A soft spoken man with gentle, warm, and kind eyes to match his heart. Soo, known to many as Jeff, was a very sweet and quiet man yet incredibly tenacious with an unbeatable work ethic. A selfless man who never put his problems on the minds of others. A humble and simple man who enjoyed playing the lotto and spending time with family and his good pal Cutty Sark.
Soo was born in Gimhae, South Korea on March 13, 1941 and was one of 7 children, 2 brothers and 4 sisters. Soo knew there was no time to slack off and had an ambitious mindset starting at a young age. He graduated from Kungbook High School in Seoul where he won 1st prize in an English Speech Contest. From there he continued his education at Kunghee University, also in Seoul, where he later graduated. Post graduation, Soo grew into becoming a very handsome young man who attracted many; he loved to dance, mingle and was even an actor in a Korean movie. But Soo was hungry for more; in 1969 he made the decision to leave Seoul and immigrate to the US where his first job was flipping burgers with his 2 brothers in Hawaii. After establishing a few years within the US, Soo made the decision he no longer wanted to work under someone else, he wanted to be his own boss and create his own legacy. Soon after he migrated over to Chicago to start a new chapter in his life which was also where he met Shin, who soon became his wife and mother to his 2 children, Ronnie and Hannah.
Soo was very much known to many as undoubtedly the hardest working man. He believed in hard work as a main priority. He worked tirelessly day and night to provide for his family yet never complained about being on his feet all day. He led and lived by example by taking pride in everything he did. He always said to his children, “Do your best in whatever it is you do”. A dedicated, driven and ambitious man who built every business establishment with his hands from the ground up. A self made independent entrepreneur who owned multiple family restaurants of different genres. His first owned business was Golden Village in Chicago, a successful Chinese-American family restaurant on one side and a lounge / bar on the other side, which was self-named J.R’s Pub. His next venture was in Denver Colorado where he upheld the largest nightclub in the city, Club Ego. Every weekend his regulars was the fire department because the club would sell out and hit over capacity limits on a weekly basis. This was the place to be in the late 80’s when hip hop was really paving a way for many, all the top hip hop radio dj’s would host at his venue. Unfortunately, he had to shut down due to gang wars. Following, he opened Cascade Village, an American family restaurant which was also in Denver. From there the family relocated to Honolulu, Hawaii where Soo took a transition from his entrepreneurial role to being a cab driver. Soo held a very special place in his heart for Hawaii, it was his most favorite place to be and live. After a few years the family decided to relocate from Hawaii. Soo had a business opportunity to open his own restaurant again but it was in a small city in Utah named Monticello. This is where he opened Kokopelli known mostly for the most delicious country fried steak with gravy, which he made from scratch from his own recipe. Because the town of Monticello was so small without proper schooling available for his children, he had the family live 6 hours away in St. George Utah. Soo maintained this long distance relationship with his family for over 4 years where he would drive back and forth to see them as much as he could. Following Utah, the family moved back to Colorado, but in the smaller town of Louisville. This is where Soo opened a healthy Japanese restaurant called Kyoto Teriyaki in Boulder and 2 other locations in Westminster. This place was best known for the house made teriyaki sauce as well as the house made hot sauce, which were both Soo’s original recipes. Soo was a one man band who was able to do it all; there was nothing that he couldn’t do even at a seasoned age.
He was a proud man who held his values very high. He respected the law of etiquette and was a charming and respectful gentleman to everyone he met. He was a quiet man who mostly kept to himself but was never too shy to say hello to a friendly face and never forgot your name.
Soo passed away peacefully in Westminster, Colorado on June 4, 2020 after battling severe COPD and emphysema for the past few years.
Soo rests in Heaven with his parents NoJae and KangJin Rhee and older sister Jungsook Rhee. He is survived by his son Ronald Rhee, his daughter Hannah Sampson and her husband Austin and one grandson, Ajayi; his brothers SooHo and SooWon Rhee and his sisters SunJun, SunSook and SookJa Rhee as well as numerous nieces and nephews.
We will always remember him as a strong, gentle, extremely hardworking, patient, loving father. The best father a son and daughter could ever ask for and look up to.
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