Power Pairings, Part 4: Treasuring Time Together

Close Up

March 7, 2013 | BY Marie Wee

Husband-and-wife powerhouse Thomas Hartono and Jocelyn Tjioe give us an insight into how they work it out as partners in work and life

Thomas Hartono was enamoured with Jocelyn Tjioe from their first meeting in 1984. He had just moved to Singapore from the US for work, and they were introduced by a mutual friend. When they discovered that they had both attended churches of the same denomination in Indonesia, he felt that she was a godsend.

Jocelyn was eventually touched by his conviction for her, as he had continued showering her with love letters and cards as well as daily calls for months, even after he had moved to Hong Kong for work. From the moment she said yes to his proposal a year later, she has never looked back.

Thomas, today the managing director of PT Anandini Vimala, still travels extensively for work, being a developer of lifestyle projects such as resorts and villas. “I’m away about 40 per cent of the time, and some of her friends ask her how she can trust me to go abroad so often on my own. But she just does, no questions asked. She never complains,” he says, crediting the respect between them as the most important factor leading to the trust they have built over their past 28 years together.

As senior vice-president at TungLok Group, Jocelyn is in charge of all the administration and procurement for its chain of restaurants. She’s kept constantly on her toes, overseeing a team of purchasers that ensures the constant and prompt supply of everything from food ingredients to kitchen equipment. “As I’m busy with work, I cannot follow Thomas on his work trips like many of my homemaker friends do with their husbands. So we really have to trust each other to make it work.”

This faith and respect for each other, Thomas adds, “makes us love each other even more”.

The first time they became parents was a steep learning curve. When relating their past experiences, they both describe the other as being a kan cheong or over-anxious parent.

“Yes, in fact, I was kan cheong every time Jocelyn gave birth!” Thomas admits, as the first birth involved an emergency caesarean. He was also a hands-on parent, insisting on doing everything from changing diapers to bathing the babies. When it came to their three children’s studies, it was Jocelyn who was kan cheong – she had once engaged three tutors for their elder son Norman’s Mandarin. “I had to tell Jocelyn to cut down on the tuition, because when I’m back in Singapore, I want to spend our Sundays out as a family,” says Thomas, chuckling at the memory.

Their two sons are now studying overseas, and their daughter is set to follow. Norman, 25, will soon graduate from the University of California; Nathan, 22, has found acclaim as a singer/songwriter and is now a first-year student in the Berklee College of Music in Boston; and Nydia, 19, who has a flair for painting, photography and performance, has applied to study liberal arts in Boston.

Thomas and Jocelyn also enjoy travelling with other couple friends, going off the beaten track, for instance, to villages in China and Japan. “Our jobs are very different, and I don’t like to bring work back; I rarely even talk about work at home unless there are serious problems and I need a sounding board,” Jocelyn says. “But since we are both in the lifestyle business, we visit good restaurants to take pictures, and stay at beautiful new resorts, where we can pick out good aesthetic elements for his reference.”

In turn, Thomas maintains a golden rule when it comes to planning these group trips: “I always save 30 per cent of the holiday for the wifes’ shopping,” he jokes.