Datin Paduka Chen Mun Kuen nee Yong passed away peacefully on July 4, 2019 of complications from acute myeloid leukaemia. She was 76.

A director of Royal Selangor, she was closely involved in the development of the pewter and tourism industries and instantly recognisable in her trademark cheongsam.

The third of four siblings, she grew up in the Pudu neighbourhood of Kuala Lumpur in a shophouse above the pewter factory owned by her parents. She studied at Pudu English School and then went on to sixth form at Victoria Institution, where she met her future husband, Chen Shoo Sang.

After a short stint at a detective agency run by an old family friend, she started working at the family’s Batu Road shop. In the 1960s and 1970s, Mun Kuen and her sister Mun Ha sold pewter beer mugs, cigarette boxes and cocktail shakers to American soldiers on R&R from the Vietnam War.

As Malaysia’s tourism and the company grew, by the mid 1980s, Mun Kuen switched to selling custom designed products to corporations and VIPs, such as the late Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah of Selangor, who became a great supporter and conferred on it a royal warrant, resulting in a change of name from Selangor Pewter to Royal Selangor.

Over the years, she has hosted dignitaries and celebrities from 1970s TV stars including Lee Majors and the Osmonds, former US president Bill Clinton, Prince Edward of England, and IMF chief Christine Lagarde. When actor Mel Gibson visited, she liked to say she wondered why so many female employees volunteered to serve tea.

For Mun Kuen, business was family and family was business. She was known for her humour and her zest for life, driving and working full-time until just before she fell ill two months ago.

“She loved meeting people and she loved telling stories, and she had a dazzling smile,” said her husband, Chen Shoo Sang, adding that in Sixth Form, a student went on stage to sing ‘A Certain Smile’ by Johnny Mathis, dedicating the song to her.

She leaves behind her husband, Shoo Sang, daughter Chen May Yee, son Chen Tien Yue, five grandchildren, a wide circle of relatives and friends, and an unfathomable void impossible to fill.

(Photo credit: SC Shekar)