Sunday, September 25, 2016

Mourners pack funeral for the beloved and feared Rose Pak, civic leader

Rose Pak graced the cover of 'San Francisco' magazine in 2012.

TOUGH, combative and caring – those were attributes that came out in stories about Rose Pak, an influential political leader in San Francisco mourned by 600 attendees at her funeral Saturday, Sept. 24, reported SF Gate. She died last week 
of natural causes in her Chinatown home at the age of 68. 

In her obituary that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle it was noted that Pak once said: “If I was white, they’d call me a civic leader,” with absolutely no sign she was joking.
Politicians sought her support because she could deliver whether it be crowds for a demonstration or money for a campaign.

The Hunan, China-born Pak spent eight years writing for the S.F. Chronicle, where she was reportedly the first Asian/American journalist hired by the newspaper. Naturally, as a Cantonese speaker, she was assigned the Chinatown beat. She left journalism so she could better advocate for her community by making sure that Chinatown was not forgotten and given respect by the city's politicians and planners.

In cover article in San Francisco Magazine, Pak talked about her first lessons in San Francisco barefooted politics by hanging out in the offices of the late congressmen John and Phil Burton. "They called everybody under the sun ‘motherfucker,'" she said. "I thought it was a term of endearment."

Speaking at Pak's funeral which was held at Old St. Mary's Cathedral, former San Francisco Mayor and State Assembly Speaker Willie Brown credited Pak with the large representation of Asian/Americans on city commissions and boards.

When Brown appointed the first Asian/American police chief in San Francisco, Fred Lau, it was Pak who pushed him the hardest.

“It’s time for an Asian police chief.” Brown recalls Pak telling him. “Who is going to be our police chief?”

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, like so many in San Francisco politics, experienced both Pak’s support and ire.

“Despite all the sharp edges and even sharper tongue, Rose was motivated by love. Love of family and community,” Lee said.

The funeral was held at Old St. Mary’s Cathedral in Chinatown. Police closed several streets and extra seating was set up outside with a video link to the indoor proceedings. in order to accommodate the overflow crowd.

The street outside the church was closed down to accommodate additional seating at Rose Pak's funeral.
C.W. Nevius, who interviewed Pak several times for his column in the San Francisco Chronicle.
San Francisco columnist C.W. Nevius wrote in a recent Chronicle column
Calling Pak an advocate for the Chinatown community was an understatement. Another ... story involved the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento.
Pak got a tour of the place before it opened in 1976 and found that there was only a small plaque to commemorate the Chinese workers who did much of the construction on the Transcontinental Railroad. Pak pitched an enormous fit.
“I stormed out of there and drove right to the Assembly offices,” she said. “I said, ‘You guys have a lot of f— nerve. Thousands of our people died, and all you have to honor them is this little piece of paper?’”
Pak says the upshot was that the opening was delayed six months, funds were collected and a much more representative display was installed.
Pak's passing creates a great void in San Francisco politics. Who will speak up for Chinatown? For the Asian/American community?  For those overlooked by City Hall? For the underdog? 

(Views From the Edge contributed to this report.)