Six days a week, 12 hours a day, Nae Chun Pak worked hard so his children wouldn't have to. Monday night, Pak was shot once in the head by a man who police say had argued with him earlier over a steak sub sandwich.
Yesterday, members of the Korean American community in Howard County and his children's friends gathered to mourn Pak's death and to tell his 16-year-old twin daughters and 9-year-old son to live fully, as their father would have wanted.
"The biggest wish for him is for you to grow," said Young Ho Lee, an associate pastor at Bethel Korean Presbyterian Church in Ellicott City, addressing Pak's children. "Everybody around him liked your father. I think you should be proud of your father."
Pak, 46, had emigrated from South Korea in 1985 and with his wife, Young Eun, owned and operated the Cherry Hill carryout shop in south Baltimore. He worked in the city, like many Korean immigrants in Howard, but saved to buy a home in Clarksville so he could send his children to Howard County's well-regarded schools.
"He was so proud of his kids," said Kap Park, a longtime friend who owns a convenience store in Baltimore. Pak believed long, hard hours in the carryout shop were "a payoff for the kids' future. He and his wife believed their sacrifice would pay off."
Park, president of the Maryland Korean American Grocers Association, said Pak was polite and gentle-natured, unlikely to have started the argument.
Witnesses at the scene knew the suspect because he frequented the neighborhood, according to Baltimore police. Several hours after the shooting, detectives charged William Roland Langley, 48, with first-degree murder.
Langley, who is jailed without bond, had been released from prison in 1999 after serving a 20-year sentence for second-degree murder in the shooting death of a man at a gymnasium in south Baltimore. Langley had returned to prison in 2001 after being convicted of drug possession, according to a spokeswoman for the state Division of Parole and Probation. He was released in November.
Relations between Korean merchants and African American residents in Baltimore once were filled with animosity and mistrust. Pak was a founding member of the grocers association, which has more than 960 members and has helped improve relations there.
"The community actually showed lots, lots of respect. They were shocked more than anybody else," said Park, whose brother-in-law was killed in his Baltimore grocery store in 1981 by a drug addict. The neighborhood has "a long history of crime, and community leaders have been trying to change it so hard."
Outside Pak's shuttered restaurant, customers and neighbors left balloons, cards and flowers. A memorial service, sponsored by Cherry Hill community leaders and Korean business owners, is planned for tomorrow afternoon at the site.
Ann Pak, a junior at River Hill High School in Clarksville, said in a eulogy to her father that as his eldest child, she will take on his responsibilities and keep the family moving forward. Her twin, Jane, is also at River Hill, and their brother, James, is a third-grader at Pointers Run Elementary.
"I love you, I love you," Ann repeated, weeping, at the Thursday night service. Two photo collages hung in the funeral home, with pictures of a smiling Pak and his family. One of his daughters had labeled a photo of herself and her sister "Daddy's little girls."
Pak is the second Korean American small-business owner from the church to be slain at his business in the past two years. Kwang Jun Kim, a 53-year-old father of two college-age children, was fatally shot in October 2003 after a struggle with two men who robbed him of a bag of cash he was carrying to his deli and convenience store in Jessup.
Lee, the associate pastor at the Ellicott City church, told the crowd at yesterday's funeral that he remembered Pak taking his children every Friday night to the church's Korean-language classes.
"Don't worry about your father," he told Pak's children. "He is now in heaven with God."
Friends and fellow Korean American business owners sent large bouquets of flowers, just as they are traditionally sent at the opening of a business.
Staff writer Susan Deford contributed to this report.