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New Woodstock ice cream shop owner unexpectedly dies

by: Elizabeth Ussher Groff Two weeks after Susan Hale and her husband bought Chill Ice Cream Shop in Woodstock, her husband died in his sleep. Susan has been managing the business on her own, but hopes to sell the business soon.

When Susan Hwang Hale and her husband Kevin bought Woodstock's Chill Ice Cream Shop next to Subway Sandwich and just south of Safeway this past August, Susan had no hint that her 56 year-old husband would pass away in his sleep only two weeks later.

Susan was suddenly left with the business to run by herself, and her adult children living in other states were very concerned, calling many times each day to see how she was coping.

Running a new business while grieving the loss of someone she was married to for thirty-five years caused stress that made her lose sleep and weight. At first she thought that continuing in the business would distract her from her loss, but the burden of running the business on her own only made grieving more painful, and she has decided to sell.

The Hales met and married when Hale was working in South Korea decades ago. After the couple left Korea and moved to the United States, Kevin became a business teacher. Susan was a full-time mother, devoting herself to seeing that her children met high academic standards. Her efforts paid off, and all three children completed college educations and are gainfully employed.

In 2010, the sliding economy delivered a blow to the Hales when Kevin's school district in Washington State trimmed budgets and laid off teachers. For the first time in their marriage, Kevin found himself unemployed.

'He loved to teach,' recalls Susan. 'Troublemaking teenagers would write to him after they graduated and say, 'Thank you, Mr. Hale, for caring so much, and helping me get through school'.'

Not confident he could find a teaching job in the Northwest, Kevin returned to Korea to look for a job in an international school there. He was counting on his fluency in Korean, learned during his years there, and his decades of teaching experience to land him a position - but health problems thwarted his efforts.

When complications of diabetes and water retention sent him to a hospital in Seoul, Susan's sister in Seoul was there to support him. But after two months, Susan was eager for him to return.

'I told him, 'It's too serious. Come home and I will take care of you here.' He came back the next day. He went straight from the airport to the hospital, and stayed there for three weeks. When he was released from the hospital, I cooked for him a special diet - organic meats and vegetables, no salt. When he began to feel better, he started applying for jobs again.'

Kevin made a valiant effort at job hunting. Driving many miles to rural areas - 'in the middle of nowhere' - where the only job openings seemed to be, he came close several times, but was not hired.

'He had a really good resume. He had two good interviews, and he thought he would get one of the jobs, but he didn't.

'Our daughter in Chicago is in law school, and she looked in the local listings here and saw this ice cream shop [in Woodstock] for sale. We were living in Gresham by then, and we said, 'we can afford it, and we are getting old. We need to do something. Together we can do it'.'

Nearly two months later, Susan now realizes she can't continue on her own, and is selling the business. She will go to Korea to see her 90-year-old mother, and then return to Portland again, since she is a U.S. citizen and this is her home. THE BEE will report on new owners of 'Chill Ice Cream' when transactions are finalized.