Abilene AM Donuts owner George Kim remembered for his compassion and love

·5 min read

Abilene residents grieved the death of Munirak George Kim on social media after the Abilene donut shop owner died Christmas Day, supposedly due to complications of COVID-19.

Memories posted to Kim’s Facebook page and that of his wife, Sokol Kim, were filled with sentiment and a sense of crushing loss to the community. One post featured a photo of a friend with his arms around him, simply calling him “the best of us.”

A GoFundMe page has been created for the family of George Kim, who died recently of complications from COVID-19.
A GoFundMe page has been created for the family of George Kim, who died recently of complications from COVID-19.

A Facebook post by Mike V. Choate stated Kim would be “missed by thousands," while a post by Gene Moody said Kim had changed the community and touched “so many with his kindness,” his positive attitude ensuring you “enjoy(ed) every second you got to spend with him.”

“He lived life to the fullest,” Moody wrote.

Kim had been in a local intensive care unit since just before Thanksgiving, Abilene news outlets reported. He suffered a collapsed lung, among other issues.

A GoFundMe set up by friend Adam Wargo on Dec. 16 to help with the family’s medical expenses said Kim had “come down with COVID and has had a really rough go with it.”

The site, which had raised almost $14,000 as of 8 a.m. Tuesday, confirmed Kim’s death in the evening on Christmas.

American dreams

George Kim (left), owner of AM Donuts, and Paul Matta (center) meet with singer, songwriter and musician Joe Sonny West (right). West wrote the songs “Oh Boy” and “Rave On,” two of Buddy Holly’s biggest hits.
George Kim (left), owner of AM Donuts, and Paul Matta (center) meet with singer, songwriter and musician Joe Sonny West (right). West wrote the songs “Oh Boy” and “Rave On,” two of Buddy Holly’s biggest hits.

Kim and his family escaped the Khmer Rouge in 1979, seeking refuge in Thailand. In 1981, they moved to another refugee camp in the Philippines before immigrating to the United States later that year and eventually to Texas.

They first lived in Eastland, where many Cambodian families took refuge.

The Kim family moved to Pomona, California, where they started their "donut journey," George Kim's obituary says.

He completed high school in Pomona, continuing school at California State Polytechnic University.

During his educational career, he supported his family's doughnut business until he ventured out with two of his friends, who started their own shop, MBA "Moon, Boon and Andy" Donuts.

In summer 2000, his sister, Setha, and brother, Anthony, convinced him to shut down his shop and move to Abilene, leading to the foundation of AM Donuts here.

The 'Donut King'

In a January 2012 Reporter-News interview, Kim said he opened his first AM Donuts & Croissants shop in 2001, with a location on Grape Street following shortly after.

Today, there are four AM Donuts locations throughout Abilene.

Kim said the doughnut business was one that required hard work, his day beginning around 4 a.m.

"It's all about the quality of the product and service," he said, adding that converting the space on Grape Street, a former boxing gym, into a doughnut shop was difficult.

The store was described as “having plenty of personality, featuring a phone booth decorated on the interior with Superman comics, as well as a lounge room with comfortable seating for people looking to relax.”

George Kim
George Kim

Learning and growing

In a story about the diversity of languages spoken in Abilene, published in 2005, Kim, who grew up speaking Khmer, said he had his first English class while living in the Philippines.

''All I had was basically a 'book one' kind of course, really just the ABCs,” he recalled.

But he learned to speak the language extremely well, he said, easily communicating with those in West Texas and elsewhere with ease.

Kim noted he still learned new English words almost every day – and still spoke his native language with pride.

Tastes of Asia

Kim for a time ran a restaurant, Taste of Asia, which opened in 2004 on South First Street.

In a 2005 article, he said the lack of a local noodle house meant those craving such fare had – at the time – to drive to Dallas.

“I know this is a barbecue town, but I think everybody should try new things,” he said.

Long-time Taste of Asia fans remember well his love for food, as well as special occasions such as "Elvis Night," and "Bollywood Night," and holiday gatherings.

Though the restaurant closed, AM Donuts on Grape Street began serving Asian dishes, including Pho, a well-known Vietnamese soup dish.

Heart of the dragon

Many social media posts referred to Kim as akin to a brother, an uncle, a friend.

Ryan Ortega wrote that Kim was a “great family friend, and even so like an Uncle to me.”

“You were my inspiration, as wise as The Dragon and tough and soft-spoken as Bruce Lee,” he wrote.

Stephanie Acker Heatherly wrote that Kim had a “personality bigger than life, a heart of gold (and) a love for his family that was like none other.”

Carrie Whitley Gammon wrote Kim was “one of the nicest, most generous and loving people I have ever met in my life.”

“Everyone that met him came away a better person,” she wrote.

Soul of a hero

Superheroes were a recurring theme with Kim.

One photo shows him posing with a young fan wielding a replica of Thor’s hammer from Marvel Comics and related films.

Tina Driessner Cargile wrote on Facebook that for her, Kim would “always be my superhero.”

“By watching you, I learned to love everyone equally, fully (and) without judgement,” she wrote. “You made the world a better – and tastier – place.”

Services planned

Born March 2, 1973, the second youngest of nine siblings, he is survived by his wife, his daughter Kareena, his son, Daniel, five sisters, three brothers, his mother and "all whom he considered family," his obituary states.

A number of services are planned to honor Kim’s life.

A visitation will be 3-5 p.m. Sunday at Elmwood Funeral Home, 5750 U.S. 277 South, while a Cambodian prayer ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday at Station 1 Venue, 140 Mulberry St.

Kim’s funeral service is 3 p.m. Monday at Elmwood Funeral Home.

Funds still are being collected to assist Kim’s family at www.gofundme.com/f/george-kim-medical-expense-fundraiser.

Brian Bethel covers city and county government and general news for the Abilene Reporter-News. If you appreciate locally driven news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.

This article originally appeared on Abilene Reporter-News: AM Donuts owner George Kim remembered for his compassion and love

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