Life Story: Hwa Ja Rhee, 78; Native Of South Korea

Mrs. Hwa Ja Rhee, 78, of Somerset, passed away peacefully surrounded by family on September 30.

A native of South Korea, she was born Hwa Ja Chang, the daughter of Doo Joon Chang and So Nyuh Seung, on February 2, 1941. She endured the Korean War and its aftermath, and ultimately graduated from Seoul National University, where she earned her nursing degree and met her future husband, Youchan Rhee. She moved to the United States in 1967 and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1977.

Mrs. Rhee dedicated her life to helping others with a quiet but determined grace. While serving as primary caregiver for her three children, Mrs. Rhee provided the foundation upon which her husband built a successful private pediatric practice based in Middle Island, Long Island. Later in life, Mrs. Rhee renewed her nursing credentials after a two decade sabbatical and ultimately served as a supervising nurse at the Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook University for twelve years. Upon her retirement, Mrs. Rhee selflessly and heroically cared for her husband during a difficult battle with Parkinson’s Disease that lasted over a decade. Following her husband’s death in 2015, Mrs. Rhee lived an active and rewarding life as a resident of Somerset, New Jersey, a parishioner of Our Lady of Mercy Parish, and a community member of SYK Korean American Community Center in Edison.

Mrs. Rhee enjoyed traveling the world, Tai Chi, feeding her friends and family with home-cooked meals, laughing with her hands, and eating pastries and sweets of all kinds. She and her family were formerly parishioners at St. James Roman Catholic Church in Setauket, New York, and she proudly watched her three children graduate from Ward Melville High School. Above all else, Mrs. Rhee was fiercely loyal to and protective of her family.

Mrs. Rhee is survived by her three children: John, James and Jennifer. She is also survived by seven loving grandchildren, her eldest sister Boknye Bruce and her younger brother Myung Ho Chang.

A viewing will be held at Gleason Funeral Home, 1360 Hamilton St., from 4-8 p.m. Oct. 3. Funeral services will begin at 9:15 a.m. Oct. 4 at the funeral home followed by a 10 a.m. funeral mass at Our Lady of Mercy Church in South Bound Brook. Committal services will follow at Resurrection Cemetery in Piscataway.

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