Hundreds Gather at Memorial for Former San Mateo Mayor John Lee

Rep. Anna Eshoo, one of dozens of elected officials in attendance, called Lee "Mr. San Mateo."

Hundreds gathered at the San Mateo County Event Center's Cypress Hall on Sunday afternoon to pay tribute to John Lee, a former San Mateo mayor, community advocate and friend, who May 7 after a battle with cancer.

"Our family is in awe at just how many lives my father touched," John Lee Jr. said in his opening remarks at the memorial.

"He was a true public servant," Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, said. "He was a pillar in San Mateo. He was really Mr. San Mateo."

Other elected officials spoke at the memorial as well, including Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo; San Mateo County Supervisor Carole Groom; San Mateo City Manager Susan Loftus; and Linda Asbury with the San Mateo Area Chamber of Commerce.

Hill said he met Lee when Hill joined the San Mateo Rotary Club more than 20 years ago. He said Lee met Hill with a smile and friendly greeting.

"I witnessed firsthand the many important contributions John made to San Mateo and the Peninsula," Hill said. "He exemplified a special spirit and displayed unbounded vitality."

Lee's accomplishments while serving on the San Mateo City Council -- including the building of the Century 12 Downtown San Mateo movie theatres, the state-of-the-art San Mateo Public Library and the San Mateo Police Department -- have been noted by many.

Lee served 13 years on the San Mateo City Council, from 1998 through 2011, when he retired due to term limits. Lee served as mayor to the City of San Mateo three times, most recently in 2010.

And, Hill added, Lee "never did anything for the recognition."

Groom said she recalled Lee could be "gruff," and was "tough on others, but more so on himself."

She added, "When he swore me in as supervisor, I could not have been more proud."

Three San Mateo firetrucks greeted guests at the parking lot of the event center, and the ceremony opened with bagpipes played by Capt. Dennis O'Leary of the San Francisco Police Department.

The bagpipes were followed by a presentation of colors and flag salute by the U.S. Marine Corps and the San Mateo Public Safety Color Guard. Lee served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 22 years and was a Korean War veteran.

As a council member in San Mateo, Mayor Brandt Grotte recalled the time when Lee stopped a city council meeting to let everyone watch the San Francisco Giants win the World Series in 2010.

"John really knew how to run a city council," Grotte said to respectful laughter from the audience.

"He was a steadfast, dedicated individual who worked tirelessly," Grotte added.

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Denise Nelson June 05, 2012 at 02:05 PM
Great article. As was said at the service, "A life well lived" was honored.
Laura Dudnick June 05, 2012 at 05:00 PM
Thanks, Denise. I wish I had met Mr. Lee, clearly he was a major part of the San Mateo community for a long time.
Julie Lee June 05, 2012 at 11:55 PM
Thank you Laura, that was a wonderful article on my grandfather! I'm sorry you never got the chance to meet him, he was a wonderful man and he loved San Mateo and everyone one that lives in the community. Thank you again to everyone that came out to honor him, support our family and share in his legacy. Julie Lee
Laura Dudnick June 06, 2012 at 12:15 AM
Thanks, Julie - what a sweet comment. I'm glad you enjoyed the article. Laura


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