By Dean Wong
Heaven has a new angel.
Donnie must be pleased to rejoin his parents in heaven, along with Uncle Jimmy whose wartime experience inspired him to become a medic.
Donnie is looking down at us right at this very moment. He’s probably speechless, seeing all the love that is being poured his way. A tear may be rolling down his cheeks, as they have been rolling down ours. Pouring like a massive river slicing through our very soul through the King Street core.
Those who knew Donnie from the old days, heard him speak and breathe fire in his words. The four-letter-word was standard vocabulary.
He mellowed out a lot over the years. Donnie may have been a tough guy on the outside in the old days, but deep inside he is an angel with a heart of gold. Watching over the community. Making sure we were safe.
He learned the importance of community involvement from his father Don, who was a leader in the Chinatown community. For those who knew Donnie the longest, they experienced his stubborn and determined nature. I think he got that from his father.
Donnie helped his mother Myra run the Sun May Company. Both Donnie and his younger sister Connie helped with the store and even had a small section selling their own candy. Older sister Melanie rounded up the Chin family.
I met Donnie when I was eight. My mother ran the Re New Cleaners. Early on he formed the Eagles Club, with the headquarters in an upstairs office at the store. I think Connie and I were the only members.
I helped Donnie clean out his grandfather’s Canton Alley space to form the home of Asians for Unity. We organized other Chinatown teens in the hopes of forming a service organization. We had about eight guys in the group but they quickly got tired of Donnie’s strict militaristic leadership style.
He then decided to form the International District Emergency Center. We took first aid and CPR classes and we taught these skills to Asian youth in a summer program.
We collected canned foods and brought them to home bound seniors in Chinatown as we checked on their welfare. When we saw homeless people rummaging through the dumpsters behind Four Seas, we gave them something to eat.
Donnie bought bright red and bright yellow jumpsuits as uniforms. While working in a summer program at a central area school, he found some round wood sticks in the basement.
He called me. “Man you gotta come up here and get those sticks.” So I went there, we sneaked into the basement and I walked out with them.
We used those sticks as batons. With our long hair, we went on patrol in Chinatown to keep the streets safe.
At first the police did not know what to make of us. They drove slowly through Canton Alley at night and shined their flashlights in our perpetually open door. They questioned the two young radical, idealistic Chinese Americans with long hair wanting to know what we were up to, as the sound of 911 scanners went off in the background.
Donnie showed them a bright neon red sign he had made. It read International District Emergency Center call 623-3321. The signs were all over the neighborhood.
The fire department knew one thing for sure. IDEC was always there first. It was not a race. It was caring at a grassroots level.
Fire fighters and paramedics grew to respect IDEC. Dr. Michael K. Copass, founder of the Medic One Program was a huge fan of Donnie and IDEC. Paramedics gave us supplies.
Donnie learned how to be a paramedic on his own. Self-taught and hands on.
Eventually, I went to the UW and studied journalism. I continued to come down to volunteer my time with IDEC and later with the International Examiner.
Donnie helped everyone. Street people, residents, Chinese and Filipino elders, tourists. Everyone.
The IDEC aid stations run by the men and woman standing beside me further kept the community safe. With us around, Donnie knew he could take it easy for once and monitor us by radio. We would hear his voice “Dragon One to Aid Station.”
I was pleased to see so many young people visit his memorial this week. It means that you, you young people care about the community and are involved in making it a better place. IDEC thanks you. The Asian American community thanks you.
Donnie loved children, especially the kids in Chinatown. He let them hang around the alley. He got mad when they broke things. But he would not stay mad very long. He fed them and made sure they respected their elders. He mentored some of them into IDEC volunteers, some of which stand with me today. He accepted trouble youth into IDEC in hopes of turning their lives around.
IDEC has three volunteers who have been with us since they were children. Three brothers affectionately called Big, Middle and Baby.
Two of them have their own children. To me, this makes Donnie a grandfather. I knew he was proud of their beautiful daughters and loved them like they were his.
Since 1968, IDEC has helped thousands and thousands of people. From a simple band aid to giving CPR. IDEC volunteers were there with Donnie at times. But often times Donnie was by himself. Keeping us safe. Just as he was doing the night he was taken from us.
He was targeted by violence often and defended himself like a warrior. He often would talk about his exploits on the streets of Chinatown.
He is a legend in this community. He is our hero. He is our angel in a ghetto package.
To whoever killed our brother and friend, I say the brave men and women of the police department will catch you and bring you to justice.
And Donnie will be in heaven watching in approval. He’ll be standing behind a barbecue grilling hot dogs in a Chinatown alley somewhere above us cheering the Seattle Police on.
He’ll be watching over our heroic men and women of the Seattle Fire Department and Police Department who work so hard to keep the citizens of Seattle safe.
That’s the Donnie we all knew. A man who gave his life to make this community a better place.
He was a rebel, a warrior, community historian and a friend to all.
As he got older, Donnie stopped swearing, except he when was hanging out with me of course. You should have heard some of our conversations. That was the ghetto in us.
I read the memory book left at Canton Alley. People loved the older more mellow approach that Donnie matured into. The kindness and gentle touch he provided. The sense of security when he was around.
He loved each and every one of you. Just as you loved him. If you were a total stranger, he’d risk his life to help you.
Sometimes we took Donnie for granted. Knowing he’d always be there for us.
Now we are gathered here to show Donnie how much we love him.
We miss him. We shed tears for him. We wish him well in his new life. To me he is not here but he is not dead.
His spirit is very much alive in this park at this very moment.
Even now, he is protecting us from heaven. That’s what Donnie will always do.
I have something to return to my best friend. It’s an old baton which I repaired for him.
One of the kids kept swinging this around and it might have been dropped too many times. The handle became loose.
Donnie used the baton to defend himself. The guy took a swing at him. Dragon One tried the block it. The baton broke.
Donnie was so upset the next day. “I told the kids to stop playing with it. They don’t listen to me.”
As always he did not stay mad long. These kids like the Hong brothers are like his own sons.
Donnie, this belongs to you. I Dragon Two return this to you so you can use it, as I know you’ll live on forever in the after world.
Every warrior needs his mighty sword.
(I then placed the baton below his picture taped to the Hing Hay Park pagoda.)
I gave this flashlight to Donnie. I thought he needed something more substantial in a flash light to patrol the streets. Something that he could defend himself with. Something with the bite of a Dragon.
It’s worn out now. The switch no longer works. You can still see the faded etched words of IDEC on it.
He had this for about 30 years or longer, then gave it back. The light no longer worked and I gave him a bad time about it. All in love of course. Ghetto humor that we shared.
This represents the light he shined on all of us. The warmth, love and friendship that proved supreme. Let me repeat supreme devotion to us, the community. You and me. All of us. All of you police officers. All of you fire fighters.
The length of this flashlight represents Donnie’s nearly 50 years of service. All the good he has brought to our teeny tiny part of this earth. The little neighborhood that could, was able to because of Dragon Two, Donald Chin.
This solid aluminum tool, represents the strength, courage and commitment to safety, justice, taking care of our children to ensure they have a future, making sure our elders are respected and cared for. This tube of metal, scratched from years of service will remain in the Chin family as a reminder of their son and brother’s legacy.
Every Asian community needs a powerful and brave dragon to help us, watch over us and protect us.
Donnie is our Dragon and he is number one in our hearts.
We will never. Never. Never. Never. Never forget our hero. (end)