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Ray Lee, 97, volunteered at Legion of Valor Museum for years; now he returns for Vets Day Parade


The museum's main room is dedicated to former curator, Ray Lee.

Ray Lee sits on a folding chair at the top of the stairs leading to the Veterans Memorial Auditorium. The height gives him a clear view of the Central Valley Veterans Day Parade route on Fresno Street.

“I really enjoy it. Seeing some of my old friends I used to work with at the museum,” Lee says. 

For more than 25 years, Lee volunteered as the curator at the Legion of Valor Museum, located just inside the auditorium. Veterans Day is typically the museum’s busiest day.    

Since retiring a few years ago, spending Veterans Day here has become Lee’s new tradition. 

“Here I am again, and I'm 97 years old and I hope to hit the 100 mark,” Lee says.

Today he’s wearing a hat that says “World War II Veteran.” He served for three years with the U.S. Army.

“I served in Europe. We finished up there and then we got shipped back to Japan, occupation troop,” he says.

Lee was given a congressional gold medal for Chinese American World War II Veterans in June this year. He was one of four veterans honored in Fresno.

The museum is full of framed posters and medals, assembled by Lee.

But he says his work at the Legion of Valor Museum was also meaningful. As the former curator, he assembled, framed, hung and organized just about every photo and souvenir inside.

“It was quite an enjoyable job. I really enjoyed doing it,” Lee says.

There’s even a room named after him. The “Ray Lee Room” is where uniforms donated by local veterans are on display. The oldest one dates back to World War I. 

The museum is run by a staff of all volunteers, mainly veterans who work as docents. It pays tribute to service members who have received the Legion of Valor award and other distinguished medals. Visitors can view souvenirs and exhibits dedicated to the history of all branches of the military.

Volunteers call this museum a “hidden gem” in Fresno. You can visit Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is always free.

Soreath Hok is a multimedia journalist with 16 years of experience in radio, television and digital production. At KVPR she covers local government, politics and other local news.