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Fred Korematsu, who President Bill Clinton described as "helping to widen the circle of democracy by fighting for human rights, by righting social wrongs, and by empowering others to achieve," passed away on Wednesday afternoon (March 30th) at his daughter's home. He died of respiratory failure at the age of 86.

In 1998, Korematsu received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award. President Clinton's introduction of Korematsu reflects the significance of his achievements: "In the long history of our country's constant search for justice, some names of ordinary citizens stand for millions of souls…Plessy, Brown, Parks…To that distinguished list, today we add the name of Fred Korematsu."

Korematsu has been the subject of numerous documentaries including the Emmy awarding film "Of Civil Wrongs and Rights" co-produced by filmmaker Eric Fournier and Korematsu's son, Ken Korematsu. His daughter Karen Korematsu-Haigh actively supported Korematsu's interest in civil rights, helping to found the Korematsu Civil Rights Fund sponsored by the Asian Law Caucus, the oldest Asian American public interest law firm in the nation. Karen remarked "I know he was the country's hero, but he was my personal hero." He constantly addressed various issues regarding the internment camp.

Cristeta Comerford was appointed the head chef at the White House - the first woman to have the top spot in executive kitchen. Comerford has been an assistant chef at the White House for 10 years, working under former executive chef Walter Scheib III, who resigned in February 2005.

A naturalized U.S. citizen from the Philippines, Comerford has a bachelor's degree in Food Technology from the University of the Philippines. She has worked at Le Ciel in Vienna, Austria and at restaurants in two Washington hotels -- the Westin and the ANA. While being executive chef at the White House has its share of prestige, the job also can be grueling. As many as 2,000 guests per month are fed there, and Mrs. Bush has signaled her intent to do more entertaining than in the first term, when the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks curtailed festivities. The head chef is responsible for designing and executing menus for state dinners, social events, holiday functions, receptions and official luncheons hosted by the president and first lady.

Born in October 1962 in Manila, she was raised in a working-class neighborhood of Sampaloc, near the sprawling campus of the University of Santo Tomas, a Catholic school founded in 1611. Honesto Pasia, her father, was an elementary school principal; Erlinda Pasia, her mother, was a dressmaker. "So driven," says Cristeta's older sister, Ofelia Aguila, a design director for the College of American Pathologists. "So ambitious." Encouraged by her family, Comerford studied food. She attended the University of the Philippines-Diliman, in Quezon City, and majored in food technology. Contrary to a news release issued by the White House, though, she didn't complete her degree. Juanito, an accountant and the first in the family to move to the States, had petitioned his parents, brothers and sisters to let her join him there, and Comerford opted to leave school when her visa was approved.

After stints at the Sheraton and Hyatt Regency hotels near Chicago O'Hare, Cristeta, with her husband, who's also a chef, moved here. She was a chef at two Washington restaurants -- Le Grande Bistro at the Westin Hotel and the Colonnade at the former ANA Hotel. For six months, she worked as chef tournant ("revolving chef") at Le Ciel, in Vienna, Austria, sharpening her mastery of French classical techniques. Scheib, then the executive chef at the White House, recruited her.

In her 10 years at the White House, however, her specialty has been ethnic and American cuisine. What pleased the first lady is the way Comerford can more than satisfy the president with a lunch of enchilada or cheeseburger, then turn around to cook a state dinner that pairs chilled asparagus soup and lemon cream with pan-roasted halibut and basmati rice (with pistachio nuts and currants). In fact, the dinner for 134 guests held last month in honor of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh won Comerford the job.

Born in 1931 in Old Chinatown — which was leveled to make room for Union Station —
Gim Fong was the youngest of eight children. He and his family lived briefly in Canton during the Great Depression but moved back to Los Angeles (China City than Chinatown) after the Japanese invasion of their country. His father, Fong Yun (Mother: Shirley Fong - married in 1956 and a daughter of a Methodist minister), opened an antique shop on Ord Street across from where Phillipe's restaurant is today. It burned down, so in 1952 he moved to Chung King Road.

Gim Fong served in the Army from 1953 to 1955 in the 82nd Airborne Division where he learned his craft - cloisonne and plique-a-jour, forms of intricate enamel work that he used to make miniature bowls. When his father died in 1972, Fong took over the business and enjoyed the booming interest in Chinese culture produced by President Nixon's groundbreaking visit to China.

Gim Fong's ancestors arrived in the U.S. in the 1860s and became to one of the early generations of Chinese Americans born and raised in America. He witnessed Los Angeles Chinatown's heyday between the 1950s and 1970s - along with the steep decline in the 1980s and early 1990s while keeping his store open when the trendy art galleries opened. His store was celebrated by famous Los Angeles artist Leo Politi in his children's books "Moy Moy" and "Mr. Fong's Toy Shop."

He was one of the longest-tenured merchants in the neighborhood and Chinatown's unofficial historians. He represented the original Cantonese families who founded Chinatown — and established L.A.'s Chinese community that is being replaced by a new generation of Chinese, whether American-born or from other parts of Southeast Asia, including Vietnam.

Gim Fong was a member of one of the city's most important pioneering Chinese American families, a clan that helped the Chinese enter society's mainstream at a time when institutional racism prevented them from owning property or marrying outside their race. Many of those old families have left Chinatown in the last 100 years.

Asian/Asian Pacific American representatives of Villaraigosa's Transition Team include the following people:

  • Dominic Ng, president and chief executive, East/West Bank
  • Andrew Cherng, Panda Restaurant Group
  • Stewart Kwoh Executive Director, Asian Pacific American Legal ** Center Irene Hirano President, Japanese American National Museum/LA Inc. Ishmael Ileto Co-Founder, Joseph Ileto Hate Crimes Prevention Fellowship
  • Sabrina Kay - Past President of California Design College and presently CEO of Fremount Private Placement
  • Paul Kim Commander (retired), Los Angeles Police Department
  • Carol Baca Member, Board of Directors, Chinese American Museum
  • Kay Lynn L. Kim - Attorney/Northridge CA, KYCC Board of Directors
  • Paula Daniels - 1st Asian American President of "Heal the Bay"
  • Christopher C. Pak, R.A. - Founder/Principal, ArchEON International Group. The founder of ArchEON International Group, Mr. Pak has developed ArchEON into a muti-disciplined architectural, planning and interior firm. Mr. Pak continues to give back to the community through projects such as the Wilshire Center/Koreatown Revitalization Project EIR. In addition to a number of other appointments, Mr. Pak currently sits on the Board of Airport Commissioners, the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment and the Board of Zoning Appeals.

Henry Y. Hwang, a Shanghai immigrant who founded the first federally chartered Chinese American bank, died Saturday at his San Marino home. He was 77. The cause was colon cancer, said his son, playwright David Henry Hwang.

Hwang launched Far East National Bank in Chinatown in 1974 with $1.5 million in capital. After a troubled start, the chairman and chief executive took over as president in 1976 and during the next two decades built the institution into one of the region's top Asian American banks, with assets that exceeded $500 million when he sold it in 1997.

Now a subsidiary of Bank SinoPac of Taiwan, Far East has grown into a network of 15 California branches and operations in Beijing, Hong Kong, Taipei and Ho Chi Minh City. Hwang, who retired from the bank board in 1999, spent the last five years as an advisor to American firms seeking to conduct business in China.

Actor Pat Morita, best known for helping teach a boy martial-arts mastery through household chores as the wise Mr. Miyagi in "The Karate Kid" died at the age of 73.

His role in the 1984 film defined his career. As Kesuke Miyagi, the mentor to Ralph Macchio's "Daniel-san," he taught karate while trying to catch flies with chopsticks and offering such advice as "wax on, wax off" to help Daniel improve his karate hand movements while doing his chores.

Morita said in a 1986 interview with The Associated Press he was billed as Noriyuki (Pat) Morita in the film because producer Jerry Weintraub wanted him to sound more ethnic. He said he used the billing because it was "the only name my parents gave me."

Born in northern California on June 28, 1932, the son of migrant fruit pickers, Morita spent most of his early years in the hospital with spinal tuberculosis. He later recovered only to be sent to a Japanese-American internment camp in Arizona during World War II.

Morita's show business career began in the 1960s in the decidedly un- kid-friendly world of comedy clubs. At the time, Morita, the California-born son of Japanese immigrants, billed himself as the "Hip Nip." ("'Hip Nip' just sounds groovy," Morita told Stars & Stripes in 1967. "A drummer laid it on me.")

Hawaiian Recognition bill, S.147 and H.R.309, is highly controversial, unconstitutional, and dangerous to all 50 states. Also known as the Akaka bill, it would give federal recognition to a phony Indian tribe invented out of thin air. The purpose is to protect over 160 race-based programs under court challenge because of a Supreme Court decision.

It would carve up Hawai'i by race, and set a precedent for similar balkanization throughout America. 20% of Hawai'i's people, completely integrated and intermarried, living working and praying side by side with everyone else throughout all neighborhoods, would be singled out by law solely because they have a drop of native blood, and given a new government. Most have less than 25% native blood.

Esther Wong, the unlikely "godmother of punk" (and one of its most ardent patrons in L.A.) who showcased such groups as Oingo Boingo at her Madame Wong's clubs in Chinatown and Santa Monica in the late 1970s and '80s has died. She was 88.

Her Madame Wong's restaurant on Sun Mun Way in Chinatown, which she opened in 1970 originally featured Polynesian bands. But when that music attracted smaller and smaller crowds, she was persuaded in 1978 to book rock musicians for one month. The switch immediately increased her nightly crowd from as few as a dozen to about 350, and she declared the restaurant a stage for rock, punk and new wave bands.

She proved a staunch supporter of new and local groups. Besides Oingo Boingo, her stages presented the Police, X, the Motels, 20/20, the Knack, the Know, the Textones, the Go-Gos, the Plimsouls, the Nu-Kats, the Bus Boys, Plane English, the Naughty Sweeties and others.

Wong chose the groups by listening to audition tapes — although she had to give up playing them in her car.

She limited clientele to those over 21, eliminating the huge younger rock audience, to the distress of several bands. She all but banned female singers, calling them "no good, always trouble." And she regularly patrolled her establishment during performances, sniffing for marijuana smoke.

Wong could be jealous and vindictive — refusing to book or rebook any group that played at a rival Chinatown venue, the Hong Kong Cafe.

Born and educated in Shanghai, Wong grew up traveling the world with her importer father. She moved to Los Angeles in 1949 to escape the Communist regime and worked for two decades as a clerk and trainer of clerks for a shipping company before opening her restaurant.

Jack Herzig, a lawyer who with his wife played an instrumental role in gaining redress from the United States for the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, has died. He was 83.

Between 1942 and 1945, the federal government interned more than 120,000 ethnic Japanese, most of whom were born in the United States, amid widespread anti-Japanese sentiment.

The U.S. Supreme Court in the 1944 case of Fred Y. Korematsu v. the United States upheld the constitutionality of the decision to imprison Japanese-Americans during the war. Korematsu, who in 1942 was a 23-year-old welder living in Oakland, refused to report to an internment camp. He was arrested, convicted of violating the internment order and was sent to a camp in Utah.

Herzig and his wife, Aiko Yoshinaga-Herzig, in the 1980s uncovered documents in the National Archives and other repositories that showed government prosecutors suppressed, altered and destroyed evidence during its prosecution of Korematsu. The documents enabled a team of largely Asian-American attorneys to file a petition for writ of coram nobis, a rarely used legal strategy to overturn convictions after new evidence is discovered.

In November 2003, U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel from the bench exonerated Korematsu and blasted the government for basing its decisions on "unsubstantiated facts, distortions and the (opinions) of one military commander whose views were seriously tainted by racism." The ruling helped secure a presidential apology and financial reparations for former internees.

Helen Liu Fong, a commercial architect who helped create icons of style in the futuristic coffee shops that sprouted in Southern California in the 1950s and '60s, died of cancer on April 17 at the age of 78.

A UC Berkeley graduate who was born in Los Angeles' Chinatown, Fong was a key member of the architecture firm Armet & Davis when it translated post-World War II optimism into distinctive designs for such restaurant chains as Denny's, Bob's Big Boy and Norms.

As a leading practitioner of the Googie style, named after an eye-catching West Hollywood cafe designed by modernist architect John Lautner in 1949, Fong helped make upswept roofs, boomerang angles and attention-grabbing neon beacons emblems of an era. Fong was most associated with the interior design of the restaurants, which she imbued with a coziness surprising in buildings meant to evoke a vision of the future.

Lane Nakano, who co-starred in the 1951 film "Go for Broke!," the dramatic story of the Japanese American soldiers who fought in Europe during World War II that starred Van Johnson as a bigoted Army lieutenant undergoes a change in attitude after being assigned to lead and train the volunteer Japanese American unit, has died. He was 80.

He was a prominent singer in the Japanese American community in his native Los Angeles after World War II when "Go for Broke!" writer-director Robert Pirosh saw him perform and recruited him for the MGM movie.

Nakano was ideal casting for the film: He had served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, volunteering after he and his family were taken from their home in Boyle Heights to Heart Mountain internment camp in Wyoming following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

widow of Oscar-winning cinematographer James Wong Howe, whom she dated in the 1940s in defiance of California's anti-miscegenation laws died.

Babb wrote five books, including a novelized memoir, a volume of poetry and a collection of short stories. Two of her stories were chosen for the 1950 and 1960 editions of the distinguished anthology series "Best American Short Stories," edited by Martha Foley.

She and her family lived with him in a one-room dugout, an underground room dug out of the dirt. She was bitten by a rat, witnessed the stillbirth of a brother and gave up precious belongings to help her family survive repeated crop failures.

Her grandfather taught her to read from a volume about the adventures of legendary frontiersman Kit Carson and newspaper articles about murders and scandals that he had plastered on the dugout walls for insulation. She did not attend school until she was 11 but caught up quickly and graduated from high school as valedictorian.

Babb eventually became a journalist for Associated Press and moved to Los Angeles. She was about to begin work at the Los Angeles Times when the stock market crashed in 1929. The writer spent much of the next decade broke and homeless, often sleeping in Lafayette Park.

She eventually found a job as a radio scriptwriter and wrote stories and poems that appeared in literary magazines, including the Prairie Schooner, the Anvil and Southwest Review. Many of her friends were struggling writers, including William Saroyan, John Fante, Carlos Bulosan, John Sanford, Meridel Le Sueur and Ralph Ellison. Babb joined the Communist Party and, like many other left-leaning writers of her generation, sought foreign adventures, visiting the Soviet Union in 1936 and reporting on the Spanish Civil War for the British journal This Week.

In 1938 she returned to California to work as an assistant to Tom Collins, manager of the Farm Security Administration, the federal agency established to help poor farmers during the Depression.

She kept detailed notes on her experiences setting up tent camps and organizing protests among the Dust Bowl refugees who had wound up in the San Joaquin and Imperial valleys. According to Douglas Wixson, an emeritus professor at the University of Texas who is writing Babb's biography, Collins borrowed her notes to share with Steinbeck, who was visiting the camps to gather material for "The Grapes of Wrath." Widely acclaimed when it was published in 1939, it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and was made into an Oscar- winning movie directed by John Ford.

Babb met Steinbeck briefly at a lunch counter but was not sure he ever read her notes. They became the basis for her own novel, which she began writing while working in the camps. She sent the first few chapters to Random House, where they impressed editor and co-founder Bennett Cerf. He paid her way to New York and put her up in a hotel to complete the novel. In a letter to Babb, he pronounced it an "exceptionally fine" work of fiction and planned to publish it — until Steinbeck's book swept bestseller lists.

A beautiful woman who was given a screen test by producer Irving Thalberg, she met Howe, a Chinese American, at the Pickwick bookstore on Hollywood Boulevard before World War II. In an era of rampant bigotry, they were not married until 1948, when the state law banning intermarriage was abolished.

During the 1940s, Babb ran a Chinese restaurant that Howe owned in North Hollywood. In 1950, during the heat of the communist witch hunts, she spent more than a year in Mexico. During her self-imposed exile, she completed "The Lost Traveler," inspired by her complex relationship with her father. Issued in 1958, it was her first published novel.

Her other books include "An Owl on Every Post," a 1970 memoir of her childhood in the Colorado wilderness that William Fadiman, writing in the Los Angeles Times, called "an evocative glimpse of a vanished era"; "Cry of the Tinamou," a 1997 compilation of short stories; and "Told in the Seed," a 1998 collection of poems.

Babb waited 65 years in the shadow of a literary giant for her first completed novel to be published. Upstaged in 1939 by John Steinbeck's bestselling "The Grapes of Wrath," Babb's tale about the travails of a Depression-era farm family was shelved by the venerable Random House, which feared that the market would not support two novels on the same theme. Bitterly disappointed, Babb stuck her manuscript in a drawer, and there it ained until 2004, when it was rescued by the University of Oklahoma Press.

At 97, Babb earned long-overdue praise for the novel, "Whose Names Are Unknown," an acutely observed chronicle of one family's flight from the drought and dust storms of the high plains to the migrant camps of California during the 1930s.

Retired Army Col. Young O. Kim, one of the most celebrated heroes of World War II and the Korean War, who later became Los Angeles' elder statesman and link among Korean, Japanese and other Asian American communities has died.

Kim was a major co-founder of Los Angeles' Japanese American National Museum, Korean American Museum, Korean Health Education Information and Research Center, Korean American Coalition, Korean Youth and Culture Center, and Center for the Pacific Asian Family.

He also led efforts to build the Go for Broke monument in Little Tokyo, completed in 1999, which honors the primarily Japanese American members of World War II's combined 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

Born in Los Angeles in 1919 to immigrant Koreans, Kim grew up on Bunker Hill, where his parents ran a grocery store at Temple and Figueroa streets. He worked in the store as a boy in the 1920s and '30s, an era when Asian groups were not on good terms with one another, particularly Koreans and Japanese because of Japan's occupation of Korea.

Kim became the only Korean American to earn the Distinguished Service Cross during World War II because of his efforts in obtaining intelligence that helped the Allies break through at Anzio Beach and eventually capture Rome on June 26, 1944.

Among his 20+ decorations include two Silver Stars, three Purple Hearts, a French Croix de la Guerre, France's Officer of the National Order of the Legion of Honor and an Italian Cross of Valor.

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