Chester County family honors son with gift of land
06/27/2017 12:37PM ● Published by Richard Gaw
In 1973, when Raymond John Lee was a youngster, his parents Kung Hsing [Peter] and Susan purchased a three-acre parcel of woodlands on Nine Gates Road in Chadds Ford.
For the Lee's, the little plug of wilderness was just large enough for the family to disappear into. The Lee's embarked on overnight camps there, explored its pathways, and on one occasion, Raymond's younger brother Rob carved “R.L. + Family” into a beech tree at the edge of the property.
Raymond later received his undergraduate degree at Johns Hopkins University, and then his medical degree at Case Western Reserve in Ohio, where he was accepted into the neurosurgery program. At the same time, he was also diagnosed with cancer.
During his recuperation, Dr. Lee returned home to Delaware, but despite his illness, he was not ready to stop practicing medicine. In 1986, he was appointed as a resident at Christiana Hospital, and then later became the hospital's chief resident, where he remained until he died on March 14, 1988, after struggling to overcome leukemia. The hospital has named its bone marrow transport unit after him.
Rob's youngest son is named after his older brother.
“Ten years ago, as he began to reach the latter stages of his life, my father began to think about what was important to him,” said Rob, who attended the dedication ceremony with his family and his parents. “Giving our property to the Conservancy had nothing at all to do with money. It had to do with preserving his legacy, in the name of my older brother,” Rob said. “He began to think about Raymond and how he could hold on to his memory, and that's when the discussions [with TLC] began.”
On June 23, more than one dozen representatives from the TLC, Kennett Township, Neighbors for a Nature Preserve and Kennett Township Land Advisory Committee joined together to dedicate the Lee Woods, a three-acre parcel adjacent to 82-acre Stateline Woods Preserve in Kennett Square. The land was acquired by TLC, partly through funding from the township's Open Space funding, and partly by donation from the Lee family.
The property will be maintained by the Conservancy, and will provide trail access to the preserve from Nine Gates Road. In honor of the Lee family legacy, TLC will host overnight camping programs on the property.
Stateline Woods Preserve and the Lee Woods are part of the larger Stateline Woods Conservation Corridor, a protected corridor encompassing over 400 acres of land with approximately 10 miles of trails. TLC has been working on securing additional land and trail linkages since its acquisition of the 15-acre Marshall Mill House in 2000. Over the years, TLC has purchased two additional preserves, Stateline Woods and Marshall Bridge, to add to the Stateline Woods Conservation Corridor. Also, during this same time frame the State of Delaware has opened Auburn Heights Preserve and the Auburn Valley Trail in adjacent to TLC lands in neighboring Yorklyn, De.
“This illustrates what happens when you bring communities together,” said TLC board member Peter Doehring, who hosted a pre-ribbon cutting reception for the Lees with his wife, Monique Girous, a past TLC board member. “A lot of people made choices. There was a choice from Kennett Township to step forward and express an interest in the purchase of the property. There was the choice of the Lee family to move ahead and make the property available, an there was the choice of the neighbors on Nine Gates to raise some supplemental funds.
“No one had to do anything, but we all realized that this was the potential to set aside something that we will enjoy and our kids will enjoy and our grandkids would enjoy.”
“Ten years ago, we were out on that same porch for a presentation for the purchase of the Stateline Woods Preserve,” TLC executive director Gwen Lacy said during the reception. “What came out of that was a group called Neighbors for a Nature Preserve. Fast forward ten years later and Neighbors For Nature Preserve have come together with the Lees, Kennett Township the Land Conservancy – a whole esprit de corps to help preserve the Lee Woods, as part of the Stateline Woods Preserve.”