Community extends well-wishes to the Lockes in their move to D.C.
By James Tabafunda
Northwest Asian Weekly
Wishing someone well in a new job can either be a cause for a celebration or an opportunity for good-natured ribbing.
For U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, both proved to be true.
Approximately 470 friends and family of Locke and his wife Mona gathered together to celebrate the couple’s departure in a private dinner at the House of Hong Restaurant on June 20.
By June 1, all 40 tables were sold out and as a result, people had to be turned away. People waited in a line to shake the secretary’s hand and to have a photo taken with him. Many people asked Locke to sign the full-color program so they could keep it as a memento.
They, along with supporters of the Northwest Asian Weekly Foundation, attended the event billed as “A Community Celebration for the U.S. Secretary of Commerce Hon. Gary & Mrs. Mona Locke.”
Longtime supporters from Gary Locke’s first campaign in 1982 attended the event, including Vera Ing, Arlene Oki, Vicki Fabre, Ruth Woo, Benson Wong, and Terry Mark.
Also in attendance were Consulate Generals Wen Xiang Lu of the People’s Republic of China, Mitsunori Namba of Japan, Haryong Lee of the Republic of South Korea, and Director General of Taipei Economic & Cultural Affairs Daniel T.C. Liao.
Robert Mak, communication director for the City of Seattle, and Julie Francavilla, a KIRO-TV news anchor, served as the emcees. A planning committee of 10 people — including the Northwest Asian Weekly Foundantion — organized the event.
Sen. Paull Shin launched the event by reading a humorous state proclamation. Speaking on behalf of current Washington state Gov. Christine Gregoire, he declared June 20 as “Gary and Mona Locke Day.”
Seattle Pacific University student Priyana Malik, one of the seven presenters, spoke first.
“I remember the first time that I met Secretary Locke. I think I was about 9 or 10, and it was his first fundraiser for running as governor,” she said. “Gary Locke’s path has inspired me to follow my dreams of one day becoming a doctor. I would like to thank him for helping me to find my dream and to pursue a career that is my passion.”
KING 5 News anchor Lori Matsukawa said she first met Locke when she worked as a KOMO-TV reporter covering the state legislature in 1982. “My claim to fame, of course, was that I helped introduce Gary to his future wife, Mona,” she said.
Matsukawa added, “When the two finally met, I would say things did not go very well. He asked her, ‘So, what do you think of politicians?’ and, she said, ‘Not much.’ ”
Locke’s brother-in-law, Judd Lee, attended the event with his wife Amanda. “Since this is really honoring Mona and Gary, I’m going to focus primarily on Mona, my much older sister,” he said, starting off with a joke.
At the end of his humurous roast, Lee said, “But now, Mona and Gary are moving to D.C. Wow, it’s going to be a big change. But, you know, there’s a lot of powerful, influential, wealthy people there.” He paused for effect. “Hmm, I think Mona may have just influenced me to a whole new level,” he said as he brought out a carry-on luggage with a leopard-skin print and a baseball cap.
Charlie Earl worked for Gary Locke in the mid-1990s for two years as a deputy county executive when Locke served as King County Executive. “The first year, it was reported that he didn’t date a lot. The second year, he began dating Mona,” he said. “The second year was a lot better for me.”
Dick Thompson, once a chief-of-staff for former Washington state Gov. Booth Gardner, stated, “Well, I guess they call him ‘Mr. Secretary.’ He’s still the governor to me.”
Vicki Fabre, executive vice president of the Washington Auto Dealers Association, was also a presenter at the dinner. Fabre once hired Locke, helping him start his career in politics.
“An official biography that I recently read begins, ‘Gary Faye Locke’. … ‘an American politician,’ and I smiled at that because the description wasn’t preceded by what we usually see and hear — Chinese American politician, a first at this or a first at that,” she said.
Last to speak was Assunta Ng. Looking toward the guest of honor, Ng said, “You were gone for a few months, but we missed you a lot. We missed that powerful, crystal-clear voice coming from you like gangbusters, your political commentary, your handsome face, and even your cheap haircut. We really missed you, Robert Mak.” The audience roared with laughter. “Well, Robert and Gary do have similarities,” Ng said.
After the Lockes received framed letters from Jeri Worklan-Eubanks and Mike Kreiger, two people whose lives were touched by the Lockes, it was finally Secretary Locke’s turn to speak.
After his own roasting of the speakers, he said, “To everyone, thank you very much for being here. Mona and I are completely overwhelmed.” The Lockes’ original plan was to make this period in their lives about Mona and her career. But then Gary’s appointment came. During his speech, he emphatically expressed how his wife has sacrificed so much for him. He said that she saw life as “an adventure,” and that he is grateful to her.
“I really do want to thank the community. You have come to mean so much to us, to our family,” said Mona after receiving encouragement from the audience to speak.
“You have touched our lives, and I hope that you will be proud of us as we move to the other Washington — D.C. — and as Gary said, Seattle’s our home, and we will be back,” she added. ♦
James Tabafunda can be reached at email@example.com.