?
P: I met Jim Stewart, my husband, on the golf course where I lived. He was great friends with my brothers. We were married in 1947 there.
J: How many years were you married?
P: We divorced after we got back from Singapore. Maybe 35 years or so. Then I married again.
J: So now growing up in New Jersey, what did you do when you weren’t in school?
P: I mainly took care of the golf course before and after school with my family, with my two brothers and two sisters.
J: What else did you do while you were in school?
P: I always liked artwork.
J: What kind did you like ?
P: All different kinds, painting, watercolor. I sold a painting when I first came to the Senior Center. It was a painting of a little boy and a little girl and she had her arm around the little boy. And behind them was the ocean. And beside them there was a little cat. I saw a photo and I just really liked it, and I really love cats.
J: When you were younger, you did painting?
P: Yeah. And of course, golf.
J: Golf, right.
P: I mean there wasn’t much else to do, maintaining the golf course.
J: What was Haddonfield like? Was it rural?
P: Oh no, but we lived 10 miles outside.
J: So tell me about New Orleans.
P: Well, it was such a lovely place. And we went to the Mardi Gras balls, and we got all the favors they would throw from the coaches.
J: That sounds like the best party.
P: It really was a lot fun.
J: What made you want to go there?
P: Well, it was my husband’s business. That’s why we went down there.
J: So the business really was inspiration for most of these places. But these are lovely places.
P: Yeah, exactly. It was really lovely. My daughter enjoyed it so much because in Bangkok and Singapore she was included on so many things. And I taught first grade in Bangkok, and in Singapore. I did some teaching when I came back here too.
J: When you were younger, did you aspire to be a teacher? Was that what you wanted to do?
P: Yes, and I always liked children.
J: And were they born in California?
P: Bonnie was born in New Orleans, but that’s a story in itself. We were going to move to Miami and in order to get to Miami — I had the little baby, Jamie, and the cat and the car, and I wanted to save all those things. So I had a spot for the baby, and a spot for the cat in a wire cage. And we drove all the way, we drove straight through. It was kind of funny because I only stopped to eat baby food, haha.
J: How funny!
P: And the cat stuck his head through the wire, and I had to push it back. But I saved the car, and I got the baby down there.
J: And was Jim in the car with you?
P: No, he was already in Miami.
J: Oh wow, and so you drove down there.
P: It’s a beautiful drive, but it’s quite a drive isn’t it?
J: Yes, and speaking of Greenwich — was it Bonnie who convinced you to come to Greenwich?
P: Yes. I don’t know why they moved here. It was 20 or so years ago. But that was when I was in the desert.
J: And they told you there would be golf courses here, so you’d be okay.
P: Yes, well I am more limited to golf courses here than I was there. There were so many there, and I am 91 years old. Now I play maybe once a week in the summer, or twice. And in the winter, you can’t do much then.
J: And your grandchildren. What advice would you give them, or anyone from the younger generation. What advice from what you’ve seen, and from traveling?
P: Do what you love best and be very good at it. And travel if you can.
J: Well thank you so much, Pat.
P: Thank you.

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