Eulogies delivered at Dr Lee's funeral

Below are the eulogies delivered on behalf of family, colleagues and friends, and the international health community, at the funeral service for Dr LEE Jong-wook, Director-General of WHO. The service took place at the Basilique Notre-Dame in Geneva, Switzerland on 24 May, 2006.

Tadahiro Lee, on behalf of family

Good afternoon,

On behalf of my mother, my aunt, uncle and the rest of my family, I would like to thank you all for coming.

We very much appreciate so many of my father's close and loving friends, coming here today to celebrate his life. I know that many of you here are his colleagues from work and other people who have met him in a professional aspect. But I know that he thought of all of you first and foremost as cherished friends.

I will not speak in detail of my father's professional life, because I feel that there are others who could better speak on that matter. Rather, I would like to share my memories of his generosity and caring, as well as his adventurous spirit.

WHO/Peter Williams
Tadahiro Lee

As a young child, I distinctly recall asking my mother in what proportion she loved me and my father. She patiently explained to me that both of my parents loved me 100% and each other 100% as well. However, being rather competent at math even at a young age, I felt this made no sense at all. However, to the calculus of my father's heart, this made perfect sense. This philosophy carried on throughout his life and his work. My father loved his work and his colleagues and those whom he hoped to help 100%, while loving his family also 100%. This was the only way he could have accomplished all he did in his career, predicated on helping others, while supporting my mother's work in Peru, and being an incredible and loving father, husband, brother and uncle. Even as a doctor he gave 100% to his patients, equally through his work in WHO. But I remember, he also gave me 100% of his skill and concern, when simply treating my knee, when I fell off my bicycle.

Dr Lee being greeted by children in KwaMlanga, South Africa
Dr Lee on one of his first country visits as Director-General, being warmly greeted by children outside the community health clinic in KwaMlanga, South Africa.

He had a lot to give and he did give it all.

However, in his life he also gave 100% to having fun and sharing joy, as evidenced by the time he spent playing tennis, scuba diving, skiing and cycling with others. Despite his big heart and generosity the thing I will remember most is his adventurous spirit. He took my mother and I through many adventures, living in various places such as Hawaii, Samoa, Fiji and the Philippines. He loved to experience more, do more, see more. I believe that this adventurousness made him great at work and at life. If ever he seemed stern or impatient, I believe it was because he had so much to accomplish in the time that he had. Whether it be solving every illness, hiking every hill or seeing every beautiful old church with my mother, he didn't want to waste any time.

Lastly, I know that he would have said that he only reached the heights he did because of the support of his family in Korea when he was a child, and as a man the love and strength of his wife, and as a doctor he benefited from the brilliance, hard-work and faith of his colleagues.

Now, the love of God and his church brings him peace, until he is united with those he has gone ahead to make preparations for. You know, that even now he is finding a way to be busy. While we mourn our loss, let's not be sad for him, because he has had as full a life as could be had, and he did not suffer. And my mother takes large solace in that he finally gets some well-deserved rest.

Finally, in this difficult time, my family would like to thank some of those who have really really helped us, especially Sally, Jim, KJ, Ian, Ken, Gini, Dorine, Sylvie, Alejandro, Patrick and Monsignor Tomasi, without whom, we really could not have survived this. Both my mother and I, and the rest of our family really miss our father, but we believe he has really really had a full life and in the end, for him we won't be sad.

Thank you very much.