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Emily Lee


1934 - 2018 Obituary Condolences Gallery
Emily Lee Obituary
Emily Lee

October 18, 1934 - August 6, 2018

With great sorrow, the J.S. Lee Family announces the passing of our beloved Emily Lee on August 6 after a brief illness. Emily was born in San Francisco on October 18, 1934 to J.S. Lee and Lee Wong She, both natives of Guangdong Province, China. Growing up in San Francisco Chinatown, Emily was educated at San Francisco public schools and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.

Emily began her career in the fashion industry as a teenager, working as a gift wrapper at Joseph Magnin in San Francisco. She rapidly ascended the ranks at J. Magnin and became a full buyer at the age of 24, buying sportswear and swimsuits. After ten years as a buyer, she spent two years in Japan establishing a retail store in Tokyo for Joseph Magnin. Eventually, Emily became well known in the industry and was selected Buyer of the Year in 1968 by Women's Wear Daily.

Emily was also featured on the cover of the San Francisco Chronicle's Sunday Magazine along with two other buyers; the three were named "Cyril Magnin's Girls." Emily was beloved by many at Joseph Magnin. She was demanding of her assistants but developed a close professional and personal relationship with many of them which lasted for many years.

After her career at J. Magnin's, Emily opened her own women's retail clothing store in the Laurel Village district of San Francisco, naming it "Emily Lee." After nearly 30 years there, Emily sold her business and retired to a busy life of travel, friends, the symphony, opera, theatre and good food.

Emily was an avid skier and enjoyed skiing in Tahoe and Aspen. Once while preparing to ski down the face at Heavenly Valley, Emily recognized Seiji Ozawa, then conductor of the San Francisco Symphony. He was nervous about attempting to ski down the slope but did not want to turn back. Emily was able to guide the maestro down the face. Shortly thereafter, Emily saw the conductor backstage after a performance, and the two shared a hearty laugh.

Emily never tired of travel and this year alone had visited Cabo San Lucas in Mexico, South East Asia, South Korea and New York City. In New York, she saw her usual six Broadway shows in one week. Emily was devoted to the San Francisco Symphony and Opera. She once related that as a youngster, she listened to classical music while washing dishes in the family kitchen and pretended to conduct the music while holding a soapy chopstick.

Emily was predeceased by her parents and three older brothers, Howard, Kern and Gerald Lee. Emily is survived by her older sister Stella Wong. Together they traveled the world and were inseparable throughout their lives.

Emily was beloved Auntie to many nieces and nephews: Deirdre Moy and Roberta Chee (Howard's children), Charlotte Anderson and Michael, Geoffrey, and David Lee (Kern's children), Audrey Eng and Larry Lee (Gerald's children) and John, Julie, Jodie Louie, and Jeri-Ann Wong (Stella's children). In addition, Emily had numerous great nieces, nephews and God children.

The Family will hold a Celebration of Emily's Life on Saturday, September 8, 2018 - 11am at Lakeside Presbyterian Church, 201 Eucalyptus Drive, San Francisco. Reception will follow.

In lieu of flowers, the Family suggests that donations may be made in Emily's memory to the Chinatown YMCA, Chinese Hospital or Chinese for Affirmative Action.

We look forward to gathering with friends and family on September 8th to celebrate and reminisce about this very special person, Emily Lee, and send her off with a great last hurrah.

Published in San Francisco Chronicle from Aug. 12 to Aug. 14, 2018
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