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It’s been nearly 50 years since the world lost martial arts legend and actor Bruce Lee. Linda Lee Cadwell, Bruce Lee’s widow, described the day her husband and the father of her children died as “devastating” and “unbelievable.”

Not much is known about Bruce Lee’s widow because she is a private person who prefers to keep out of the limelight. However, she has worked tirelessly to keep her late husband’s memory alive. Here’s more about Cadwell, their relationship, and the tragedy she endured after Lee’s untimely death.

How did the martial arts legend and his wife meet?

Bruce Lee in 1972 and Bruce Lee widow Linda Lee Cadwell in 2013
Bruce Lee in 1972 and widow Linda Lee Cadwell in 2013 | Archive photo via Getty Images; Dave M. Benett/Getty Images

Linda Lee Cadwell was born Linda Emery on Mar. 21, 1945, in Everett, Washington. She graduated from Garfield High School in Seattle before enrolling in the University of Washington, where Bruce Lee was studying philosophy and dramatics.

Cadwell met her future husband in 1963. She told CBS News: “He was dynamic. From the very first moment I met him, I thought, ‘This guy is something else.'”

The pair began dating and tied the knot the following summer, on Aug. 17, 1964. 

Six months later, their son, Brandon Lee, was born. They welcomed a daughter, Shannon Lee, in 1969.

How did Bruce Lee die, and what happened to his widow?


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Nine years later, on July 20, 1973, Bruce Lee died of cerebral edema, a medical condition where fluid builds around the brain, causing increased pressure. Bruce Lee’s official cause of death was brain swelling prompted by an allergic reaction to a headache medication, Britannica reports. He was 32.

After Bruce Lee’s death, Cadwell received degrees in teaching and political science and worked as an educator for many years. She also wrote the book Bruce Lee: The Man Only I Knew, originally published in 1975. It inspired the 1993 film adaptation Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story

Cadwell has since remarried twice, first to Tom Bleecker from 1988 to 1990 and then to Bruce Cadwell in 1991.

Tragedy struck again when Bruce Lee’s son died

After his father’s death, Brandon Lee wanted nothing to do with the entertainment business or martial arts.

“For Brandon, it was a burden to live up to what other people expect of you because of who your father is,” Cadwell told The New York Times.

Eventually, though, Brandon decided to follow in his dad’s footsteps as an actor and martial artist. But 20 years after Bruce Lee died, tragedy struck the family again.

On the set of the film The Crow on Mar. 31, 1993, Brandon was accidentally shot with a defective prop gun. He was immediately rushed to a hospital but did not survive. Brandon Lee was 28 years old when he died. He is buried next to his father at Seattle’s Lake View Cemetery.

Bruce Lee’s widow and daughter keep his legacy alive

Cadwell and Bruce Lee’s daughter also pursued a career in acting. Shannon made her screen debut as a party singer in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story. She also appeared in Cage II, High Voltage, and the Hong Kong action flick Enter the Eagles.

Today, Shannon is the president of the Bruce Lee Foundation, which she co-founded with her mother. The not-for-profit organization keeps Bruce Lee’s legacy alive and promotes his teachings and philosophies.

“Ever since Bruce passed away, I’ve always thought it’s my obligation, and gladly so, to show people what Bruce was doing so that it can benefit other people’s lives as well,” Cadwell told Jeet Kune Do expert Chris Kent in a 2018 interview for the Bruce Lee Foundation.