Our beloved, Sang Koo Han, MD, passed away on December 7, 2022 at his home in Pasadena, MD. He was 80 years old.
He was born in Sang Joo, Korea on January 25, 1942. He started life on a farm in a country struggling through the Korean War and the rebuilding of the country afterwards. He tells stories of riding cows for fun and struggling from food shortages. From these humble beginnings, he exhibited grit and determination to obtain an acceptance and a scholarship to medical school at Korea University, graduating in 1966.
His medical career started as a Korean Army doctor in the Vietnam War. He learned surgical techniques under harsh conditions and attributes these early experiences to teaching him to be fast and effective. He came to the United States in 1970 as a general surgery intern at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. He remembers having to moonlight at Bethlehem Steel as an overworked surgical resident to help pay for his family’s rent. He completed his surgical residency at South Baltimore General Hospital, now known as Harbor Hospital, in Baltimore, MD. He worked as a general and vascular surgeon for over 40 years at North Arundel Hospital, now known as Baltimore Washington Medical Center. His career was highlighted by hard work, interpersonal charm, visible compassion, and humor. He had many thankful patients for his work as a skilled general and vascular surgeon. Our home was always filled with gifts during the holiday season from grateful patients. He was able to make the transition from open to laparoscopic surgery. His skills allowed him to perform carotid endarterectomies under local anesthesia.
Church encompassed all aspects of his life outside of work, filling his weekends, creating his closest friends, and permeated his thoughts. He served for many years in the leadership of Bethel Korean Presbyterian Church in Ellicott City, MD. He remembered the church’s first services being held in basements with their esteemed Pastor Sang Bok Kim. He relayed how the congregation sacrificed monetary savings when they had little in order to buy their first church building. His family contributed savings that they were pooling for their first trip back to Korea since coming to the United States. He served as an Elder of the church for many years spearheading the search for pastors, guiding the financial stability of the church, leading Sunday school classes for new members, teaching lessons on evangelism techniques, translating the Daily Bread into Korean, and leading 2 medical missions teams. He served as the first principal of the church’s Senior Academy, organizing educational opportunities such as health education, history, dancing, and piano for the Korean speaking retired members of the community.
Family was always central to his life and values. He was able to pass on this importance to his children. He met his loving wife during medical school, partnering the next 60 years with her. In our family, he was famous for telling the same story again and again which would impart his life lessons, as well as his infamous driving short-cuts that would lead us to strange locations. He loved that all his children lived close so that he could play games such as Mexican Train domino game and card game Hand and Foot with his children, children’s spouses, and grandchildren on a regular basis. His basement was filled with ping pong, pool, air hockey, balls, kayaks, paddle boards, and fishing rods so that “family time” was filled with joy and laughter.
Outside of work, church, and family, his passion was golf. “Golf is Life” He would play twice weekly and more whenever possible. There was never “too much” and he would enjoy 2 18-hole rounds of golf in a day during his regular golf trips. After retirement, he enjoyed winter golf migrations to Florida lasting 1-2 months. He also loved games and had a passion for the strategy game Go (Baduk in Korean). His sons grew up playing Korean and western chess with him.
He is survived by his wife, Hae Young Han ; three children, Judy Kee of Rockville, MD, William Han of Baltimore, MD and Albert Han of Hanover, MD ; two in-laws, Nelson Kee and Sally Munemitsu; and four grandchildren, Sarah Kee, Emma Kee, Miya Han, and Ethan Han.
A funeral service will be held on December 20, 2022 at 11 AM at Bethel Korean Presbyterian Church in Ellicott City, Maryland.