The following is an open letter by Bettie Luke of Chinese American Citizens Alliance (C.A.C.A.) about the late Donnie Chin:
I knew Donnie’s mother, Myra, for 10 years in Jade Guild Chinese Women’s Club, before I learned about her son Donnie. When I heard about his extraordinary dedication in watching out for the health and welfare of the community in Chinatown/ International District, I was deeply impressed and became a fan for life!
Through the years, I would regularly shop at Sun May, the family store, and try to catch small opportunities to support his International District Emergency Center (IDEC). Last year, as co-chair for the Jade Guild Holiday Lunch, we held it as a fundraiser for IDEC. Plans have started to repeat a fundraiser this year. Now, the event will have a sadder tone.
Donnie would check in on elders living alone, and bring warm socks or food if they needed, and remind them to take their medications. Hearing that, I asked Jade Guild to hold a sock drive, plus donate items from his list of first aid and care items that would add to IDEC supplies.
Dean Wong, a buddy who was like a brother to Donnie, told me when they were young teenagers, they worked to pick up first aid and martial arts skills. Donnie would whip up a meal for the Chinatown kids playing in the alleys because their parents worked late hours. Over time, Donnie and Dean taught them first aid skills, and this helped form the team of IDEC volunteers.
Donnie told me that when he was younger, the fire department or police were bothered to see this young kid show up, so would try to shoo him away. After a while, his cultural knowledge and dedication became recognized. With recognition and experience, Donnie became a trainer to those departments and related agencies. Now, he is held in high regard.
Donnie was a first responder when someone in a district business or restaurant had a health emergency. I witnessed two such incidents. I was at The Wing Luke Museum one evening, when a guest became ill. Then-museum director Ron Chew called Donnie, who was there in two minutes, and an ambulance was on the way in five minutes.
One day after a Chinatown parade, a girlfriend and I were walking to pick up our daughters who had marched in the Seattle Chinese Girls Drill Team. We saw Donnie run past us, and I said: “Oh, there goes Donnie, doing his good work.” My friend and I were absolutely stunned when we arrived at the International House, two blocks away to find her mother on the ground. Donnie’s quick action helped the mother live for seven more months.
I was told that Donnie pulled a man out of a burning house and had to fight off the man’s dog in doing so. That was the night Seattle was hit by such an intense and sudden snow storm, cars were gridlocked and fire engines could not get through. I remember watching firemen pushing cars sideways, trying to make room, I could not get out of that stressful traffic jam in Chinatown to home for four hours.
As a planner for Chinese American Citizens Alliance Conference, I asked Donnie last month, if we could contract him and IDEC for next month, on August 8. Our 120+ Convention Delegates would be in the Chinatown/International District from 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. with eight full hours of tours, activities, and dinner. Donnie noted the date and said: “We will be there, you don’t have to pay.” The C.A.C.A. dinner scheduled for August 8 will be Maxine Chan’s Chinese Pioneer Dinner at Four Seas. In a planning conversation with Maxine, Donnie generously offered to donate 19 sets of Chinese antique wine cups. From the vast inventory of his family’s historic Sun May Store, those antique wine cup sets are over 100 years old.
Two years earlier, when Donnie first heard me mention C.A.C.A., he dug into the Sun May old storage boxes. He found a card of C.A.C.A. membership pins from the 1920s and a cloth C.A.C.A. hat with a Chinese name written inside. Those items have been added to the National C.A.C.A. Archives, and they sent him a donation.
The thing I remember most about Donnie, was how he plowed through his campaign of care—with grit and sardonic humor. That made me smile. That is how I will remember this Golden Guardian of our Community.
With heart-felt respect and admiration,