Kenneth (King) Lee was born March 4, 1898, in Taishan, China. He emigrated in the 1930s “to make his fortune.” According to his daughter, he was hired for a mining job in Kirkland Lake, but opted to cook for the miners after he noticed “they were bringing people up from the mines who were dead.” At some point, King was not only running the kitchens in mining country, but travelling south to hire cooks. He eventually settled in Stratford in the 1940s.
In the Commodore, he served Americanized Chinese fare and Western-type dishes. Once a year, he would hold what would now would be called “a customer appreciation night.” He would fill up the restaurant and, recalled his daughter, “there would be a whole feast” to feed them all.
After King retired in 1976, he sold his business to a nephew but retained ownership of the building. Two years later, in the spring of 1978, the building went up in flames, the result of a fire that began in the adjacent Greenberg’s Ladies Wear store. Cause of the fire was attributed to an unattended iron and steam generator in the clothing store. It took out four businesses and left more than $1 million in damages. The Commodore was where Fellini’s restaurant is now.
Until he was 109, King lived in Stratford with Marjorie and her husband Mike at 8 Joffre St., where he still did all the cooking. He enjoyed retirement walks around the river. The long life he lived was filled with adventure, hard work and family.
He died peacefully on Nov. 29, 2012, at the Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care in Scarborough, Ont. He was 114. Source: Gord Conroy