Frederick Pei Li, M.D.

  • Born: May 7, 1940
  • Died: June 12, 2015
  • Location: Brookline, Massachusetts

Tribute & Message From The Family

Li, Frederick Pei, MD. In Brookline on June 12, 2015. Born in Canton, China in 1940, he was the son of Han Hun Li and Chu Fang Wu. His father, General Li, fought the Japanese during the Sino-Japanese war. His mother Chu Fang Wu, organized schools and orphanages for thousands of war widows and children. They emigrated to the US when Fred was 7 and opened a Chinese restaurant to support the family, much to the chagrin of their friends and colleagues who said they would "lose face" by opening a business. To the Li family's credit, the China Garden Restaurant in White Plains NY became a huge success. All 5 children helped out but not one took over the business!! When Fred was young, his father suffered from a serious head injury and his mother told him to leave high school at age 16 and enroll in college. Graduating from NYU, he then went to the University of Rochester Medical School. He was known for carrying his doctor's black bag to parties where he'd take out soy sauce, black vinegar, Chinese wine, and cook dinner for friends. After his third year, he took a year to travel around the world, studying cholera and chlamydia trachomatis epidemics, discovering that good public health policies could cure more patients and have more influence than any one single individual physician. After graduation, he looked for the most challenging public health problem, and eventually he found it in the War on Cancer. Joining the National Cancer Institute, he met Robert Miller and Joseph Fraumeni, two physician scientists among many other brilliant epidemiologists and physicians. He became a commissioned officer of the US Public Health Service, assigned to the Boston Field Station and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in the 1970's. It was working with Joseph Fraumeni, David Malkin, Steven Friend and Louise Strong that 20 years of observation and deduction led to the understanding and discovery of the Li-Fraumeni syndrome, a familial syndrome where there is a defect in the p53 tumor suppressor gene. Families with this autosomal dominant syndrome may have a risk of multiple cancers as high as 50%. New discoveries, treatment and prevention options for patients with this syndrome continue to evolve. Fred also found time to be a family man. He was a generous husband; the first year of marriage, on a meager fellow's salary, he paid the full tuition for his wife Elaine to go to medical school. Together, they raised 3 children, Andrew, Margaret and Irene, who, following in their paternal grandmother's footsteps, recently opened a food truck and restaurant in Boston, serving Chinese-inspired food. He leaves 3 sisters, Virginia Li of Los Angeles, Angela Li-Scholz of Albany NY, and Tina Li of NYC, two grandchildren Jackson Frederick Li and Kira Elaine Tan and many nieces and nephews throughout the US and the world. He is predeceased by his brother Victor Li, Honolulu HI. In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Dr. Li may be made to either Dana-Farber Cancer Institute or Cure Alzheimer's A Memorial Service will be held on Saturday June 27th at 11:00 AM in the Houghton Chapel at Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA.


Condolence & Memory Journal

My condolences to Elaine and her family !!!
Fred and Elaine are friends I respect greatly. Both of them are strong, courageous with a kind and generous heart. They are genuine, humble and have vast impact to the community. I always appreciated Dr. Li's sincere advice while working at SCCHC. He was one of the founder of the SCCHC. His dedication to research to improve health is admired by all. He was my inspiration of never give up easily. Fred will be missed fondly by everyone.
Elaine, your smile will always be the light of hope.
Esther H.P. Lee

Posted by Esther H.P. Lee - Boston, MA - friend   June 26, 2015

Dear Dr.Shiang and Family,

I am sorry to hear of the passing of your husband. I am sure he is truely missed and very much loved. He rests in God's arms now.

In Deepest Sympathy,

Marie King

Posted by Marie King    June 25, 2015

My sincerest condolences to the Li family. Fred and I were roommates our first year at the University of Rochester. Although we did not have a close friendship during the rest of our time at Rochester Fred has always remained a lasting memory of my time at Medical School as well as how brilliant he was; I have mentioned him often to all my friends and medical colleagues. Rest in peace Fredsnupt

Posted by carl    June 21, 2015

My deepest condolences to the Li family ! Fred and I have been class mates at the University of Rochester Medical School and Fred and I shared an apartment in our senior year there . Fred was a great friend, a very smart student and an excellent cook ! I washed the dishes, he cooked. We were honored to be invited by his parents to share a sumptuous meal at their White Plains restaurant upon graduation. He was most helpful arranging medical care for my now deceased first wife upon her untimely illness some years ago. I will always have fond memories of Fred and I wish that distance has not prevented us seeing each other. Rest in peace.

Posted by dr andrew pichler - Carmichael, CA - class mate in meedical school   June 19, 2015

Elaine 13.

Dear Mr. Lee away from us! We are left with endless thoughts! Your sincerity and kindness so that we so love and respect. Your wife Elaine, taking good care of your 13 years, never betray, let me see love beautiful! Your children smart and lovely, very filial piety. In your home every day I can feel the deep affection. I love everyone in your family.

Posted by Linda Zhao - Quincy, MA - Close friend, personal assistant   June 18, 2015

Dear Elaine and "the kids", Francisco and I are deeply saddened by the news of Fred's passing. It has been a very long and painful journey, you have all been very brave for a very long time. My hope is that Fred is at peace now. That maybe he's chatting with Judy and other love ones that are long departed. I think back to a happy moment when I was little and we came to visit you in Brookline. You were eating ice cream and asked Fred for pickles, you both smiled and laughed as you shared your big news with our family that baby Andy was in his way. Happy times. Lots of love to you all... Susan Francisco and Katie.

Posted by Susan English - Wellesley, MA - Friend   June 17, 2015

To the Li Family,

On behalf of the entire Berkeley Family, I would like to say how lucky we were to have Dr. Li in our life back in the 70's and 80's. My (2) sons, when they were each 5 yrs old. suffered from different types of cancer. After their treatments were done, my husband suffered from multiple cancers himself. It was Dr.Li and his associates who gave our family insight as to what was going on. Our family is (1) of many,many who suffer from the Li-Fraumeni Syndrome (families with multiple cancers) of which my son is on the Board.

Whenever I needed a reassuring voice, I would call him and he would tell me
"everything would be alright". His words were comforting and gave me hope.

God Bless you Dr. Li and may the Li Family have peace during this difficult time.

Pat Berkeley

Posted by Pat Berkeley and Family - Rockland, MA - Patient and friend   June 14, 2015

Thank you for all that you did for us Li-Fraumeni patients. Thanks to you, me and my children have a fighting chance to live!!! With all the hard work and dedication you and Dr. Fraumeni did in finding the genetic mutation of the P53 gene, with early surveillance we can beat these cancers that we are at such high risk for. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.... we will forever be grateful.

Posted by Deborah Graham - Ringgold, VA - Li-Fraumeni patient   June 14, 2015

Family Album