Top Ten Things I Love About Lee Dirks


Top Ten Things I Love About Lee Dirks by Kim Yi

(see next post for the top Ten things I love about Judy Lew)

There are of course a million and one wonderful things that I love about Lee and Judy. But in the interest of brevity, I’ve narrowed it down. 


He appreciated the importance of great food. I love to eat and Lee loved to eat. And we also loved to talk about eating. We both loved BBQ–he of course came by it by birth, being a Southerner, and I married into the love (John is from Georgia). He made his Dirks family BBQ when we were out in Seattle a few years ago, which was a treat. In fact, in planning our trip out, most of my sight-seeing requests involved food, which Lee totally appreciated and had a ton of suggestions and recommendations for where we must go. And honestly, there is no more satisfying a day than one spent sharing happy hour drinks and oysters on the half shell with Lee and Judy at the Brooklyn bar in Seattle.


He also appreciated bad food. As much as they loved great food, they weren’t food snobs. I remember once Lee and I had a talk about the finer points of making a sauce from a balsamic reduction and shallots, but he also could appreciate bad, bad food. One year he asked where John and I were going to celebrate our anniversary and I told him I had a craving for Red Lobster. Now, New York has some of the best restaurants in the world, and we’ve been to them. But I told him how I hadn’t had Red Lobster in years and for some reason, just had a craving for it. He totally got it and loved that I would choose Red Lobster over some 5-course tasting menu. And he told me how Judy had the same cravings, except usually for Sizzler and Malibu Chicken.

He and Judy both got how the fun of nostalgia and memory can be as important in food cravings as actual taste buds. 


He was thoughtful about the little things. Lee was always super busy but he often remembered to email to say happy birthday, or to remind us of our wedding anniversary. And this was before facebook.

There were times when I would even forget when our anniversary was coming up, but Lee would send a quick email either on the day or around the time to say he was thinking about us.


He was the kind of guy who always let people know how much he appreciated them. There are some friends who are never good at expressing how much you mean to them, or you never really know where you stand. But Lee was always saying and showing how much he cared about his friends. Perhaps when he lost his father, maybe that made him realize how important it is to let people know how you felt about them. But for whatever reason, Lee always made it very clear how awesome he thought you were. 


Lee made everything more exciting, and knew how to share his anticipation and excitement. I remember when Lee was helping plan John’s bachelor party, for weeks building up to the event, Lee sent a postcard in the mail–a vintage pulp-fiction book cover from the 40s, 50s, or 60s. It was so much fun to get a new one every few days, each with a different wanton woman on the cover–promising torrid adventures and days of shame! I have to admit, toward the end, I was starting to feel a little sad about the impending bachelor party. And it wasn’t because as the bride-to-be, I was worried about all the trouble Lee would get John into. Nope, actually, I was really bummed because as the bride-to-be, *I* DIDN’T get to spend a weekend getting into trouble with Lee in Atlantic City.


He was passionate about music. Everyone knows how much Lee loved music, and again, Lee loved to share that passion. Throughout the years, Lee would give John CDs of music he loved, whether it be Gypsy Kings or Joan Armatrading or the Breeders back in the day, or more recently the Silversun Pickups. And he was so excited to to take us to see Hell’s Belles, the all-female AC/DC cover band he loved and knew we absolutely would love as well. I always invited Lee to John’s birthday party (we have a big bash and a theme each year). For John’s 45th birthday, the theme was “Your First 45”–I wanted everyone to share their stories of the first 45-single they ever bought, wanting a playlist of music of everyone’s choices. Lee got so excited about that! He so wanted to be there but just couldn’t swing it. But in his absence, he conspired with another good friend, Justine Trubey, to have a birthday singing gorilla deliver their birthday wishes. Oh, and the first 45 Lee could remember buying was “Sweet Talkin’ Woman” by Electric Light Orchestra. He said he remembered it so vividly because it was pressed on this really cool, vibrant purple vinyl. To use Lee’s words, “how cool is that?! And man, such memorable lyrics…” He quoted these himself saying, “they don’t write them like that anymore. No wait, they do.”:

You gotta slow down SLOW DOWN

Sweet talkin’ woman SLOW DOWN

You got me runnin’ RUN RUN

You got me searchin’

Hold on HOLD ON

Sweet talkin’ lover HOLD ON


He was thorough, very good with his research, and persuasive. I’m sure this was very evident to his coworkers at Microsoft but I have a more personal example. Lee and Judy wanted us to move out to Seattle.

Folks are always trying to lure us to one city or another, but no one could do it the way Lee did. When he finally got us to Seattle for a visit, he applied his skills and resources as only Lee could. He picked the neighborhood that he thought we’d want to live: Ballard, driving us around it, giving us the history, the current makeup of residents, and reasons why John and Kim specifically would fit right in. And of course he took us to several key bars that he knew we’d become regulars in. He did a cost comparison of the price of living in Seattle vs. NYC. This is how I learned that Seattle has no city income tax. He made a very convincing case and *almost* had us leaving our beloved New York City.


For Lee, friends and SEC football trump marathon glory. In 2002, Lee ran the NYC marathon and he stayed with us. I remember the night before the marathon, there was some SEC game on and Lee and John stayed up to watch way later than Lee should have. I remember very distinctly thinking: this can’t be good. Now, most guys who run marathons would be thinking about doing anything they could to improve their time–it’s all about the time. But for Lee, it was just as important to share the game with his friend and fellow avid SEC fan than worry too much about how it would affect his running time.


He was so happy being a parent, he showed how much fun it could be.

And he was so excited for us when we decided to become parents too.

And of course he helped build that excitement and fun throughout the pregnancy. Lee shared funny books: the line of Baby Be Useful books were hilarious, especially, “Baby Fix Me a Drink,” and books on fatherhood, and he sent cool clothes for our son insisting that our “Peanut is a Playa!” Lee had known John through so many years and knew what a HUGE step it was for him, and he was so proud of John. When Bogart was born, he shared our joy–the only slightly disappointing thing for him was that Bogart wasn’t a girl, so that we could use the name he wanted: Mahalia Ladybird Porter.


And the number 1 thing I loved about Lee Dirks: he married Judy Lew. I always think that the person you choose to marry says a lot about who you are. Lee Dirks loved and appreciated strong, supersmart, capable women. Judy represents this so completely. I remember once he told me how much he loved the show “King of Queens” because he identified with the schlubby, overweight lead character who was married to the hot woman who was smarter and better than him in every way. Now, we all know he was selling himself short in his humble way. But I loved how much he appreciated having Judy in his life, how much he respected, loved, and valued her. It says a lot about the kind of man he was.



Top Ten Things I Love about Judy Lew


Top Ten Things I Love about Judy Lew by Kim Yi


Again, food, food, food. Judy loved good food–we both shared a particular love of great chirashi–but also the bad food. As responsible and healthy as she knew she should be, McDonalds was her weakness. And she loved greasy hamburgers in general. After our night at the roller derby, we made a late night stop at Dick’s, as one must.

Judy had stayed home with the girls, and after we all had scarfed down our food, Lee made sure to order an additional burger to take home to Judy. He knew how much she’d appreciate her own late night burger, and didn’t want her to miss out. He also knew he’d hear it if he went to Dick’s and didn’t bring her back something too!


She had such energy and was so efficient and productive. Work was important to her–she told me how while she was hooked up to the Pitocin to induce her labor with Lila, she was still fielding emails because she wanted to be productive. And I admired that about her, her drive. And I loved that she was doing so well at Microsoft. As a working Asian woman myself, there is something very pride-inducing to know that Judy Lew was out there in the working world, holding her own and representing! Although I also knew how hard it was to have such a career and raise two kids, I so valued and admired all that Judy juggled.


She could out Lee Lee in the talking to strangers department. Lee was always so comfortable talking to strangers, as was Judy. She could talk to anyone. I remember telling Lee once how much I loved David Byrne–he’s always my celebrity crush, and Lee liked and admired him too. He told me of how David Byrne was in Seattle once, and they found themselves at a gathering at some bar with him one night. Lee was so impressed with DB and wanted to say something, but didn’t know what.

While he hesitated, Judy sat right down next to David Byrne and started chatting him up. Not only did I love how the story shows how fearless Judy is, I loved the pride and respect that came through in Lee’s voice as he talked about Judy. I heard that pride and respect often when he talked about his beloved Jude.


Judy was pretty and supersmart and naturally thin, but Judy is the kind of woman who was so humble and helpful and caring–you almost forgot how gorgeous she was.


As pretty as she was, she, as she said in her own words, she was “not a girlie girl.” I am not a girly girl either, and this made me love Judy even more. I remember telling her about a play John and I had seen, Neil LaBute’s “Reasons to Be Pretty,” and how it deals with the whole being pretty issue. She said that she and Lee thought about that all the time, having girls, and how she realized that Esme was going through a phase where she was dealing with “that whole princess thing big time.” She jokingly said that given Esme’s love of clothes and girly stuff, she couldn’t believe she was Esme’s mother ; ) But she also said that she and Lee always emphasized “the importance of being a nice and good person who’s thoughtful and uses her brains vs. being pretty.” And she knew that Esme listened and would continue to internalize this the rest of her life. I also knew that with Judy as a role model, her daughters would have the best example of how to be a strong, smart, beautiful woman, whether they were girly girls or not.


She understood the importance of sisterhood. Judy and I bonded I think somewhat because of the Asian connection–our families both owned restaurants, and also they were complicated families. But also, we both were very close to our sisters. I know how much she loved and relied on Diane, and it reminded me of my relationship with my sisters. And Judy reminded me of my older sister Janet in lots of ways–the same ambitious drive and commitment to work. I don’t have that same level of ambition, but again, I admired it.


She was a great mom but never pretended to be one of those super moms who make everything seem easy. Esme and Lila were her pride and joy. And when John and I decided we were finally ready to become parents ourselves, both Lee and Judy were thrilled and so supportive.

When we visited Seattle in 2009, John and I separately talked with Lee and Judy about our thoughts about possibly having a child. Judy was so enthusiastic and happy to hear it. But she wasn’t happy in that general way that most parents seem to want all their friends to have kids and “join the club.” Judy was always honest in expressing how difficult parenthood is. Judy told me that she doesn’t think it’s for everyone, and it is not something to consider lightly. But she thought John and I would make great parents. She talked about how important it was that we waited until we were really ready, and rather than seeing age as a hindrance, she saw it as helpful. She said she was so glad she and Lee had waited, and how that made them much better parents.

But she also said that no matter how difficult parenting could be, even in the toughest moments, she and Lee find themselves looking at each other and sharing that secret smile to acknowledge how lucky they are to have their girls.


She made me feel like a dear girlfriend from the very beginning.

The first time I met Judy, Lee had invited us to join them at her dear friend Deborah Latz’s 40th birthday dinner. Lee, John, and I had spent the day at the Blue and Gold, doing what we liked to do: drink cheaply and shoot $1 a game pool. But the day took its toll. By party time, John and I were tired and hungover–but then Judy came over, and it was like a burst of energy. She came over to me right away, hugged me, said how happy she was to meet me, asked a few questions about how I was (she was a fast talker!), and then in short order shared how nervous she was that night because she was seeing an old boyfriend for the first time in awhile, and it’d been a bad breakup. I can’t remember his name, but she was really nervous and you know, even though she was married and completely in love with Lee, she had that usual, seeing the ex for the first time jitters. And that charmed me immediately. She and Lee were some of John’s oldest friends, and she was treating me like a long-time girlfriend from the very start. I loved that she was so open and honest and welcoming me into her life.

So I was taken with her from that day on. She said to me several times over the years, “just think of the gabberfests we’d have if we lived in the same city.” Judy was someone who, though I didn’t see often, when I did, we could really pick up and talk about real things without missing a beat.


She was a punk at heart. On one Judy and Lee visit to NYC, I remember John and I had just watched the movie “SLC Punk,” and it somehow came up. And to my surprise, they said that that was just like Judy’s life! That Judy, growing up in Salt Lake City, totally identified with that punk, misfit, outsider group, and I think even shaved her head or dyed her hair purple or had a mohawk at some point during her younger days. Now, the Judy Lew I’d known was so kind and respectful and not at all flashy in dress or manner. So it really was a shock to picture it. And I loved that. I loved knowing that no matter how respectable a citizen Judy appeared to be as an adult, deep down, she was a punk. : )


 And of course, my number 1 thing I loved about Judy was that she married Lee Dirks. They were such a great couple who complemented each other perfectly. Lee was who he was because Judy made a lot of his life possible, and vice versa. I am so honored to have known these two amazing people. Their lives were filled with love for each other, their girls, their family, and so many friends. We miss them so much more than what I could sum up in two top ten lists. I just always want Esme and Lila to know how totally cool, fun, and awesome their parents were. We will always remind them.

Memorial Service UPDATED details

In Memory of Lee and Judy, a service will be held on

Saturday, September 15th 2012  2:00 pm

at the

Center for Spiritual Living

5801 Sand Point Way NE 

Seattle WA 98105

Please note that the Center for Spiritual Living is not equipped to receive flowers. Therefore, in lieu of flowers, we ask that donations be made to the Esmé and Lila Dirks Memorial Support Fund.  The Center for Spiritual Living has parking for 400.

If you are travelling from out of town, details about recommended accommodations are posted on the Hotel Information page.

If you’d prefer not to stay in a hotel, there are some friends of Lee and Judy who have space in their homes around Seattle and would gladly welcome hosting you.  Email Andy Carothers (, and he will put you in touch.


Judy Lew and Lee Dirks, long-time Seattle residents and Microsoft veterans, involved in a fatal auto accident in Peru.

Judy Lew and Lee Dirks, who were on holiday in Peru celebrating their 15th wedding anniversary, died in a car accident on Tuesday, August 28 when their car slid off the road.

Judy and Lee were beloved members of the Seattle community and truly inspiring people. Judy grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, attended Columbia University where she earned a B.A. in Political Science and joined Citibank where she worked for eight years. Judy earned her MBA from the University of Michigan and joined Microsoft in 1996. Known for her kindness, passionate commitment to work and thorough preparation of every detail, Judy led a number of key product planning and product development roles at Microsoft and was a Principal Program Manager in Visio at the time of her death.

Lee, a native of Texas, attended Trinity University and earned a Masters in Information and Library Sciences at the University of North Carolina. The couple met in New York and re-located to Seattle in 1996. Lee started as Microsoft’s first archivist and moved to Microsoft Research where he was a Director of Portfolio Strategy travelling the globe, establishing key relationships for the company with universities and research institutions. Lee was also involved in education and development issues, serving on the boards of the University of Washington’s Libraries’ Council of Advocates and the Washington Preservation Initiative. Lee’s intellect, passion for life and infectious enthusiasm made him friends wherever he went.

For Judy and Lee both, family and friends came first. Both will be remembered as amazing parents to their two daughters, Esmé (6) and Lila (4). Always ready to lend a hand, give a hug, talk trash about Carolina basketball, discuss their latest camping adventure, the secret to making Texas barbecue or how to organize just about anything – Judy and Lee will be deeply missed by family, friends and colleagues alike who had the privilege of knowing and loving them.

Memorial details will be posted early next week. In lieu of flowers, a scholarship fund for the girls’ education is being established. For more information on either the service or the fund, please contact Andy Carothers, or Trinh Vo Yetzer,

The Dirks and Lew Family