Northwest Asian Weekly
A celebration and remembrance in honor of Robert “Uncle Bob” Santos will be held on Sept. 23 at the WaMu Theater at CenturyLink Field from 3–6 p.m.
Santos died on Aug. 27 after a short illness. The public is invited to attend the event, which is being held on the edge of Seattle’s Chinatown-International District, where Santos dedicated his life to develop and preserve.
Public visitation at Butterworth Arthur A. Wright Chapel on 520 West Raye Street in Seattle is scheduled on Sept. 12, from 2–7 p.m. and Sept. 13, from 12–7 p.m.
Santos is survived by his wife, state Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, six children, 19 grandchildren, and 16 great-grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that remembrances be given to the following community nonprofit organizations:
International District Emergency Center: P.O. Box 14103, Seattle, WA 98114
The late Donnie Chin devoted his life to IDEC, training youth, and coordinating neighborhood safety and emergency services, as he was doing when he was killed by gunfire a year ago. During the past year, Uncle Bob led efforts to bring Chin’s killer to justice.
InterIm CDA: 310 Maynard Avenue South, Seattle, WA 98104
This is the first Chinatown-International District organization that Uncle Bob started back in the early 1970s. In addition to building affordable housing and finding creative ways to preserve and develop the Chinatown/ID, InterIm spawned many community organizations from the Asian Counseling and Referral Services, to the International Community Health Services, to the ID Housing Alliance, as well as IDEC. Uncle Bob was executive director or interim E.D. at least four times over the decades.
Cards and letters can be sent to: P.O. Box 40600, Olympia, WA 98504.
MEMORIES OF BOB SANTOS
Dorothy Wong, Chinese Information and Service Center executive director: I heard about “Uncle Bob” Santos when I first arrived in Seattle in 1993. I am not one to “hero worship.” I prefer to meet them in person in the flesh to see how he/she will treat me, especially as a newcomer to the scene. From the get-go, Bob was not someone who puffed his chest to proclaim how important he was. He was engaging, down-to-earth, and funny, and he noticed all of the little things that happened around him. During a most difficult moment in my life, Bob gave generously of his time to help out. He assessed the situation quickly and outlined the likely outcomes. His sense of humor was always there and helped to lighten up what for me was a trying time. What I really appreciated about Bob was that he leveraged whatever influence and power he had to address longstanding needs in the community, such as his stint as Region X Representative of HUD. I loved how he opened the federal buildings as a shelter for the homeless during the winter months. The greater his influence, the more resources he could harness, so to speak. He never really “retired.” He was always out in the community — talking, planning, and organizing. We all hoped that he would always be there, even as he became more frail. It is a huge loss in the community with his passing.
Elaine Chu, Seattle Foundation philanthropic advisor: My dad works at Tai Tung Restaurant and every time I saw Uncle Bob, he would say, “Hey Elaine. Tell your dad Tai Tung is my favorite restaurant.” He had his birthday and Thanksgiving there every year. That was the thing about Uncle Bob. You were family to him because he would not only remember you, but everything about you!
What I learned from Bob was leadership — being able to connect with everyone and become a change agent together. I learned presence — your community wants to physically see you, not a voice on paper or phone. And I learned purpose — there are inequities — what do you want to change? For this, thank you, Uncle Bob. RIP.
Carolyn Kelly, former Seattle Times president: He was such a terrific person. He loved to cook, and Jane and I were lucky enough to have him cook for us on his amazing stove (custom AGA maybe? Anyway, amazing). He did everything with such warmth and love. To me, he was such a role model for how you can live your life with a passion for social justice and equity, and still not give in to bitterness, but live life with light, love and joy, and a little bit of karaoke! He’ll be missed so much.
Tim Otani, Union Bank vice president: Bob could see the current needs of the [ID], while understanding the historical factors causing those conditions, and developed effective strategies for meeting those needs. He was a true visionary who could look decades ahead to see a better tomorrow. I’m glad to be able to have known him as a friend. His proud legacy will live on.
Ming-Ming Tung Edelman, Chinese American Citizens Alliance, Seattle Lodge president: I am aware of many of his efforts and accomplishments in creating a better community for the Seattle Chinatown-International District. He will be greatly missed by all in the community.
Fred Yee, Chinese American Citizens Alliance, Seattle Lodge board secretary: I have known Uncle Bob since the early 1970s. He was a pioneer and an inspirational community leader. We will miss him very much.
Ellen M. Abellera, former Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs (CAPAA) executive director: In the 1990s when I was president of the Filipino American Political Action Group of Washington (FAPAGOW), Sound Transit announced a light rail transit plan that would affect the Filipino Community Center on Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
FAPAGOW and the Filipino Community of Seattle (FCS) asked for a dialogue with Sound Transit. When that day came, the speakers were seated at a table getting ready.
Somebody nudged my arm and it was Uncle Bob. “Ellen, I wanted to be part of the panel and I want to be the first speaker.” I replied, “By all means Uncle Bob, you will be the first to speak.” With a wide grin, he sat beside me and he delivered a very compelling speech in favor of the FCS! After his speech, he left and patted me on my back and said, “You are doing good” and he left with the same grin on his face.