A treasured, brave, funny force of nature, Alex Lee was born on April 7, 1993. He died on June 25, 2022 at Oregon Health Sciences University Hospital from complications from a congenital heart defect.
He was held by loving family members as he comforted them until his last breath.
Alex was born with Down Syndrome and severe congenital heart defects. With the best medical care available and the love of his family, friends, and Heavenly Father, he overcame what many considered overwhelming obstacles.
With a lifelong positive attitude and zeal, he lived and loved a robust life. He enlivened every place he went and showed us a kinder, gentler world.
Alex was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and an ordained deacon. He enjoyed passing the sacrament. He always looked dapper in his Sunday clothes and fine selection of hats. He was affectionately known as “Uncle Alex” to all of the younger members of the family, and he loved his nieces and cousins beyond measure.
He was a bit of a “scoundrel”, which only made him more lovable to everyone around him.
He attended Ladd Elementary, Joy Elementary, Tanana Middle School, and Lathrop High School. He rocked school band classes from fourth grade through high school and loved the Lathrop Pep Band and proms. He has been a regular at Fairbanks opera and symphony venues and has performed with the University of Alaska Fairbanks 64.8 Percussion Ensemble. Alex enjoyed classes at the UAF Summer Music and Visual Arts Academy, where his photography was recognized as distinctive. Alex loved the Fairbanks Community Band and was a donor. His appreciation of every genre of music – from the Beatles, Beach Boys, B52s and Disney to Christmas, classical and country – was legendary, and he was known for spawning many amazing dance moves.
Alex’s sister Avalon encouraged his love of music but also knew how to tend to his many medical needs, which she did with competence and love throughout his life. He enjoyed painting watercolors and was able to raise money for charity with one of his many paintings at a First Friday event.
As a young child, Alex was often seen on the slopes of Moose Mountain in his father’s backpack and later in a customized ski gear designed by his sister Nichole. His happy cries and the ride up the hill on the bus are memorable. He also spent a lot of time fishing with his father and special fishing partners, sister Erin and Uncle Robin.
Alex ate incredible amounts of pasta. He didn’t like “candy,” but Coca-Cola mastered his short drinks menu. To say that spaghetti with meat sauce and a coke is motivating would be an understatement.
Christmas was Alex’s favorite season. It wasn’t about receiving gifts, it was about choosing gifts and enjoying the music, decorations, family time and spiritual reflection. The Fairbanks Symphony Christmas Concert wowed Alex, and he enjoyed adding his raspy little voice to the “Hallelujah Chorus.” Alex usually started Christmas in July and ended in February. He believed in Santa Claus and wrote letters to him all his life.
Alex was passionate about all types of vehicles, and he was always passionate about trains, planes, boats, RVs, articulated lorries, trucks, heavy equipment, and vintage cars, and he dreamed of driving them all. He exuded the “John Deere” spirit. He was a consummate farm simulator player on his X-Box and grieved when he lost all his “chickens” because he didn’t clean up their “poo”. Alex dreamed of becoming a chicken farmer; However, the reality of winter turned that goal into a “worm farm,” where the worms were gently housed in a five-story “worm hotel” inside. He and his best friend and business partner, Sabrina, were selling compost worms at the Tanana Valley farmer’s market.
He was a great traveler and enjoyed seeing new things. It almost took security guards to remove it from DC’s Natural History Museum when it closed. He loved the beach and often spoke of the wonderful make-a-wish trip he had to Disneyland, where he spent the day with Woody and Buzz. He enjoyed many trips with his family and the extended Sadler family, and especially with his lifelong best friend and soul mate, Sabrina Sadler. Sabrina and Alex met in Kindergarten at Joy Elementary and their love for each other was the kind of love we all desire.
It was an honor for Alex to be selected as a “Pilot for a Day” by the Ice Men at Eielson Air Force Base. He took his volunteer work as a third lieutenant in the US Air Force very seriously and respectfully greeted all those in military uniform.
Alex loved animals, especially dogs, and was privileged to have been a volunteer veterinarian at Mt. McKinley Animal Hospital and Raven Veterinary Clinic. He gently petted many dogs and helped them wake up for their journey home. Alex’s own dogs miss his presence. Sabrina and Alex often met at Creamer’s Field, where they would go for walks in the summer and he would clean up after hundreds of dogs in the winter.
Alex enjoyed participating in the Special Olympics, Fairbanks North Star Borough Adaptive Recreation Program and Palm Desert Recreation Programs with all his friends. The Zoom programs kept Alex and others with special needs connected and engaged in fun, meaningful activities throughout the Covid pandemic. Alex was a Special Olympics swimmer and particularly enjoyed traveling to Anchorage for the Summer Games where he was able to fulfill his dream of (temporarily) living in a dorm room. Not to mention his gold and silver medals, it was all about the dorm and seeing his many buddies. He looked forward to monthly “Special O” dances and rarely missed one.
In 2006, Alex faced a life crisis, and with a miraculous 11½-hour heart surgery, Drs. V. Mohan Reddy and his team, then of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, lost his heart and replaced all of his valves in a landmark operation. Alex recovered quickly, grew 20 cm and was able to lead a very active life.
It’s true that it takes a village to raise children, and it’s also true that the way we treat people with special needs, whether visible or invisible, is a measure of our worth in the here and now and is in eternity. Alex always referred to “all the good people”, meaning the hundreds of good people including family members, teachers, instructors, teaching assistants, coaches, school staff, administrators, doctors, nurses, technicians, janitors, bus drivers, bus assistants, recreational and Resource specialists, vendors, community and church leaders, restaurant staff, the amigos at Taco King, amicis at Geraldo’s, Chongs at Seoul Gate and anyone we may have missed, our family “Thank you” sincerely for your care, well, dear people. You all contributed to Alex as he grew into the wonderful person he has become.
We miss you little rascal, buddy and preppy guy. When we hear the Disney song You’ve Got a Friend in Me, we will feel your kindness. Your exhausted heart contained perfect love. We are so privileged to be your family. Until we are reunited, know that we love you.
Alex was deceased by Uncle Robin Lee, sister Erin Lee, grandparents Myles and Bernice Gibson, grandfather Qu Tai Lee, cousin Hunter Lemke, and “aunt” Diana Bongiovanni.
He is survived by his parents, Patrice and Guy Lee, grandmother Dorothy Lee, sisters Avalon Lee and Nichole (Lee) Tham, (Wing, Kailee and Lilee), uncle Dane Lee, aunt Sandra Lemke and cousins Jeremy Lemke (Renee, Tanner , Xander) and Jamie Lemke Stevens (Nick, McKinley, Myles, Mazy) and the extended family. His loss is also mourned by his soul mate Sabrina Sadler, Dawn and Jerry Sadler and the extended Sadler family including all caregivers who loved him like a son, Chandra Ramamoorthy, Jeanne Olson, Bethany Russell, “Uncle” Fred Bongiovanni, Nigel and Avalon crest. and Pamela Throop.
A memorial service will be held on July 26, 2022 at 6:30 p.m. at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 403 Lazelle Road (across the Steese Highway from Seekins Ford). The services are available via Zoom at bit.ly /3PyWdXJ.
In honor of Alex’s happy self, please wear your favorite colors.
A celebration of Alex’s life will be held on Thursday, August 3, 2022 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the John Deere Building, 1285 Van Horn Road. In his memory, instead of flowers, please support Access Alaska in Fairbanks (accessalaska.org) by stating “For Fairbanks”; Make-A-Wish-Alaska (bit.ly/3yTx6s1); Alaska Spay/Neuter Assistance Program (280 Brighton Dr Fairbanks, AK 99712); or the Fairbanks Community Band (www.fairbankscommunityband.com).
Published by Daily News-Miner on July 24, 2022.