Global tributes pour in for SF Chinatown activist Rose Pak

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Tributes are pouring in for San Francisco Chinatown activist Rose Pak.

She had returned home from a kidney transplant in China earlier this year and died Sunday.

If you don't live in San Francisco, you may wonder what is all the fuss about over Rose Pak, who passed away on Sunday.

The mayor credits Pak with helping the city's Asian community have one of the strongest voices in the country.

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"All of the Chinese community loved her because of her service for the community," said Sandy Weng, a Chinatown florist.

And that's what made Rose Pak an icon.

A reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle back in the 1970's, Pak quit and used her know-how to advocate for Chinatown.

"This city did not have one Chinese office holder when Rose Pak really decided to focus," explained Former SF Mayor Willie Brown.

Now, there's the first Asian mayor whom Pak convinced to run. And dozens of other Asian politicos, but her influence goes way beyond that.

The central subway going all the way into Chinatown? That's Rose Pak. Housing projects for immigrants - Rose Pak. The new $180 million Chinese hospital slated to welcome patients next month? Rose Pak was the biggest backer.

"It's kind of hard to imagine her gone," said hospital CEO Brenda Yee. She says this is part of Pak's legacy.

"She wanted to make sure that we had the best facility ever, knowing how the Chinese were denied health care prior to building any of the hospitals in Chinatown," said Yee.

Pak did not like the term power broker, but her influence inspired a younger generation.

"How to work with politicians to get them to serve the community the way they should," said Malcolm Yeung with Chinatown Community Development.

He says more than a political brawler, Pak was kind. The mayor knew her for more than 40 years.

"There is no other Rose Pak. There's no one to replace her," said Mayor Lee.

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