Tim Yun Lee, 86, a Lemoore icon, passed away late Monday night due to complications from leukemia at the Veterans Administration hospital in Fresno. He was a longtime businessman, World War II veteran, and community leader. Lee was one of the most recognizable men in Lemoore, and one of the most active throughout his lifetime.
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Lee's life reads like the great American novel: He lived through the Depression, served in the Navy during World War II, attended college, returned home to help run the family business, served on the Lemoore City Council, and opened successful businesses.
Tim Lee was one of five sons of Fook Loy Lee and Gin See Lee. The elder Lee was a native of Hawaii who met and married his wife in China. In 1912 Fook Loy and Gin See brought their first born son, Mike, to the United States and settled in Lemoore. According to the Lee legend the elder Lee settled in Lemoore because of the connection with his own name Lee-moore!
In all there were five boys and six girls born to Fook Loy and Gin See. Fook Loy possessed an instinctual business sense. He owned several restaurants one in Stratford and Lemoore before embarking on the grocery store business, opening a small meat market in downtown Lemoore. Over the years, the business blossomed and eventually would out grow its location.
Tim, who graduated in 1944 from Lemoore High School, had ambitions of becoming an electrical engineer, but World War II was happening. He joined the U.S. Navy and served aboard the USS Attala, an attack troop ship that carried soldiers to front line battlefields in the Pacific. Tim participated in the battle for Iwo Jima.
Between college and business, Tim found time to get married to Louise, his wife of 51 years. She passed away in 2001. They had three children: Ronald Lee, an elementary school teacher, Doreen Furry, and Patrick Lee, a manager with Save Mart in Visalia.
Tim returned from war and spent a year at a trade school learning electronics. He then enrolled at USC and spent a year there before being summoned home to help run the family business with his brothers, Mike, Art, Dick, and Jim. His father, Fook Loy was ill and the boys were needed. Unfortunately and sadly, the elder Lee passed away in 1954 leaving the store to his sons. Tim and the brothers worked hard and in anticipation of the new navy base being opened in Kings County, they opened Lincoln Market at the corner of 19th Avenue and Bush Street. They went from a 5,000 square foot store to a 22,000 square foot store. It was quite a change. A few years later they added 10,000 more square feet for 32,000 square feet.
Based on his business experience and hometown roots, the Lemoore City Council in 1968 asked Tim to occupy a seat that was vacated by a council member. In 1970 he ran for and won the seat on his own. He kept the seat for 22 years. No other council member has held the seat for that long. Tim served as mayor from 1976-1980. During his tenure Lemoore built a new water system, created a redevelopment agency, constructed new police and fire stations, established an industrial park and Lemoore's growth mushroomed from 5,000 to more than 13,000.
He stepped down in 1990 and just a couple of months later Tim was named the Lemoore Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year, the second Lee brother to earn the honor. Tim also served on the Lemoore Chamber Board of directors for two terms.
Tim was a board member of the Crown Development of Kings County and was a member of the Kings County Transportation Policy Commission. He served as chairman of Kings County Community Action and was on the Area Public Transit Agency.
In 1983 three older brothers wanted to retire and the Lee brothers sold the business to Food King. Tim worked in the meat department for about a year. Tim took up golf and shortly thereafter scored a hole- in-one. A year later he scored another ace at the Lemoore Golf Course. Tim was an avid bowler which began in 1946. He belonged to numerous leagues and teams at the KC Bowl in Hanford. The 300 game never materialized, but just three years ago he fired 11 strikes and narrowly missed a 300 game. He finished with a 279, the highest game of his career. He got a nice watch out of it.
In 1986 he got back into business and built a Laundromat at Lincoln Square. In 2005 he built a new automated Laundromat using the Easy Card format. Gary Furry assisted Tim at both locations.
Tim was a religious man as well. He was a member of the Lemoore First Baptist Church since 1953, which is now the South Valley Community Church. He served on the church's board for a while and was a trustee as well. He was baptized in 1975.
He was a long time member of the Kiwanis Club and was its president in 1971-72. He was an active member of the American Legion Post 100 since 1946 and a charter member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7988.
Tim is survived by his second wife, Dara, his three children, eight grandchildren, three sisters, Betty Kendall, Lonnie Stoddard and Carol Flannigan. His gentle smile, soft-spoken manner, genial personality and unconditional generosity will truly be missed by all who were fortunate enough to cross his path.
A funeral service for Tim will be held Saturday, June 29, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. at South Valley Community Church. Interment with military honors will follow in Lemoore Cemetery. Arrangements are by Phipps-Dale Funeral Chapel. Friends who wish may contribute to the VA Volunteer Service, 2615 E. Clinton Ave., Fresno, CA 93703. Please designate oncology, ICU or general funds.
Published in The Hanford Sentinel on June 25, 2013
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