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‘You’d never see him without a smile’: Hundreds gather for vigil of murdered 71-year-old grandfather

Woom Sing Tse was shot Tuesday as he was walking to get a newspaper. His three children remembered his hard work, his respect for everyone and his love for family.

Susan Lam, daughter of Woom Sing Tse, speaks to community members and reporters, during a vigil and memorial for her father, flanked by siblings William Tse and Carina Set. Woom Sing Tse was shot and killed Tuesday by Alphonso Joyner in a shooting earlier described as a “execution.” | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times
Susan Lam, daughter of Woom Sing Tse, speaks to community members and reporters, during a vigil and memorial for her father, flanked by siblings William Tse and Carina Set. Woom Sing Tse was shot and killed Tuesday by Alphonso Joyner in a shooting earlier described as a “execution.” | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Customers at Woom Sing Tse’s restaurant called him family.

He retired when his daughter’s first child was born and often took care of his nine grandchildren.

And though he sometimes drove his wife a little crazy, Tse was always by her side.

“You’d never see him without a smile,” said Susan Lam, one of Tse’s three children. “He just enjoyed the simplicities of life.”

Persistent rain did not deter more than 100 people from gathering in Chinatown for an evening prayer vigil honoring Tse, who was murdered earlier this week as he walked to get a newspaper, just blocks from his home.

Tse, 71, came to the U.S. from China nearly 50 years ago, determined to work hard for his family. He put all three of his children through school, was an avid ping pong and pick-up basketball player, and treated everyone with respect, his children said.

Tse’s children spoke of their immense grief over their father’s horrific and seemly random killing. But clinging to faith and leaning on their church communities, Tse’s family saw Friday’s vigil as a “ray of light” shining in the “dark, uncertain tunnel that we all have to travel,” said William Tse, his oldest child.

“This is not the end for my dad,” William Tse said. “This is a new beginning for him. He’s in better place high above, in place where we all hope one day we will be.”

Community members add to a memorial for Woom Sing Tse near the spot where he was shot Tuesday. Over a hundred family, friends, and community members gathered Friday for a vigil for Tse, outside Haines Elementary School. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times
Community members add to a memorial for Woom Sing Tse near the spot where he was shot Tuesday. Over a hundred family, friends and community members gathered Friday for a vigil for Tse, outside Haines Elementary School. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Tuesday at about 12:30 p.m., Tse was walking on the sidewalk in the 200 block of West 23rd place when a car pulled up, and the driver shot Tse several times in the head and body, police said. Tse was taken to Stroger Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Police recovered 18 9mm shell casings on the road and sidewalk.

Shortly after, police arrested 23-year-old Alphonso Joyner after using surveillance footage to identify Joyner’s car and track it to the Kennedy Expressway.

Joyner, who was alone in the car, was arrested around Jackson Boulevard wearing the same clothes as the gunman in the video, and police found a gun in the car matching spent shell casings from the crime scene, according to the Cook County state’s attorney’s office. He was denied bail.

Chicago Police Commander Don Jerome, who oversees the district where Tse was shot, said at the vigil he hopes it brings Tse’s family “a measure of peace ... knowing that the offender will be held accountable.” He credited the Chinatown community’s almost immediate calls to police for Joyner’s swift arrest.

As of Friday evening, a GoFundMe had raised nearly $70,000 to support Tse’s wife and family, increase surveillance and safety equipment in Chinatown; and support Asian American organizations.

Tse’s children spoke about how their father came to Chicago in pursuit of the American Dream and the legacy he leave for his family.

“Dad made it,” said Carina Set, Tse’s youngest child. “The freedom he sought, he found it. It will continue on through me, through us, through my mom, through his nine grandchildren.”