Berkley Dental Laboratory - June 2020

June 2020

The Bay Area Beacon | 510-525-0135

FromHaving 85 Cents to Living the American Dream Darrell on His Dad’s Legacy

When my dad came to the United States in 1949, he paid off his debtors and was left with 85 cents to start a new life. I learned that this morning after I called my sister in preparation for writing this article about my dad's legacy. I've always known that he's incredibly resourceful and smart, but he still finds new ways to surprise me! Growing up, I wouldn't have guessed a lot about my dad's story, but I always saw him working. At the store, he ordered new stock, filled shelves, and ran back and forth to the bank. At home, he wrote and read all the time. It was all in Chinese, so I never knew what he was really doing. These days, I know that he was a poet, and apparently, he was also a writer by profession in China; he interviewed and wrote for a local publication. That's pretty amazing considering he left that career behind to come to the states at 25 years old. One of the things I love about my dad is that he's always been a risk taker. Back when he lived in China, he made the most out of his opportunities there, whether that was running his own produce stand in the street or writing. When he came to America, he started working as a fruit picker and met a few friends. My dad always looks for ways to help friends and extended family, whether it is with his time or finances. He even bought his first house to live in with his original friends he made from the fruit picking job. That's another amazing

thing about my dad: He never lost the connections he made with his friends. Eventually, my dad switched jobs and started working in a grocery store before opening up his own store in Berkeley (coincidentally!). Then, when he made enough and met my mother, they closed the first store and opened a new grocery store in Richmond. My dad's circle of friends was very ambitious. They started getting into owning real estate. My dad began buying apartment buildings in San Francisco and managed them all himself. Growing up, I didn't realize how much was on his plate. When I was young, he was actually working two full-time jobs as a landlord and business owner. After he retired from the store, he always kept himself busy. He would drive across the bay to San Francisco practically every day up into his late 80s. He was always taking care of his properties and staying active in the San Francisco community. Now that he is 96, my siblings and I have taken over the landlord responsibilities, and it's been a lot to handle! Despite how much he juggled, I never felt neglected. Some of my fondest memories are of my dad taking me to dentist appointments without fail. My dad might inspire me for a lot of reasons today, but when I was a kid, he made sure to teach me and my siblings one particular lesson: respect for others, no matter what social status they held. I've met many people who treat waitresses and delivery workers

differently from others, but growing up, our family was always taught to treat everyone the same. No matter how successful my dad became, he always made sure we'd address people properly, even within the family. Once at a family gathering, I referred to someone I just met as "that guy." I later found out he was a distant uncle. I've rarely ever seen my dad angry, but that was definitely one of those times he was furious. I don't think the title is important to him; you should make an effort to show respect for others, no matter who they are. Everybody knows that about my dad, and in return, they are all very appreciative of him. The mayor of San Francisco even made time to honor my dad's invitation and went to my sister's wedding. Today, my dad is healthy and safe at home with my mom and sister. They're taking good care of each other now that my dad's memory isn't so good anymore. But his legacy is very strong in all of us. His lessons have stuck with me for my whole life, and I couldn't be more grateful. Thanks Dad, and happy Father's Day to all of you! May your June be happy and healthy.

–Darrell Lee


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