RIP, Papa Soul
Remembering Ted ‘Papa’ Lee
by Ted Taylor
Hundreds of people in the Eugene area and beyond are mourning the death of Ted “Papa Soul” Lee, who died unexpectedly Wednesday, Nov. 18, at the age of 43. A celebration of life has been scheduled from 3 to 5 pm Sunday, Nov. 29, at the McDonald Theatre, and it will include music. A New Orleans-style jazz funeral procession will begin at 1 pm across from Tiny Tavern, and go to the McDonald Theatre.
Lee and his family owned Papa’s Soul Food Kitchen & Blues Joint and Brown Betty’s Café at 4th and Blair in the Whiteaker neighborhood. The restaurants remain open. He is survived by his wife, Deb, and two children, D’angelo and Dondre.
The main restaurant’s Myspace page is filling with messages of condolence. “He was an amazing man, and his spirit will forever live on in the hearts of those who loved him,” reads one comment. “Papa was a kind and giving man. The world just won’t be as bright without him in it,” reads another, and “No one made me laugh like you could!” See more at www.myspace.com/papassoulkitchen
In a message to family and friends, Deb Lee says:
He was the most incredibly genuine man I have ever met. He touched the lives of the neighborhood, the city, the county! I always knew people loved him, but this outpouring of support and sadness and grief is incredible. I feel so blessed to have been able to spend the last 13-plus years with my soulmate. … He believed in karma and the effects of his actions on people and the world. He always tried to do good and to make a positive impact on the people he touched. Our boys D’Angelo and Dondre have lost the most important thing to a young man, their father. They are extremely sad, but are holding up. Papa made them strong and they are using that strength to get through this incredible pain.
Lee was on a roll when he died; he was busy with two popular restaurants and his up-and-coming blues band, 100 Percent Delta Stomp. He was looking ahead to expanding food production and retail sales of his sauces and pies, cooking classes and possibly even a television show. He was also talking about taking his band on the road for a West Coast tour.
He began cooking with his mother at an early age, and spent time as a line cook and chef in the Southern U.S., Jamaica, and around Eugene before opening his first food cart. Throughout his career he was known as a kind and generous man, always willing to help people out. He employed many people over the years at his family’s restaurants.
Music was one of Lee’s passions and he is credited for giving Eugene’s blues scene and local musicians a big boost over the past five or so years. His earlier band, Papa’s Soul Kitchen, was well known in the valley and Lee provided a stage and opportunities for unknown musicians to perform.
“Papa gave everybody a chance to get up on that stage,” says musician Bill Shreve (who is also EW’s director of sales and marketing). “If they were good he’d invite them back, and if they weren’t good, he’d just smile.”
A tribute to Lee was broadcast on KRVM the morning of Nov. 21, hosted by two DJs — Brad, the Broken Down Old Man and Steve Spoulos. Playing blues and sharing stories were Jerry Zybach, John Bryson, Natty “O” Bumpo, Bill Shreve, Hank Shreve and Michael Tracey.
Lee was featured in EW many times, including EW’s CHOW! section. The story and photos can be found by searching the EW web archives for “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.”