Chinatown activist Rose Pak dies at 68

Updated 2016-10-25 12:06:13

Rose Pak, a longtime activist in Chinatown and the Chinese-American community in San Francisco, died at the age of 68 on Sept 18.

Pak died of natural causes in her home in Chinatown. She had spent several months in China for a kidney transplant before returning to San Francisco in May.

Though she had never held elective office, she was known for her advocacy for the Chinatown community and her influence on city politics.

Pak served as a decades-long consultant to the San Francisco Chinese Chamber of Commerce and organizer of San Francisco's annual Chinese New Year's Parade. She also organized the campaign to save the San Francisco Chinese Hospital from closure, an institution she remained devoted to until the end.

Born in 1948, Pak grew up in Hong Kong and was educated there and in Macao before coming to California on a scholarship to study communications at the San Francisco College for Women.

After receiving a master's degree in journalism at Columbia University in New York City, she returned to San Francisco in 1974 to work as a reporter for The San Francisco Chronicle. She was the first female Asian-American journalist at the newspaper.

Eight years later, she became a full-time social activist. Her first project was to save the Chinese Hospital, an underfunded medical center that served the Cantonese-speaking population in and around Chinatown with physicians and medical professionals who spoke their language.

She helped raise funds for the new patient tower to replace the original 1925 hospital building. As of 2016, the hospital had raised nearly 0 million for the building construction. The new building opened in April.

"People give me more power than I really have," she said in a 2013 interview with the Chronicle, "and half of the crap I'm not even remotely interested in. All I'm interested in is advancing my community."

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee ordered flags to be displayed at half-staff and City Hall to be lit in white light in Pak's honor.

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