While pictures of Jong Lee flashed on the three flat panel televisions at the Fairfax Community Church, friends and family shared the soft sounds of a tearful farewell.
Lee, 54, was a husband and father who dedicated his life to providing a future for his family. The seven-year Metro employee was killed by a Red Line train in a tunnel near the DuPont Circle station on Sunday, May 13.
“I can still picture Jong sitting in church, smiling,” said John Lee, a friend of the family.
He remembered Jong Lee as a “man of action,” one who would rather spend time working on fixing a problem than waiting for someone else to figure out a solution.
“He just wanted to get the job done,” John Lee said. “He was always dedicated to the task at hand.”
Jong Lee spent long hours at work both inside and away from his home, John Lee said. “When Yvonne was in school, Jong did most of the work around the house so she could focus on her studies,” John Lee said of Jong’s commitment to his wife.
Once, John Lee said, he needed help replacing his garage door. Jong Lee arrived at his house at 10 a.m. for a job they both believed would only take a few hours.
“He stayed until 1 a.m. when we finished,” John Lee said. “He was the last one to leave.”
THE LAST TIME the two men saw each other was over an impromptu Christmas dinner, John Lee said.
“Divine providence allowed me to meet Jong,” John Lee said. “I will miss him greatly.”
Jong Lee and his wife, Yvonne, have three daughters, Martha, Margaret and Rebecca, and would have celebrated their 20th anniversary next year. Their oldest daughter, Martha, said she never really knew the kind of man her father was until she began her junior year of high school last fall.
“He always said we were what he lived for,” said Martha Lee. “We never realized how much he did for us until he wasn’t there.”
She recalled a father who worked long hours to provide for their family, one whose daily patterns were outlined by the sound of his feet coming up the stairs when he returned home from work at the same time every day. Her father was a man who found his joy in spending his free hours with his girls, hoping for a better future for them.
“I remember one time, my mom told me her father said my dad’s best feature were his hands,” Martha Lee said. “I had never really looked at them, but when I asked him to see his hands, I thought about how skilled he was with his hands. He sacrificed himself and his life for us,” she said.
Martha Lee looked upwards and had one final conversation with her father, tears streaming down her face.
“Daddy, I love you,” she said. “I know you’re here today. I can feel that you’re here. We love you so much. I hope this is all you can ask for. I used to wait for you to come home, but now you’re waiting for us.”
WHEN JONG LEE was only 14 years old, his father died, leaving him and his four older siblings orphans. He came to the U.S. from Korea and lived with his eldest brother, Piaong Lee, and his family until he met and married his wife.
Piaong Lee said his brother was “a good man, a good father,” who was planning a trip to Korea for his wife and children for this summer.
“We are all so sad. We trust that he is resting peacefully in heaven,” he said.
The night before his death, Jong Lee and his brother were discussing their faith. A new member to the Fairfax Community Church, Jong Lee told his older brother that he believed in God and heaven.
“He might not have come to church every Sunday, but in his heart, God is there,” Piaong Lee said.
Jong Lee “gave his life to serve the public,” working for Metro as an electrical specialist since 1999, Piaong Lee said. “When people die, they leave behind a footprint of the life they lived. Good people leave behind a beautiful footprint. Jong always helped people … we pray for God’s love for his children and wife. We miss him so much.”
On behalf of Metro and its 10,000 employees, interim general manager Dan Tangherlini offered his “deepest sympathy” to Yvonne Lee and her daughters. “We owe it to you to find out what happened. Let us commit today to keeping his memory in our hearts,” he said.
Mike Golash, president of the Amalgamated Transit Workers Union, Local 689, promised that “we’re going to learn something from this tragedy that will help us understand and prevent this from happening again. We will learn from Mr. Lee.”
Supervisor Dana Kauffman (D-Lee), a former chairman of the Metro Board, thanked Jong Lee’s family for his “years of service he gave to this area. I’m here today to offer you my deepest sympathy and out of the deepest respect for his life,” he said of Lee.
The Lee family were relative newcomers to the Fairfax Community Church, said pastor Rod Stafford, but in the days prior to the funeral, he found he had a few things in common with Jong Lee.
“We were both born in 1956. We both loved electronic gadgets,” Stafford said. “I understand he liked big screens. All you have to do is look at this place and see I’m a big screen guy too,” he said, pointing to the three large screens overhead.
Jong Lee was a man who prided himself on working long hours and being on time, Stafford said.
“Jong loved his family. He worked hard to provide for them,” Stafford said.
Jong Lee's was another reminder that “life is really fragile,” he said.
When the lights dimmed, family photos flickered across the large screens in the sanctuary of the church, showing Jong Lee with his daughters and wife, sharing birthday cakes, vacations to the beach and holidays. His smiling face was reflected in his daughters, who had their father’s eyes and smile, which will serve as a remind to them of a father that loved them deeply long after he’s gone.