Uh Hee Kim

Uh Hee Kim

January 05, 1935 - May 01, 2024


Uh Hee Kim
January 5, 1935 – May 1, 2024

Uh Hee Kim passed away peacefully on May 1, 2024, in Lake Forest, California. She lived a rich 89 years as a scientist, professor, world traveler, beloved wife, mother, and grandmother.

Uh Hee was born on January 5, 1935, in Hambuk, Korea, one of six children to Lee Bong Gom and Kim Young Gap. Though she had a happy childhood (she especially loved dancing and particularly ballet), her family’s life was disrupted when Communists took over North Korea and pushed her family to flee south. Eventually, when the Korean War came to a close, Uh Hee and her family moved to Seoul, and after high school she was accepted to the country’s top college, Seoul National University.

During her first year studying chemistry there, she met Hyoungman Kim, another student in the department. After the two of them worked shifts together in the lab, Hyoungman would walk her home; sometimes, they’d take detours to stop for dinner. Somewhere along the way the two became a couple. They’d spend the next 70 years of their lives together.

After college, Hyoungman set off for the United States to pursue his Ph.D. at Yale University, and Uh Hee followed soon after. They were married in a small ceremony at the university chapel. Though they didn’t have much money then, the two were happy in New Haven, and saved up their pennies to drive their clunker down to New York to see Broadway shows and eat cheap Korean noodles. In 1959, they had their first child, Mike, followed by his sisters, Marian and Linda.

The family settled down in Madison, Wisconsin, where both parents worked at the university. Uh Hee spent her days doing cancer research at the McArdle Lab while expertly juggling her responsibilities as a mother: shuttling her children to violin lessons, growing vegetables in the backyard, sewing clothes for the family (though the kids sometimes complained about their matching outfits). Her cooking was also legendary, and she mastered many classic Korean dishes as well as cuisines from all over the world — family favorites included her mandu soup, tangsuyuk, beef Wellington, and coq au vin.

After sending her own kids off to UW-Madison, Uh Hee moved back to Korea for a time and taught chemistry at Dankook University, where she was a beloved professor for many undergraduate students. Eventually, the couple retired and moved to Carlsbad, California, living near their daughter Linda and her family. In her later years, Uh Hee kept busy, becoming an expert in Zumba and forming a beach walking group with her friends. She loved spending time with her grandkids, whether she was cheering at their orchestra concerts and sports games or treating them to trips to the San Diego Zoo. She and Hyoungman filled up their passports and photo albums with their world travels, jetsetting everywhere from Madrid to Cambodia to Machu Picchu.

Throughout her years, Uh Hee had a vibrant spirit and joyful laugh that lit up the lives of her loved ones. She took pride in her work and was accomplished at many things — from her advanced chemistry research to her elaborate cake decorations — but she didn’t take herself too seriously, as her family will remember from her years of gentle teasing. And she had a deep appreciation for exploring the world’s wonders, whether she was hiking through beautiful landscapes at a national park, taking in the sounds of a symphony, or satisfying her sweet tooth with a delicious dessert.

Uh Hee is survived by her husband, Hyoungman; her three children, Mike, Marian, and Linda; her six grandchildren, Marika, Nicola, Nick, Maddie, David, and Aidan; and her siblings, Sunghee and Doo Ung. Per her wishes, Uh Hee will be cremated with no formal ceremony, and will have her ashes scattered in the Pacific Ocean.

If you’d like to honor Uh Hee’s memory, please send donations to the Lewy Body Dementia Association.

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