SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — Hundreds of loved ones gathered in Chinatown Saturday to pay their last respects to longtime activist Rose Pak.
Politics was her sport, so it was fitting the event at Saint Mary’s Cathedral would be a gathering of local and state politicians — including the current and three former San Francisco mayors.
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“I miss her yelling at me,” said SF Supervisor Aaron Peskin.
“She was biting and at the same time, she had a sense of humor,” said Lieutenant Governor and former mayor of San Francisco Gavin Newsom. “I’ll always remember half a dozen parades where she had some choice words for me. I can’t say it because you’ll have to bleep the whole thing out.”
Even though Pak never held a single political office, she was arguably one of the most powerful people in town. She was able to get people in office and just as easily — get them out of office.
“Rose came to me as soon as I got elected and said, ‘it’s time to have an Asian police chief,’ said former mayor Willie Brown. “And I said what many politicians have said to her, ‘who’s going to be our chief, Rose?'”
Her goal was to empower Asian people, especially poor immigrants in Chinatown. She knew the only way to advance her community was to put like-minded people in public office.
Pak never liked the title ‘powerbroker’ and said if she were white, people would call her a civic leader.
She was the force behind the central subway to Chinatown. She raised $160 million to renovate the Chinese Hospital. And she helped to elect Ed Lee, San Francisco’s first Chinese mayor.
“Rose Pak is not an easy person. You know, the great ones almost never are,” said Mayor Lee. “Rose Pak is impossible to forget. Her legacy will live on in San Francisco’s Chinatown.”
Pak’s final resting place is the Cypress Lawn Memorial park in Colma.