Our Mom, Jean Toy Lee, was born on February 8, 1933, in Guangzhou, China. She told us many times while we were growing up how she had to leave home and was sent away to school in Guangzhou at a very young age.  In 1949, she emigrated to the US, met our dad Raymond in Chicago, and they married in 1960 in the very church we sit in today.

My mom and dad went to Las Vegas for their honeymoon with $75 in their pockets.  In 1964, they moved to Tucson, Arizona where they worked with Jean’s parents who lived there. They helped to run her parents’ little corner store.  After a year, they returned to Chicago and decided to settle here.  During these early years of married life, she took care of my brother, my sisters and me while my Dad worked outside the home.  We were a typical 1960s family. 

In the early 1970s, she and my grandparents opened Golden Country.  Golden Country holds a special place in our family’s story, and it is a testament to our mom’s entrepreneurial spirit. Alongside our grandparents, she poured her heart and soul into the business they started. It was their vision that helped Golden Country grow from a small storefront that sold Chinese bbq and pastries into a large wholesaler of Asian food products.


As kids, we often worked alongside her and with her at what we always called “the store”.  Sidney would sometimes man the cash register if he was not working as a stock boy or mopping the floors.  He earned $1 an hour.  Bernice would help with making some of the pastries or open the door at 6:30 am to let the bbq man start his work.  At a very young age, Serena would count the day’s receipts and do the bank deposits.  I spent my early years before I started school in the office while our mom worked. Sometimes I came out to help the “moos,” or older ladies, make dumplings. As I got older, I would also help to stock cases and work as a cashier. I never had a birthday party with friends my age, but you can bet I had one in the back of the store at night once it closed with our mom and dad, grandparents, siblings and aunts and uncles. And I never minded one bit.

Golden Country was open six days a week and only closed on Tuesdays for a day of rest. For almost 40 years, our mom kept that schedule.  In working with her, we all had a chance to admire her strong work ethic.  We knew that she worked hard so that we could all have a better life.  She rarely spent money on herself. Rather it was always for us so that we could have a better education and a better life.

Outside of the “store”, Jean was not just our mother and a wife to our dad Raymond; she was also  the embodiment of unconditional love and unwavering devotion. While she may not have been overtly affectionate, her actions spoke louder than words. Everything she did, every decision she made, was driven by her unyielding love for her family.

As a mother, her love was evident in the smallest of gestures. She made sure that we always had enough to eat and she went out of her way to prepare delicious meals that she thought we would like, including fried chicken for our birthdays which has become a tradition now in my own family as well.

Growing up, she always kept an abundance of food in our home. Sundays were truly special, with our mom orchestrating elaborate dinners that brought us all together. She believed in the power of food to bring joy and create lasting memories. For her, the more, the merrier. It was not uncommon for her to have 10-12 of us over for dinner on Sundays.  When Sidney went away to college, she made sure he had a rice cooker, some rice and some lop cheong (or Chinese sausage) in case he ever got hungry at night.  Whenever she saw a good supermarket deal, she always made sure to load up so that she could give her purchases to us. She absolutely loved going to the supermarket.

Even during covid, when we told mom not to go to the supermarket, she would still go because she said she was not afraid of covid. She really wasn’t afraid of much of anything and was always determined to live life fully and fearlessly.

Before I started school, it’s what she and I would do together after she dropped off my older siblings at school. Sometimes she would buy me a treat – an Archie comic book even though she thought they were silly or a Hershey’s chocolate bar. I would eat the chocolate and she would eat the almonds. I cherish those memories, and it’s probably why I also love grocery shopping!

Her love extended beyond the kitchen. She learned how to drive, braving the challenges and fears that came with it, just so she could pick us up from school. We remember as kids how all four of us would pile into the back seat while our dad taught our mom to drive in the parking lot at the Old Comiskey Park.  It did take a few lessons but she learned.  Rain or shine, storms or heavy snow, we could always count on her to pick us up from school and activities.  Her dedication and determination were unmatched.

At the same time, our mom was never shy to tell us what she really believed.  Trust us, our father has often been on the receiving end of her opinions.  She also had rules and we knew we did not want to break them.  For her, a “NO” meant a “NO.”  There was no arguing about it.  Sidney remembers the time that he bought an ice cream from the ice cream truck when our mom had forbid him from doing that.  To his horror, our mom made him flush it down the toilet when she discovered that he had one in his possession. Brutal but lesson learned.

Our mom instilled in us the values of hard work, resilience, and humility. She never sought the limelight or material possessions. She was never flashy nor did she ever covet material things.  Instead, she found joy in quietly doing what she loved, in making a difference in our lives and in the lives of those around her. 

Even though she felt shy that her English wasn’t good enough to converse with other parents at our schools, she found ways to participate. She happily made hundreds of eggrolls for our school bake sales. Not surprisingly, those were the fastest selling items at the bake sale.

Always a loyal and supportive wife, she attended as many dinners and events she could with my dad for his work and community activities.  And there were so, so many over the years. At least she had an excuse to fill her closets with clothes, shoes and purses – which she gladly did, on sale, of course!

Another way she’s made a difference in people’s lives was to help found the Chinese American Museum here in Chicago’s Chinatown.  She wanted to ensure that we as a community would remember our past and also celebrate our Chinese culture.  In her memory, our dad has made a meaningful and significant financial gift to ensure that the museum will be able to share all our stories and those of countless others for many future generations.  To remember her,  we ask that you take an opportunity to visit the museum when you get a chance and support the museum.

As I stand here today, reminiscing about the moments we shared with our mom, I am filled with a mix of emotions. There is sadness in knowing we can no longer hold her hand or hear her voice, but there is also overwhelming gratitude for the love and guidance she bestowed upon us.

To our dear mother, Jean, we say thank you. Thank you for being the foundation of our lives, for teaching us the importance of family, hard work, and resilience. Thank you for the countless sacrifices you made to ensure our happiness and well-being.

As our dad and her children say our final goodbyes, we take solace in knowing that Jean’s  love and legacy will forever live on in our hearts. Her strength, wisdom, and unconditional love will guide us through the days ahead.

Mom, rest peacefully knowing that you are deeply loved and profoundly missed. Your memory will forever be a beacon of light in our lives.  Mom, we know that you are at peace because you were last conscious moments doing your favorite activity, grocery shopping at Jewel, and you went to be with the Lord the following Tuesday, your regular day of rest from work.

Thank you all for joining us in celebrating the extraordinary life of Jean Toy Lee. 

我們的媽媽,甄佩霞太夫Jean Toy Lee,1933 年 2 月 8 日出生於中國廣州。 在我們的成長過程中,她多次告訴我們,她很小的時候就不得不離開家園,被送到廣州上學。 1949 年,她移民到美國,在芝加哥遇見了我們的父親李秉樞,他們於 1960 年在我們今天所在的教堂結婚。

我媽媽和爸爸用口袋裡的 75 美元去拉斯維加斯度蜜月。 1964 年,他們搬到了亞利桑那州圖森市,與住在那裡的Jean的父母一起工作。 他們幫助經營她父母的街角小店。 一年後,他們回到芝加哥並決定在這裡定居。 在婚姻生活的最初幾年,當我父親外出工作時,她照顧我的哥哥、兩位姐姐和我。 我們是一個典型的  60 年代家庭。

70 年代初,她和我的祖父母開設了金國Golden Country。 金國在我們家族的故事中佔有特殊的地位,它顯證了我們媽媽的創業精神。 她和我們的祖父母一起,全身心投入他們創辦的事業中。 正是他們的願景幫助金國從一家銷售中式燒烤和糕點的小店面成長為亞洲食品的大型批發商。

小時候,我們經常和她在一起,並和她一起在我們通常所說的“商店”里工作。 如果Sidney不做庫存員或拖地,有時他會去收銀台工作。 他每小時掙 1 美元。 Bernice 會幫忙做一些糕點,或者在早上 6:30 打開門讓燒烤工開始工作。 在很小的時候,Serena就會清點天的收據並進行銀行存款。 在我上學之前當媽媽在工作時,我的早年是在店里的辦公室度過的。 有時我會出來幫助阿姆們(即年長的女士)包餃子。 隨著年齡的增長,我也幫忙存貨並擔任收銀員。 我從來沒有和同齡的朋友一起舉辦過生日聚會,但肯定晚上商店關門後,我和爸爸媽媽、祖父母、兄弟姐妹、叔叔阿姨們會一起在商店後面舉辦了一場生日聚會。 而我一點也不介意。

金國每週開放六天,僅在周二休息一天。 近 40 年來,我們的媽媽一直保持著這個時間表。 在與她一起工作的過程中,我們都有機會欽佩她強烈的敬業樂業精神。 我們知道她努力工作是為了我們大家都能過上更好的生活。 她很少為自己花錢。 相反,它總是為了我們,讓我們能夠得到更好的教育和更好的生活。

在“商店”之外Jean不僅僅是我們的母親和我們父親的妻子, 她也是無條件的愛和堅定不移的奉獻的化身。 雖然她可能沒有公開表示深情,但她的行動勝於雄辯。 她所做的一切,做出的每一個決定,都是出於對家人不屈不撓的愛。

作為母親,她的愛體現在最細微的舉動中。 她確保我們總是有足夠的食物,並且她不遺餘力地準備她認為我們會喜歡的美味佳餚,包括我們生日時吃炸雞,這也成為今天我自己家裡的傳統。

從小到大,她總是在我們家裡備有豐富的食物。 週日真的很特別,媽媽精心策劃了晚餐,讓我們大家聚在一起。 她相信食物能夠帶來歡樂並創造持久的回憶。 對她來說,越多越好。 每週日,我們 10 到 12 個人一起過來吃晚飯己是慣例。 當Sidney去上大學時,她確保他有一個電飯鍋、一袋米和一些臘腸(或中國香腸),以防他晚上餓了。 每當她看到超市有優惠時,她總會盡量購買,這樣她就可以把買的東西交給我們。 她非常喜歡去超市。

即使在新冠期間,當我們告訴她不要去時,她仍然會去,因為她說她不怕新冠。 她真的不害怕任何事情,並且總是決心充實而無所畏懼地生活。

在我開始上學之前,這是她把我的哥哥姐姐送到學校後我和她一起做的事情。 有時她會給我買一份禮物: 一本阿奇的漫畫書,儘管她認為它們很愚蠢,或者一塊好時巧克力。 我會吃巧克力,她會吃杏仁。 我珍惜這些回憶,這可能就是我也喜歡去雜貨店購物的原因!

她的愛的表現超越了廚房。 她要學會開車,勇敢地面對隨之而來的挑戰和恐懼,因為這樣她就可以接我們放學了。 我們還記得小時候,當我們的爸爸在棒球館的停車場教媽媽開車時,我們四個人都擠在後座上。 上了好幾課,終於車牌考上了。 無論晴天還是雨天,暴風雨還是大雪,我們總是可以指望她來接我們放學和參加活動。 她的奉獻精神和決心是無與倫比的。

與此同時,我們的媽媽從不羞於告訴我們她的信念主見。 相信我們,我們的父親經常是她強烈意見的對象。 她有規則,而我們也知道我們不能規越。 對她來說,“不”就是“不” , 沒有爭論餘地。 Sidney記得有一次,他從雪糕車上買了雪糕,而我們的媽媽是禁止他這樣做的。 令他驚恐的是,當我們的媽媽發現他擁有他的雪糕時,她逼他把雪糕丟進馬桶衝掉。 殘酷但吸取了教訓。

我們的母親向我們灌輸了勤奮、堅毅和謙遜的價值觀。 她從不追求出風頭或物質財富。 她從不浮華,也不貪圖物質。 相反,她在安靜地做自己喜歡的事情、從改變我們和周圍人的生活中找到了快樂。

儘管她因為自己的英語不夠好而無法與我們學校的其他家長交談而感到害羞,但她還是找到了參與的方式。 她很高興為我們學校的烘焙義賣製作了數百個春捲。 毫不奇怪,這些是烘焙義賣中銷售最快的商品。

她一直是一位忠誠和支持丈夫的妻子,她盡能力與我父親一起參加晚宴和其他場合,以支持他的工作和社區活動。 這些年來,這些活動多不勝數。 至少她有藉口在衣櫃裡裝滿衣服、鞋子和錢包——她很樂意這樣做,當然,一定是大優惠折扣買來的!

她改變人們生活的另一種方式是幫助在芝加哥唐人街建立了華人博物館。 她希望確保我們作為一個社區能夠記住我們的過去並慶祝我們的中國文化。 為紀念母親,我們的父親捐贈了一份有意義有份量的財務禮物,以確保博物館能夠為許多子孫後代分享我們所有的故事以及無數其他人的故事。 為了紀念她,我們請求您有機會參觀並支持博物館。

今天,當我站在這裡,回憶起我們與媽媽分享的時光時,我的心情極其複雜。 得知我們無法再握住她的手或聽到她的聲音,我們感到悲傷,但也從心底對她給予我們的愛和指導深表無限感激。

我們要向親愛的母親說聲謝謝。 感謝您成為我們生活的基礎,感謝您教導我們明白家庭、勤奮和堅韌的重要性。 感謝您為確保我們的幸福和福祉做出的無數犧牲。

我們的父親和她的孩子們最後道別時,我們感到安慰的是,母親Jean的愛和她的遺澤將永遠活在我們心中。 她的力量、智慧和無條件的愛將引導我們度過未來的日子。

媽媽,請安息吧,因為您知道我們深愛著您,深切地想念著您。 對您的記憶將永遠成為我們生命中的燈塔。 媽媽,我們知道您很平靜,因為您最後有意識的時刻正在做您最喜歡的活動,就是在Jewel超巿購物,並且您在週二(您正常的下班休息日)去與主在一起。

感謝大家與我們一起慶祝李甄佩霞太夫人 Jean Toy Lee 的非凡一生。