On May 26, 2021, Siew Poh Ong (“David”) passed away peacefully at the Cape Cod Hospital after persistent complications from an August 2019 brain aneurysm. June 1 would have been his 63rd birthday. Since the autumn of 2019, he resided at a Cape Cod nursing home, where he survived COVID. David (as he asked to be called) often stated his intentions to the staff to travel to Australia.
Siew was a true Island icon. Everyone recognized Siew in his trademark paint-splattered plaid jacket. How can such a beloved, very popular, and sweet-natured man be described? Generous, gentle, gregarious, always a gentleman. Kind, diligent, creative. Self-starter. “Give the shirt off his back” kinda guy. A jack-of-all-trades, home improvement remodeler, painter, feral cat lover, fisherman, excellent cook, and so much more.He was no stranger to the hard work of all the aspects of home construction. His Island career was diverse. Many houses in the Oak Bluffs historical district benefited from Siew’s talented caretaking skills. To Siew, his clients were family. Being very frugal, he especially loved a bargain. Yet one Christmas, he extravagantly bestowed lobsters as gifts. He often bragged about how he could grow an unending supply of tomatoes from just one trash barrel–size pot. He participated and contributed wholeheartedly to the current buzz of Island life. As David off-Island, he loved playing baccarat at casinos.
Siew left his homeland in Malaysia as a young man determined to increase his knowledge of the world. It is unclear if he ever returned to visit. As a Queen Mary College (University of London) international student and tutor, his memberships included the International Youth Hostel Federation and BUNAC (British Universities North America Club). Before washing ashore on the Vineyard, he traveled to Europe, Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.
Finding employment at the infamous Oyster Bar in Oak Bluffs, he managed the hiring of summer employees. Earnestly, he responded and thanked each potential applicant. At the end of the season, many employees received typed recommendations to add to their résumés. A most compassionate man, Siew was always there for his friends, and throughout the years, he helped many Islanders when they were down on their luck.
Those of us who knew and cherished this unique man can find solace that he is at peace and happily painting, ordering online, and playing baccarat at the Australian casino in the sky. The world and the Island in particular are missing this most humble man’s giant shadow.