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Posted on December 19, 2015 | 5:37 p.m.

Sun Chong ‘Mr. Lee’ Lee of Santa Barbara, 1924-2015

Source: Rochelle Rose

Sun Chong “Mr. Lee” Lee
Sun Chong “Mr. Lee” Lee

Sun Chong Lee, “Mr. Lee,” died on November 26, 2015, just shy of his 91st birthday. He was born December 1, 1924, in Tashaun, of Fujian Province in China.

Mr. Lee’s mother died when he was 7 months old. While war brewed in the Pacific, his father, who was already in the United States, sent for him when he was 15.

Mr. Lee came to the United States via Hong Kong, first on a Russian freighter and transferred to the SS Princess Marguerite. He arrived in Seattle, Washington, on January 1, 1940.

Mr. Lee later went to Chicago where he worked in a laundry but decided to seek a better climate. He saved his money for a bus ticket to San Francisco. During a rest stop in Santa Barbara, he decided Santa Barbara had beautiful weather, so he never got back on the bus.

He first worked at Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens Restaurant on East Canon Perdido, then at the Santa Barbara Men’s Club on Chapala Street, and later at Montecito Country Club.

Mr. Lee then became the manager of the Victoria Hotel on East Victoria Street in Santa Barbara. He was there when Peoples’ Self-Help Housing (PSHH), a nonprofit affordable housing organization, purchased it in 1999, preserving the affordable, downtown 28 single-room-occupancy hotel.

Mr. Lee loved caring for the 28 residents who were mostly veterans and the nearly homeless.

PSHH kept Mr. Lee as the manager. He worked closely with the organization as it undertook a major renovation of the hotel, which included a new community kitchen where the residents could relax together and have their meals.

During the renovation, Mr. Lee, with help from PSHH staff and the city, were able to give special day outings, counseling and special care to the residents. He often cooked for the residents during holidays. His favorite was Thanksgiving Day.

From his daily walks, he and his little dog were known fixtures around downtown Santa Barbara. He was compassionate and very generous. He helped others financially and donated to causes he loved, including the Humane Society and Peoples’ Self-Help Housing.

He passed away peacefully at the Californian Nursing Center on Thanksgiving morning just days shy of his 91st birthday.

He goes to meet all those he loved and helped, especially his tenants, and leaves behind his goddaughter, Barbara Chung, and all those who love him.

A celebration of his life was held December 9, 2015, at Trinity Episcopal Church in Santa Barbara.

Donations in Mr. Lee’s name can be made to the Santa Barbara Humane Society or Peoples’ Self-Help Housing Resident Assistance Fund at 26 E. Victoria St., Santa Barbara 93101, or click here to make an online donation.

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