Yuke Sau Loo, a former restaurant chef who emigrated from China in the late 1930s, died Friday at the University of Toledo Medical Center after suffering a heart attack in his South Toledo home. He was 101.
Born in 1912 in Kaiping, a city in the Guangdong Province of southern China, Mr. Loo followed his father to the United States at the age of 26. His father, Po Hing Loo, had immigrated several years earlier, co-founding the Golden Lily Chinese Restaurant on Superior Street downtown.
“I came to the U.S. to make a living,” Mr. Loo said in a 2012 interview with the Blade. “I didn’t have many choices ... but of course I love Toledo.”
Mr. Loo first worked as a waiter and a cook at King Hong Low, a Chinese restaurant on Jefferson Avenue. He refined his culinary skills in New York, returning to Toledo to become a cook and partner at the Rice Bowl restaurant on Sylvania Avenue.
After venturing to Detroit, Mr. Loo returned to Toledo to cook for the Golden Lily and John’s Bar, a restaurant that served American and Chinese cuisine. He worked as a chef for Rossford’s Wayward Inn before returning to the Golden Lily.
“He worked from the bottom up,” his son David said.
The Golden Lily closed in June, 2007, when Lucas County acquired it and other properties for the Huntington Center arena.
Mr. Loo opened a Golden Lily at 2223 S. Reynolds Rd. in April, 2011, where customers found the same foods that they did downtown in familiar surroundings. Before the old building was demolished, he stripped the massive wall hangings and ceiling tiles and put them in storage.
Mr. Loo completed grade school in China and learned English at the Ashland Avenue Baptist Church. Toledo had attracted a large community of Loos, all distant relatives from the Kaiping Province.
“When I first came here, I missed home a lot and often wanted to go back,” Mr. Loo said in 2012. “But now that the whole family has immigrated here and I don’t know anyone in my hometown, I no longer miss China so much.”
He became one of the early members of the Yee Hong Association, a Toledo organization that provided support for Chinese immigrants and now provides burial services for their members in the Historic Woodlawn Cemetery.
Mr. Loo was the organization’s co-chairman, performing a memorial service for deceased members every year.
He was a regular at Toledo’s Asian Resource Center, socializing with other Chinese and Asian immigrants every Tuesday and Friday.
He celebrated his 100th birthday at the resource center last June, the first centennial celebration held at center. Mee-Len Koh, the executive director of the Asian Resource Center, said the community lost a few members who were in their late 90s in past years.
“My secret for longevity is probably doing some sports every day,” he said in Cantonese to a Blade reporter who translated his remarks into English.
“I do physical exercises twice every day for a whole hour. Around 8 a.m., I exercise for half an hour, then again for another half an hour between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. I used to play sports like basketball and volleyball when I was young,” Mr. Loo added.
David Loo, 64, Mr. Loo’s son, credited Ms. Koh and the Asian Resource Center staff for their positive relationship with his father. Ms. Koh took his father to the doctor’s office and would translate for him, the younger Mr. Loo said.
When he wasn’t at the Asian Resource Center, Mr. Loo enjoyed walking in the park with his wife. In his younger days, he would hunt and fish with his sons.
“He was a kind, hardworking man,” David Loo said of his father. “He tried not to get into trouble and was always conservative. He was 100 percent traditional.”
Mr. Loo was preceded in death by his first wife, Ho Yung Loo, and a son, Kamtim Loo. He is survived by his second wife, Yuk Ying Chan Loo; his son David Loo; eight grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
Visitation is from 2 to 8 p.m. today at Bersticker-Scott Funeral Home, 3453 Heatherdowns Blvd., and his funeral will be at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at the funeral home.
Memorials are suggested to the Yee Hong Association.
Contact Rosa Nguyen at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6018.