Letter: From Uncle Bob Santos—A letter to Donnie Chin

Guest Contributor August 27, 2015 0
A makeshift memorial for Donnie Chin in the International District. • Photo by Dean Wong

A makeshift memorial for Donnie Chin in the International District. • Photo by Dean Wong

The following is a letter from community leader “Uncle” Bob Santos, addressed to the late Donnie Chin:

Hi Donnie,

I’ve always wanted to write you to thank you for all the good times, rough times, and everything in between. I knew your dad, Don Chin, when he served as acting director of Inter*Im just before I was hired in 1972.

He was serving as president of the Seattle Chinatown Chamber of Commerce during the decades leading up to the development of the Kingdome in the early ’70s. I loved visiting your Mom at the store because she was always so supportive of our work at Inter*Im. You and DeanWong used to run the streets of Chinatown International District (CID) and I think you guys were wearing a red star at the time, which pissed off some of the businesses in the Chinatown core.

When you two started the International District Emergency Center (IDEC), the neighborhood was undergoing drastic change. The two major highways were just being planned and built and King County was planning to build the multipurpose Kingdome.

The neighborhood residents, many of them limited or non-English speaking Asians, were alarmed at the rate of development surrounding them. You made life easier for them when you would provide much needed advice on how to access services—i.e. medical as well as social services. And you began to provide first aid and much needed support services when they were needed.

In those early years, the IDEC became the “go-to guys” and you started to emerge as the heart and soul of the Center, our Donnie, our first responder.

Call 911, there’s khaki covered Donnie followed by black uniformed medics and guys in blue. But you were usually there first and you always came back. You and the young Asian activists from the International District Youth Council (IDYC) started the first neighborhood food bank.

I remember when I worked with you for the first time in the mid ’70s when the Wing Luke Auction was held at Chong Wa hall. That first auction was held on a cold blustery night in mid-November with patrons of the arts wearing coats throughout the night. I was recruited by Tommy Quan to bartend. Get’em loaded and they’ll bid high. Next year same actors but this time you turned up the heat in Chong Wa hall as high as it would go.

Patrons shed their coats and because IDEC was in charge of the coat check room, you made enough money to buy much needed equipment.

During a period throughout the ’70s when gangs were forming in both the Chinese and Filipino sectors, shootouts were almost common and we would see you arrive through the gunsmoke to aide the victims, but you always came back and things in our world continued on.

You and the troops at IDEC were present and provided security at all Chinatown International District events or I might add Asian Pacific American events through the city, the birthday parties at Century Ballroom, Ghetto Olympics at Daybreakstar Center, fire watch at the Milwukee Hotel, political fundraisers at every neighborhood restaurant, the parades, street fairs, and 40 years as security at the annual pig roasts in the Danny Woo Garden.

Will we miss you if you’re not there and will our world continue on? Well! You never came back after your last run and our world, as we lived it, will never be the same.

Uncle Bob

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