'We lost the best dad we could have ever asked for:' Children of Kaffeinate owner speak about loss of father during Durham gas explosion

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- The family of 61-year-old Kong Lee, the owner of Kaffeinate coffee shop who was killed in a gas explosion in downtown Durham on Wednesday, has released a statement.

The heartfelt words were posted to Instagram on Friday morning.

A photo shows Lee smiling with his two children, Diana and Raymond, in front of the coffee shop.

"This is our dad. He had the biggest, purest heart out of anyone we know," the post starts. "He always wanted a cafe because he loved to serve people, and we were finally able to build him one."



The tribute post goes on to mention Lee's love for the shop and how he enjoyed making people smile.

According to the post, Lee would often work 12-13 hour days to take care of his family and provide them with the best life.

"A lot of this still seems unreal, including the outpouring of love and support from our community. We lost the best dad we could have ever asked for."

RELATED: Downtown Durham residents shaken by death, damage after explosion

The post states Lee contacted his kids on Wednesday to let them know there was a gas leak and that he was closing the shop. He said he was creating a sign to put on the door in case anyone came by later in the day.

The pair said Kaffeinate will be closed indefinitely, and they're asking the public to help find jobs for their employees.

"We've been discussing it and hope one day to be able to rebuild and reopen and bring his memory back to life. We will miss you every single day. We love you so much more than you will ever know."

In a news conference, officials said everyone was evacuated from the building except for Lee.

A GoFundMe has been created for Lee's family.

In less than 24 hours, it surpassed the $50,000 goal, reaching more than $92,000.

"Thank you to everyone who has wanted to and been able to donate to us to buy us time until we can figure out what's next," the pair said in the post.

The full post can be read below:

This is our dad. He had the biggest, purest heart out of anyone we know. He always wanted a cafe because he loved to serve people, and we were finally able to build him one. He loved being able to bring people something that would make them smile. The family we created at Kaffeinate made him so happy. We watched your smiles give him strength and joy. Thank you. Above all, he valued family, and he did everything to give us the best life he could. That means he often worked 12-13 hour days doing jobs no one else wanted to do. He never complained because he never wanted us to worry. That was our dad. -

A lot of this still seems unreal, including the outpouring of love and support from our community. We lost the best dad we could have ever asked for. We lost our only source of income. Thank you to everyone who has wanted to and been able to donate to us to buy us time until we can figure out what's next. I will post the link in our bio to a gofundme started by our friend. Thank you to the EMS, firefighters, police and everyone else who helped during the crisis. Thank you to everyone who is guiding us through this time. We admit this is all new territory for us and are not quite sure what comes after. -
One note: our baristas are fantastic and also have lost their place of work. Please help us find jobs for them. Raymond will need a job also when he is ready.

The last we heard from our dad, he called us to tell us there was a gas leak outside and to let our staff and customers know we would be closed for the day. He was going to close up and make a sign to put on our door in case anybody came by later. He took such good care of the shop and was so proud of it. If you have any memories of him, please share them with us below. -
Lastly, Kaffeinate is closed indefinitely. It always was and always will be for our dad. We've been discussing it and hope one day to be able to rebuild and reopen and bring his memory back to life. , we will miss you every single day. We love you so much more than you will ever know. -

Please forgive us if we have not responded to you. It's not because we don't want to, it's because we don't know what to say.

- Diana & Raymond
Copyright © 2019 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.