Sheriff says drowning victim, 75, was 'well-known and well-loved'

by: Dave Faherty Updated:

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ALEXANDER COUNTY, N.C. - The search for a missing 75-year-old fisherman ended Monday morning in Alexander County when sheriff’s deputies said family members spotted his body about 75 feet from shore in the Catawba River.

A family member spotted Chong Lee’s body off of the Highway 16 bridge after two days of searching.  

Sheriff’s investigators and rescuers could be seen near where Lee was found about 75 feet from the bank of the Catawba River.   

Family said he had gone fishing on Saturday morning.   

Deputies knew something was wrong later that day when his canoe was spotted several hundred yards downstream without Lee in it.

"He just never complained.  He was wonderful. We were lucky to have him. He saved and saved and saved just for his grandchildren," said his daughter-in-law Celeste Lee.

Dozens of family members helped in the search along with several different agencies from Alexander County.    

The sheriff said Duke Energy assisted by slowing the water flow through Oxford Dam allowing the Catawba River to go down.

"He was well-known and well-loved. He worked in our county at a local mill,” said Sheriff Chris Bowman.

Family members said Lee was a role model for nearly everyone who gathered at the scene Monday. He still worked full time at the age of 75.  

"If I had to look up to anybody it was him. He really showed love. He didn't have to say it. You could just look at him and know," said grandson Nick Lee.

Deputies said Lee's body was found not far from where he normally puts his canoe in the river.     

They believe he possibly slipped on some rocks not far from shore. 


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Body of missing fisherman found in Catawba River