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Death Notice Guestbook

Obituary: Ji-ye "Jerry" Sun / Hard-working restaurant manager

Sunday, April 30, 2000

By Jeffrey Cohan, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Ji-ye "Jerry" Sun came to the United States from China on a student visa, dreaming of drumming in an American symphony.

But Mr. Sun ultimately put family above self, exchanging his personal ambitions for pragmatic concerns. He married, embarked on a career in restaurant management, and helped support his new wife and two step-children.

"He worked hard. He had not enjoyed his life yet," Mr. Sun's friend Patricia Ku said yesterday. "He had not even started."

It ended for him Friday afternoon during a managerial shift at Ya Fei Chinese Cuisine in Robinson Town Centre. A gunman on a two-county killing spree entered the restaurant and shot and killed Mr. Sun and co-worker Thao Q. "Tony" Pham.

Mr. Sun, of Churchill, was 34.

The loss has devastated his wife, May Ling Kung, for whom Mr. Sun had sacrificed so much.

"She was crying all night. She didn't eat. She didn't sleep," said a family friend who requested anonymity. "She cried out his name. She lost the one she loved most."

Mr. Sun, an only son whose parents and sister still live in his old hometown of Shanghai, was studying music at Edinboro University when he met his wife-to-be.

Shortly after marrying, he left school and went to work as a waiter in the Chinatown Inn, Downtown, where he eventually became a manager.

About a year later, in 1995, the couple moved to Phoenix to live with Molly Wee, Kung's daughter from a previous marriage. Both husband and wife worked in Chinese restaurants there but moved back to Pittsburgh the following year.

"They felt more comfortable in Pittsburgh," Wee said. "They felt safer, ironically, because supposedly it's not a big city."

He obtained work at the Sushi House and New Dumpling House, adjoining restaurants on Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill. Mr. Sun and his wife lived just a few blocks away on Wightman Street.

Mr. Sun was soon running the Sushi House and developing a reputation as a capable manager.

"He was a good manager," said Sushi House waiter Tony Chen. "He treated us very nice. And he was very friendly with customers."

To this day, on the wall behind the cash register, the Sushi House proudly displays a food-protection certificate conferred to Mr. Sun in 1997 by the Allegheny County Health Department.

About a year ago, he and wife bought a modest, two-story house in Churchill. They scrimped to make the mortgage payments and cover their other expenses. Part of Mr. Sun's paycheck went toward the college education of stepson Chuck Wee, a Penn State University student.

In March, Mr. Sun and his wife got an itch to move again. They visited Molly Wee, who had moved to the Los Angeles suburb of Santa Clarita, Calif.

"They really liked it there," Wee said. "They were planning to save up money and move there" and had talked of opening a restaurant.

Upon returning from the trip, Mr. Sun obtained a manager's job at Ya Fei Chinese Cuisine six weeks ago. There he died.

Witnesses said the gunman asked for Mr. Sun and Mr. Pham by name. But Ya Fei owner Kathy Yee questioned that account, saying she had never before seen the suspected killer, Richard Baumhammers, in her restaurant.

Yee, when asked to, easily identified Mr. Sun's distinguishing characteristic: "He worked hard."

His friends, though, knew a fuller Jerry Sun.

"You could tell him anything. He was a good listener," said Ku, an Oakland resident. "When you had some problem, or something to discuss with him, he never disappointed you. He had a good way of encouraging you. He'd never say, 'My opinion is better than yours.' He'd say, 'If I were you, I'd do it this way.' "

Mr. Sun is survived by his wife, stepson and stepdaughter, sister, and parents.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

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