Leaving legacy a large part of Joy Lee Han’s life

Joy Lee Han, a local author who passed away on Aug. 24 at the age of 89, leaves a legacy beyond her book, “Rice Paper Memoirs.”

“She was a prolific journaler,” her son, Dennis Han, M.D. told The Mining Journal in a recent interview. “She kept track of things — dates, times — since she was a teenager, on through her adulthood, so everything in the book is fairly factual.”

Joy Lee Han lived in Ishpeming for five decades, but had seen other parts of the world in her lifetime.

The book’s publisher, Birchview Press, gave this description of the book, which reads in part: “In touching, heart-felt prose, Han recounts her early life in Kaifeng in north central China, describing both idyllic childhood days spent raising silkworms and tending her grandmother’s goats, and the terror of Pearl Harbor Day, when she was forced, with her parents and five siblings, to flee the American Baptist Compound where they lived. Nine years later, she would find herself on the run again, this time sneaking across the Chinese border into Hong Kong on her way to America.”

Her son said his mother saw the Salvation Army helping people in China, and kept up with this purpose by volunteering for the Salvation Army in Ishpeming when she lived in the area.

Dennis Han also said Joy was an avid reader and played Scrabble, even up to the time just before her passing.

Not everyone has had the life Joy Lee Han experienced, but certainly many people have notable tales to tell.

“I think she also felt that people should try to write their own stories,” Dennis Han said. “Everybody has their own story.”

Individuals can keep diaries, blogs and journals to keep track of their own interesting stories to chronicle them clearly before the years advance and details — and memories — fade.

Chances are their stories won’t be put in a book, but the words could be handed down to a family’s subsequent generations who can learn from their ancestors’ experiences.

And for people like Joy Lee Han, who did put her experiences down on paper, they can inspire people outside their circles.


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