Dr. Joseph W. Lee
Joseph Wilbur Lee was born on October 28, 1935 in Chicago, Illinois to James Wilshire Lee and Grace Kirk Lee. Joseph's mother passed when he was 13 months old. His grandmother, Mary Lee, his uncle, Clarence A. Lee, and his older sisters, Hortense and Mary, helped Mr. Lee care for the rambunctious Joseph after Grace's untimely passing. Several years later, Mr. Lee was ordained a Minister in the AME Church. Joseph accepted Christ at an early age. Reverend Lee married Lena Mayo Lee in 1946 and Joseph not only gained a mother but another older sister, Marion.
James and Lena reared Joseph and his sisters to be smart, fiercely independent, opinionated, inquisitive, respectful, and responsible. Joseph took these lessons to heart and went on to earn his high school, bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees. It was during his educational pursuits that he met the former Cecelia Cole at DuSable High School and declared that he was going to marry her. He kept his promise and they wed on June 30, 1962.
Together they built a life that spanned nearly 55 years. During their marriage, Joseph successfully navigated his career in education in the Chicago Public School system. He was a 4th grade teacher, a Principal and a District Superintendent. His career culminated in his selection as the Deputy Superintendent of the Chicago Public School system under the leadership of the General Superintendent, Dr. Manford Byrd. At the time, the Chicago Public School system was the third largest public school system in the United States. His job was to oversee the day-to-day operations of the system, expand services to underresourced communities, improve transportation and infrastructure, and to leverage political and public partnerships. Dr. Lee retired from his position in 1990. During his 33 years with the Chicago Public School system, Dr. Lee was also a role model and mentor to countless educators and was responsible for initiating the building of several schools still in operation today.
Joseph was, most importantly, a committed husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, friend, and child of God. Married to Cecelia, he reared two daughters, loved his grandson, provided counsel to his sisters, supported his nieces and nephews, and enjoyed his friendships, which included his buddies on the tennis court. Joseph served God as an alter boy at Quinn Chapel AME Church and a deacon at The Congregational Church of Park Manor. He also worshipped at Kelly Woodlawn United Methodist Church until his illness prevented his regular attendance.
After retirement, Joseph and Cecelia enjoyed traveling, including becoming "snow birds" in Arizona where they met a host of new friends and enjoyed a supportive and loving community at their winter church home, Wesley United Methodist Church. Joseph remained active in retirement, teaching at local universities, exercising, reading, mastering new computer skills, and providing regular advice to his grown children.
In his later years he endured the burden of various ailments. He persevered, however, buoyed by the lessons instilled in him by his parents, the love and unfailing commitment of his wife, the care and support from his children, family, and friends, and his love of God. Joseph departed this life on Sunday, April 2, 2017. Joseph is now at peace and the family is comforted by the knowledge that he is no longer suffering and is with his Father in heaven.
Joseph leaves to celebrate his life his wife of 54 years, Cecelia C. Lee (CeCe); his elder daughter, Dr. Judith Lee Smith (Dwayne); his younger daughter, Jennifer Lee; his grandson, Andrew Joseph Garling; his sister, Mary Covington; his sister-in law, Annetta Cole Harris (Frederick); nieces, nephews, and friends. Joseph was preceded in death by his parents, James and Lena Lee and sisters, Hortense Hardy and Marion Allen. We mourn his passing yet rejoice steadfastly in his life of service to God, his love and commitment to his family, and his dedication to his community.