When his father went missing in Chicago last week, Alford Lew felt helpless living 2,000 miles away on the West Coast.
He created a Facebook page to spread the word about his father, Jin Yut Lew, seeking any information about about the 61-year-old who was last seen driving from his other son’s South Loop home.
By the weekend, people who saw the page helped the family track down Lew at Stroger Hospital, where he had been admitted as a “John Doe” following a brutal beating near Chinatown.
Jin Lew had been “carjacked, robbed, brutally beaten and left for dead,” his son wrote online.
Lew was “incoherent and bleeding from the head” when he was found in the 2500 block of South Princeton Avenue last Thursday morning, according to police.
Lew was taken in critical condition to Stroger, where he remains in a coma with possible brain damage, said Alford Lew, 35.
“It’s possibly weeks or months, if at all, in terms of waking up,” he said. “I want whoever’s responsible to be caught.”
Police said they were investigating the attack as a carjacking, but reported no suspects in custody.
Jin Lew raised his family near 24th and Canal streets in Chinatown and became a well-known and respected chef. His son said he worries his dad won’t be able to cook again.
“He was well known in the restaurant circles in Chicago,” the son said. “He got so many people jobs and trained so many.”
‘Are you OK?’
Tommy Duddleston was removing street sweeping signs shortly after 6 a.m. last Thursday when he found Lew slouched against a building on a sidewalk.
“As I go to get the sign, I was startled … I go, ‘Are you OK, buddy?’ And he rolled over and I saw blood on his face,” said Duddleston, a ward superintendent who works for the Department of Streets and Sanitation.
When Lew didn’t answer, Duddleston ran back to his vehicle and radioed for police and an ambulance. Duddleston didn’t realize Lew was the victim of a carjacking until two days later when the news broke. “It’s really unsettling,” he said.
Carjackings have risen steeply over last year — from 3 to 16 — in the Armour Square community area, which stretches from Chinatown to Guaranteed Rate Field, according to police statistics. In 2020, there were only two reported carjackings in the same area over the same period, from Jan. 1 to April 7.
Recent violent attacks in Chinatown have ratcheted up concerns in the neighborhood.
In December, Woom Sing Tse, 71, was shot and killed in an apparently random attack as he walked down his block to buy a newspaper. A 23-year-old man was arrested a day later but prosecutors couldn’t provide a motive, other than saying “sometimes individuals just do evil things.”
“Everyone’s fearful, and it doesn’t seem like it’s getting better,” Lew’s son said. “We need to wake up to that, and the city needs to get that under control. I grew up here. I know what it was like 30 years ago. The city is almost unrecognizable now.”
‘He doesn’t deserve this.’
Lew immigrated to the United States in the early 1980s and “worked tirelessly” to support his family here and in China, his son said.
When his parents separated, Alford Lew remembered looking forward to the Mondays he’d spend with his father after school. Jin Lew didn’t cook often at home, but when he did, he enjoyed his father’s lobster the best.
“As a father, he provided all he could to ensure my brother and I got a good education,” Alford Lew said in an online post.
Jin Lew was a chef for around 30 years at Chi Tung, a Chinese restaurant in suburban Evergreen Park, rising through the ranks to head chef. “He helped Chi Tung grow a successful business,” general manager Peggy Wu said.
“Everyone respects him. He has high standards,” she said. “When a new chef comes in, he keeps an eye on them and gives them pointers. He really helped people. He wasn’t just a boss, he was hands on.”
Lew helped train dozens of chefs who went on to cook elsewhere. “He was mentor for so many Chinese restaurant chefs. Lots of his students became chefs in other restaurants,” Wu said.
Wu and her coworkers are devastated by the attack.
“We sincerely hope he will fight through this,” she said. “He doesn’t deserve this. He worked hard his entire life. He worked full-time in the restaurant. He’s 61 and still working hard. Cooking is his passion. And then, my goodness, this happened.”
An online fundraiser to pay for Lew’s medical bills surpassed its $50,000 goal Thursday. Wu said it showed Lew’s mark on the community. “You see these outpourings. There’s lot of people he helped out,” she said. “And now we just want to help a little bit and, hopefully, he can survive first and then recover.”