With broken hearts, we announce the passing of Robert Bon Lee on Thursday May 7, 2020 at Rockcliffe Community Care in Scarborough. Loving husband of the late Gayle (nee Wilson) and cherished father of Ryan (Natalie Douglas) and Robbie (Alissa Nelson). Robert was an extremely proud grandfather and will be dearly missed by his grandchildren Ethan and Ava.
Robert was the beloved son of the late Poy Gar and Mabel (nee Hong) Lee. Robert will be forever remembered by his stepmother Grace Lee and stepsister Janet (Stephen MacLachlan). He was a special brother-in-law to Lynne (Bob Gorman), Judy, Debbie and the late Glenn and Gary. Robert will be fondly remembered by many nieces, nephews, and friends.
Robert was born on April 7, 1939 in Toronto and grew up on Gerrard Street East across from Allan Gardens. There were many happy memories of close times spent with cousins going to Chinese School, Sunday School and playing at Allan Gardens. He looked forward to summer fishing trips to Perth and excelled at his piano lessons with Miss Ruth Ma.
Robert had an idyllic childhood, yet at age 11 his beloved mother passed away. As Robert became a teenager his father remarried, and the family moved to a new home in East York.
Robert attended East York Collegiate and Ryerson Polytechnical Institute, earning a diploma in Metallurgy in 1963. Robert soon afterwards chose to follow his father’s footsteps into the restaurant business, joining the Nanking Tavern and Restaurant on Elizabeth Street in the heart of Toronto’s Old Chinatown. Starting in the bar at the Nanking, he worked at various jobs and was one of the restaurant Managers when the Nanking closed in 1979. Robert then pursued a role as an Inventory Controller at Griffith Laboratories located in Scarborough and developed several lasting friendships there.
It was at the Nanking that Robert met Gayle Wilson who worked at Toronto’s New City Hall. Love blossomed and they married in 1974 in Kingston and purchased a home in Scarborough. Robert and Gayle welcomed sons Ryan in 1976 and Robbie in 1978.
In his bachelor days, Robert loved to play hockey at Leaside arena during the winter and golf during the summer. As he settled down, he turned to other interests which included photography and adding to his collections of coins and restaurant menus. His menu collection from Toronto restaurants popular in the 60’s and 70’s, was donated to the University of Toronto Archives; it is referred to as the Robert Bon Lee Collection. Learning and playing piano was one of Robert’s special joys throughout his life. He loved to play his favourite Beethoven Sonatas and other classical pieces, in addition to jazz, show tunes and popular music. Robert wished to share his love of fishing and camping with his sons, so many long weekends and family vacations were spent at Grady Lake near Perth, Ontario.
In the late 1990’s Robert endured some health challenges, including some paralysis that affected his mobility and the use of his dominant left hand. Gayle was Robert’s primary caregiver and with her loving and dedicated help, Robert was able to regain back some of his mobility and learned to use his right hand to write and work at his computer.
Robert continued to prove that he was a fighter and survivor when his beloved Gayle passed away in 2007. Robert remained living with sufficient independence in his home (which he dearly wanted) with help from his sons Ryan and Robbie, sister-in-law Judy, and various PSWs (Rosie, Natie, Arlyn). During this time, he continued to embrace the internet and Facebook to remain connected with his family and many friends. Robert always remained positive and never complained, being grateful for his life and all the help he received. He went to Rockcliffe Community Care late 2018 when independent living proved too challenging.
From a very young age Robert lit up any room he entered. He was known as 'Robert' to some, 'Bob' to others, 'Dad' to Ryan and Robbie, and 'Poppy' to Ethan and Ava. Regardless of which name he answered to, he was warm, caring, compassionate, generous, humorous, interested in others, perhaps a wee bit stubborn, yet a real pleasure to be around. Robert's signature "Colgate" smile will be fondly remembered.
Cremation has taken place and a private family burial will be planned at Mount Pleasant Cemetery. Once restrictions related to COVID-19 are lifted plans will be made for a Celebration of Life. In lieu of flowers donations to the Canadian Cancer Society or the charity of your choice would be greatly appreciated. Online condolences may be made at pauloconnor.ca
Messages of Condolence
To Robbie , Ryan and family.
Words cannot express how sorry I am for your loss.
Please accept my condolences to you and your family.
Cheryl Eng Etobicoke, ontarioMay 21, 2020
Bob, rest in peace with my cousin Gayle. Our sincerest condolences to your family.
Steve and Nancy Smith CobourgMay 18, 2020
Ryan,Natalie,Robbie and family
Just wanted to send you a short message to let you know that I'm so sorry for your loss. I was thinking a...
Ryan,Natalie,Robbie and family
Just wanted to send you a short message to let you know that I'm so sorry for your loss. I was thinking about your dad and mom and the times we met at Aunt Gracie and Uncle Poygy's house (when you were little and running around!). Your dad was alot like his father in ways, on the outside grumpy and looking stern, but soft with a big heart on the inside. Take care and stay safe. We'll all miss him in our own way.
Karen ChongTorontoMay 16, 2020
Karen Chong TorontoMay 16, 2020
It is with a heavy heart that I offer my sincere condolences to Ryan, Robbie and the entire Lee Family on the passing of Robert. I recall ...
It is with a heavy heart that I offer my sincere condolences to Ryan, Robbie and the entire Lee Family on the passing of Robert. I recall the first time we met, he insisted that I call him Bob.
By now, Bob has arrived in a special place with his soulmate Gayle for a sweet reunion in the hereafter.
You have left us Bob, but your memory laden footprints remain as your legacy, indelibly visible for your Sons and your Grandchildren to proudly follow and embrace for the rest of their lives.
We share the role of Grandfather to Ava and Ethan who love you dearly Bob. I will forever cherish and be grateful for the poignant way in which I became known as "Different Poppy" to our Grandchildren.
Thanks Robert (Bob). To live on in the hearts we leave behind is to be gifted with eternal life. God bless you my friend.
Michael DouglasGuelph, OntarioMay 12, 2020
Michael Douglas Guelph, OntarioMay 12, 2020
I will always remember Bob on his front porch along with Gayle who always watched over us as we played on the streets or in their backyard...
I will always remember Bob on his front porch along with Gayle who always watched over us as we played on the streets or in their backyard. He will be greatly missed. Bob was a warm and caring man who always made us feel welcomed.You will be missed and rest in peace and wish him well on journey back to Gayle.
Claire watsonKuala Lumpur MalaysiaMay 11, 2020
Claire watson Kuala Lumpur MalaysiaMay 11, 2020
I will always remember how funny, and kind Bob was to the Watson and Chan family. Many happy childhood memories on Shandara Crescent. Rest...
I will always remember how funny, and kind Bob was to the Watson and Chan family. Many happy childhood memories on Shandara Crescent. Rest In Peace.
Ian WatsonMontrealMay 11, 2020
Ian Watson MontrealMay 11, 2020
Many happy memories of Bob and Gayle while watching our children growing up together.
Jenny and George Watson ScarboroughMay 11, 2020
Many laughs and happy times on our weekend getaways with your wife Gayle and sis in law Judy. Rest in peace Bob.
Gerry Wilson TorontoMay 10, 2020
A smile comes to mind thinking of the many weekends spent with the Lee family. Rest In Peace Uncle Bob. Xx
Melissa Lembke NewmarketMay 10, 2020
You are now at peace and with my sister, your wife, Gayle. Rest in peace.