June Sun Pun Park, who owned and operated a Charles Village cleaning and tailoring business and was regarded as a beloved member of her neighborhood, died of heart failure Aug. 12 at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson. She was 86 and lived on Beech Avenue in Wyman Park.
“June became a part of our family,” said City Council member Mary Pat Clarke. “She was a homegrown local retailer. Her shop was the place we went for all sorts of emergencies. Her customers became her family. She went the extra mile for all of us.”
Ms. Clarke also said: “She was a point of light and had the ability to make everyone feel special. I think every bride or bridesmaid I knew, including my daughters, were at her shop at one time or another when something didn’t fit just right. June saved us.”
Born in Korea, she grew up on a family farm and later lived in what was then Pusan and Seoul.
Her son, Lt. Col. (Ret.) Frank A. Emery, said his mother was forced to learn Japanese when Korea was occupied during World War II. After U.S. forces arrived in the 1940s, she learned English and became an international military telephone operator and civilian employee of the Army. She also married an Army officer — the marriage did not last — and came to the U.S. in 1972.
She was sponsored by a Baltimore family, and she apprenticed as a tailor with a Russian immigrant in Reisterstown, her son said. Her mentor advised her to save half of every dollar she earned. Within a decade, she acquired a business, a home and a corner commercial building to house her cleaning and tailoring shop, along with rental apartments upstairs and a restaurant on the first floor.
She initially lived at the Marylander Apartments on St. Paul Street and worked at a women’s clothing shop in the old Towson Plaza Shopping Center and at a uniform-making business on Sisson Street in Remington.
Within a decade, she purchased her business. Standard Cleaners, in Charles Village at 31st and St. Paul streets. The basement-level shop was long-established, but her customers said her friendly and enthusiastic manner endeared her to many more people.
“June and I bonded immediately,” said a friend and neighbor, Carol Anderson-Austra. “She was 10 years older than I, she bought her building 10 years before I did, and her son was 10 years older than my son. She was my big sister. She was an incredible person — she was the sassiest, brightest and cutest thing. She was funny and practical. She said she feared little except the hunger she knew as a child.
“She told me she arrived in America with a suitcase and $20,” Ms. Anderson-Austra said. “An immigration officer said, ‘What are you going to do?’ She said, ’I am going to work.’ ”
Ms. Anderson-Austra said Ms. Park took care of her customers. “I recall her telling me of a man whose leg would not [fit] into normal clothes. One leg was larger than the other. She took two pair of pants, in different sizes, and made them into one for him. He was delighted. And she would work all night on a wedding dress. She would close the shop at the regular time and take the dress home so it would be ready in time.”
Ms. Park knew her customers and their garments. Although she issued tickets, she sprang up from her sewing machine when customers entered and without checking a number located their alterations or cleaning from memory.
Friends said she could be frank with customers.
When some brought in clothes to be let out because of weight gain, she told them, “Lose weight.”
“My grandmother survived a world war and a civil war, worked for the U.S. Army and gave birth to a child,” said her granddaughter, Bronte Emery. “She already lived enough for two lifetimes, but she had more balls than most men she knew. She is remembered for her remarkable strength, and love for Cal Ripken Jr., Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, as well as for me and her sister.”
Friends said Ms. Park was thrifty and worked until several years ago. For recreation, she walked to the harbor on Sundays and years ago, occasionally liked a trip to the racetrack. She also enjoyed trips to her son’s home in Southern Maryland, where she ate oysters.
In addition to her son and granddaughters, survivors include a sister, Jung Ja Park of Korea.