SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) --The South Bay Vietnamese community is mourning the loss of Henry Le, the co-founder of Lee's Sandwiches. He's one of the people responsible for introducing banh mi to Northern California.
It's a rags to riches story that begins in San Jose. Mention the words, Vietnamese banh mi, and images of Lee's Sandwiches probably come to mind.
Employees pressed on Friday with heavy hearts following the sudden death of Le, who lost his battle with liver cancer on Thursday at the age of 58.
"He really cared about the overall success of everybody in the family," said Le's brother Thang. "Not just his own, but all of my brothers and sisters and we all felt that from him."
Henry was a humble man and the second oldest of nine children. While it may sound like a cliche, those who knew him best say his "genuine warmth" put many people at ease.
"I miss him deeply," said Le's nephew Jimmy. "I wish he could be with us forever, you know."
Le donated his time and money to a number of groups in San Jose.
A photo shows Le and his brother Chieu in front of their original food truck on Santa Clara Street in the 1980s. The two of them, with support from their family, would grow Lee's into the world's largest banh mi chain.
Former San Jose Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen called Le a mentor, "We lost a man who lived his life, full of life, and full of happiness," she said. "And now we feel like a part of that is missing."
Just three months after his diagnosis, Le passed while away surrounded by those who loved him. But even in his final hours, he stressed the importance of family.
"It is a family business at the same time you have to put business aside and focus on the family no matter what" said Le's nephew Henry.
Entrepreneur, philanthropist, and family man; Le will be remembered for his giving spirit and his commitment to this community.