LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The founder of Las Vegas Lee’s Discount Liquor stores, Hae Un Lee, has died at 79 after a battle with pancreatic cancer, according to a statement released by the company media contact.

Mr. Lee was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October 2020 and passed away at a local hospital on August 27, 2021.

Well-known by the Las Vegas community, Mr. Lee immigrated to the United States from South Korea with his wife in 1980, opening his first store a year later on Spring Mountain Road.

Over a span of 40 years, Lee and his family expanded Lee’s Discount Liquor into the largest liquor retailer in Nevada with 22 locations around Las Vegas, Reno, West Wendover, and Mesquite.

Lee was well-loved by the Las Vegas community, with many flooding social media with words of support for the family, recalling fond memories of the funny commercials and billboards published by Mr. Lee and his son, Kenny through the years to advertise the family business.

Gov. Steve Sisolak and his wife expressed their grief in a Twitter post on Saturday stating:

“Kathy and I join friends, families and loved ones in mourning the loss of Hae Un Lee, the founder and CEO of Lee’s Discount Liquor. He was a great friend. This is a tremendous loss for our community – but Mr. Lee’s legacy will live on. We will keep his family close in our hearts.”

– Gov. Steve Sisolak

Pat Hickey, Former Assembly Minority Leader posted this message:

“Sadly, Mr. Hae Un Lee, Founder of Lee’s Discount Liquor has passed on. He epitomized the American Dream and was a generous benefactor to many great Nevada causes. May he RIP.”

– Pat Hickey

Mr. Lee was a prominent member of the community. For nearly 20 years, he ran Lee’s Helping Hand, a non-profit organization that put millions of dollars back into organizations in need throughout Nevada.

Mr. Lee and his wife, Sun Lee had three children, Annie, Kenny, and Tina. He has 8 grandchildren.

According to the release, service information will be released as soon as arrangements are made.