Korean War vet Kyu Chin Hahn loved Canada, and he loved his family

Kyu Chin Hahn sacrificed so much for his family, but as he lay dying at Ottawa's Montfort long-term care centre, even they weren't allowed to visit his bedside to say goodbye.

Hahn, 90, among 11 residents at Ottawa's Montfort long-term care home to succumb to COVID-19

Kyu Chin Hahn, known as Jim to his English-speaking friends, was a soldier in the South Korean Army and a member of the The Korea Veterans Association of Canada. (Submitted by Bob Hahn)

Kyu Chin Hahn sacrificed so much for his family, but as he lay dying at Ottawa's Montfort long-term care centre, even they weren't allowed to visit his bedside to say goodbye.

"It's very hard for everybody," said his son, Bob Hahn, who had last visited his father in early March, before the nursing home was forced into lockdown by the coronavirus pandemic. "I didn't know that the last time I saw him was going to be the last time I'd ever see him." 

The 90-year-old, known as Jim to his English-speaking friends, died early Tuesday morning, one of 11 Montfort residents to succumb to COVID-19 as the virus continues to reap its deadly toll on long-term care facilities across the country.

Like so many families now, the Hahns have had to curtail their grieving. On Thursday, there were just five people at the funeral ceremony for Kyu Chin Hahn, a Korean War veteran who was known as a proud and doting grandfather and more recently, great-grandfather. 

Hahn learned English during training courses in the U.S. following the Korean War. (Submitted by Bob Hahn)

'He loved Canada'

Hahn served in the South Korean army during the Korean War, learning to speak English while training in the United States later. He immigrated to Canada in 1967 with his wife and three children.

"He loved Canada," said Bob Hahn, their eldest. "He felt he owed everything he was able to obtain during his lifetime to Canada."

Kyu Chin Hahn worked as a chemist in the agricultural industry, living mostly in B.C.'s Lower Mainland. After retiring, he volunteered with seniors for more than two decades and led an opera appreciation group.

Hahn and his wife, Woon Ok Hahn, with their firstborn child, Bob. The couple was married 58 years before Woon Ok died in 2015. (Submitted by Bob Hahn)

"He was a man who stressed integrity. Integrity was the most important," Bob Hahn said.

His beloved wife of 58 years, Woon Ok Hahn, died in 2015, and Bob Hahn said his father was lost without her. Soon after, Kyu Chin Hahn moved to Ottawa to live with another son in the same building as Bob.

Moved to Montfort in January

With their father in the early stages of dementia, the Hahns decided in January it was time to move him into Montfort. Just two months later, the privately run facility went into lockdown.

"At the time, I didn't really think too much of it because we knew he was in relatively good physical health and we'd be able to go see him after all this craziness was over," Bob Hahn said.

Two weeks later, the family received an email explaining one of the staff members had tested positive for COVID-19.

Bob Hahn, left, with his father in June 2018 during a ceremony in Ottawa marking the 65th anniversary of the Korean Armistice Agreement. (Submitted by Bob Hahn)

They were told their father was fine, but soon after Kyu Chin Hahn fell, and that's when attendants discovered he had fever. A test for COVID-19 came back positive. 

"We were worried," Bob Hahn said, but after a few days staff reported his father's temperature had gone back down.

If there's one thing I try to follow, it was his sense of integrity and honesty.​​​​​- Bob Hahn

Then on Monday, a staff member called Hahn to say his father had taken a turn for the worse and may not survive the night. At approximately 3:45 a.m., Hahn got another call to tell him his father had died.

Hahn is haunted by the isolation his father must have felt in his final weeks without his family by his side.

"For my father, family was the number one priority," Hahn reflected. "He would have been missing everyone." 

WATCH: Remembering one of Ottawa's COVID-19 victims

Korean War veteran, opera buff, chemist: Bob Hahn remembers his father, who died of COVID-19

3 years ago
Duration 1:21
Kyu Chin Hahn, who died Tuesday at the age of 90, immigrated to Canada from South Korea with his family in 1967. He found work in British Columbia as an agricultural chemist and dedicated himself to volunteer work after retiring.

Because Kyu Chin Hahn had difficulty hearing and found phone conversations frustrating, staff at Montfort arranged Skype calls with his family before he died. The whole family, including his grandchildren, gathered for the final call.

"I think he was happy to see all of our faces," Bob Hahn said.

A lasting legacy

Hahn doesn't blame Montfort or Revera, the company that operates the home, for his father's death, but he is concerned about the province's commitment to protect residents of long-term care facilities, who are bearing the brunt of the pandemic in Canada.

"Seeing what's happening with this pandemic, the government needs to fully support the long-term care facilities," he said.

'Family was his number one priority.' Kyu Chin Hahn enjoys a visit with his grandson and great-grandson at Montfort. (Bob Hahn)

When the pandemic is over, Hahn said he will organize a proper memorial for his father, and deliver his ashes to a burial plot waiting in B.C.

And he will strive to keep his father's legacy alive within his own family.

"I try to learn from that. I'm not sure how successful I've been, but if there's one thing I try to follow, it was his sense of integrity and honesty."

‘Thank you for everything’: Son describes losing father to COVID-19

3 years ago
Duration 1:07
Bob Hahn’s 90-year-old father, Korean War veteran Kyu Chin Hahn, died of complications related to the coronavirus in the Montfort Long Term Care Centre.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now