Arnold Y.K. Chin
November 15, 1947 – June 12, 2021
Arnold “YK” Chin November 15th, 1947 - June 12, 2021
Arnold Chin, made his final departure on June 12, 2021, after a life well-lived – experiencing a romance and love story made for a Hallmark movie, making his parents proud with a storied legal career, doting over his children, grandchildren and extended family of nieces and nephews, and touching the lives of countless individuals, families and community organizations. To top it all off, in retirement, Arnold lived an adventurous lifestyle that took him to far-flung destinations around the globe – from Cambodia, to Vietnam, the Philippines, Tibet, Hong Kong, and China. His extensive traveling led him to be a proud card-carrying member of United’s Million Mile Club and a huge fan of Polaris. Arnold would regularly tell his family – “You’ve got to live every day like it was your last”, and he did just that.
“Made in China”, Born in America
The son of Chin Sun Gway who was born in Macau, China and Chew Show Har from Nam Shan village in southern China, Arnold was conceived in Macau. His mother boarded the USS President Cleveland five months pregnant with Arnold as she began her journey to the U.S. In true form, Gway Chin worked in the pantry of the ship while his pregnant wife and two sons, Winston and Eddie, were housed on the main deck. Gway would cook Chinese food for his wife and sons whenever he could and bring it to them. As the family sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge, Gway took his pregnant wife, Show Har, and his two sons up to the deck to make sure they would always remember the moment they had arrived in the United States, first seen the Golden Mountain, and began our family’s American Dream. Our father would often joke that he was “Made in China”, but born in America.
A few months after arrival, accompanied by great joy and celebration, Arnold was born on November 15th, 1947, at Chinese Hospital. Gway Chin and Show Har now had an American-born son. Red egg and ginger were distributed to their friends and family in Chinatown. Arnold was born in the year of the pig, the last sign of the Chinese zodiac that represents wealth, prosperity and good luck.
Early years in Chinatown and Northbeach
Growing up in and around Chinatown, Arnold came from humble beginnings. The Chin family’s first home was a single room occupancy on Stockton and Jackson Street. Later the family would save enough money to move to a small apartment on 4 Windsor Place in North Beach. These early years were a fun time for the young Chin siblings: Eddie, Arnold, Raymond and Melanie. They would explore Chinatown and North Beach looking for an alley to play with neighborhood kids. They’d run the streets of San Francisco – getting inventive, they would use soaped-up plywood boards to sled down the neighborhood streets. Their daily adventures consisted of picking up stray cats, climbing trees and exploring the unfinished apartment buildings being constructed in the rapidly developing area. Arnold learned his strong work ethic from his parents. Gway was a merchant marine, meaning he would often be away at sea for months at a time while Show Har worked as a seamstress in Chinatown. Without daycare, she’d often bring Arnold to work with her and tie him to the sewing machine. One time she left him home alone and he was playing with matches and throwing the matches out the window - accidentally lighting the curtains on fire. Luckily his mom came home in time, pulled down the curtains and doused the fire.
Education was an important value in the Chin Family - Arnold attended Washington Irving Elementary, Francisco Middle School and Galileo High School in San Francisco. His parents also sent Arnold and his siblings to Chinese school to learn the rich language, culture and values. Arnold would continue his Chinese lessons as he got older, teaching himself Chinese by watching CCTV. Later, Arnold would go on to earn his BA and law degrees from City College of San Francisco and Lincoln University Law School.
Living the American Dream
Arnold participated in many social activities at Cameron House, which is where he would meet the love of his life, Nanci Elizabeth Ow from Yuba City. In 1968, Arnold was drafted into the US Army and served his tour in Hawaii as a military policeman. The next year he would ask Tommy Ow for Nanci’s hand in marriage. Arnold promised his future father-in-law that he would “take good care” of his daughter. The two lovebirds would go on to have a son, Ryan Craig, born on February 26th, 1971 and a daughter, Lisa Starr, born on February 15th, 1975.
A devoted family man, Arnold prided himself in attending his children’s events, coaching Cub Scout softball, attending dance recitals and even being the Boy scout troop leader for Forest Hills Troop 88. He instilled a love of travel in his family taking them on family vacations to Lake Tahoe, Mexico, China, Hawaii, Paris, London, Thailand, among other places. Arnold was also a dog lover, with a particular fondness for Doberman Pinschers. But this never stopped him from picking up and carrying for stray dogs he would find on the streets of San Francisco who needed a loving home. A little known fact, Arnold and Nanci kept horses at the stables behind San Francisco’s Cow Palace. They rode their horses in the hills of San Bruno, and often took their kids to the rodeos at the Cow Palace. Arnold loved cars – from classics to sports cars and he aspired to own a Porsche – he would eventually purchase his dream car, cruising around the Bay Area in his light blue 911 Targa with the top down.
Arnold worked for the US Postal Service for 18 years while simultaneously completing his B.A. and law degrees, all the while, raising his young family. Arnold started a growing law practice called Chin and Hitchcock which supported newly immigrated families as they transitioned to the United States. The practice also assisted many Asian-owned businesses. He ran the firm from 1980 to 2003. An entrepreneur at heart, many may not know that he and his brother Raymond were also San Francisco restaurateurs running Sunset Pier Steak and Seafood, a popular, local seafood destination on Taraval. Later in life he would acquire a golf distribution company in South San Francisco, that his son Ryan would run as president.
Ever ambitious, Arnold was also a long-time community activist, looking to drive local municipal reform and advocating for a bevy of social causes – Arnold was the very picture of the San Francisco liberal. Arnold also served as president of Yeong Wo Benevolent Association better known as the “Chinese Six Companies”, Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Commissioner of the San Francisco Board of Appeals, the Asian Art Museum and the Department of Parking and Traffic.
Arnold was deeply committed to his Chinese roots and giving back to the community that offered him and his siblings the opportunity to realize their American dream. He spent many years working as a community leader, running San Francisco's Chinatown parade and street fair. He organized volunteer and pro-bono legal activities – bringing bi-lingual nurses and doctors from China to SF’s Chinese Hospital on work visas. Out of a love for his own parents, who sacrificed so much for his family, Arnold was steadfast in his hopes to care for the seniors and elder population in Chinatown through his service at On Lok. Later, he would spend his time planning trips for San Francisco high schoolers to attend the Dragon Boat Festival in Macau as a way of extending the rich cultural experience to Chinese American youth. The foundation of these countless contributions was Arnold’s deep commitment to helping the Chinese community’s youth and elderly populations, breaking down social, cultural and racial barriers and carrying on tradition. Of late, he was troubled about the recent increase in racist actions and views against Asian Americans and spoke often about the revitalization of San Francisco’s Chinatown.
For those who knew Arnold, they knew that he was one of a kind. He had a dry, sarcastic sense of humor, always attempting to make those around him laugh. Arnold was punctual to a fault, always arriving on time and then promptly rushing off to his next commitment and responsibility. Hand in hand with that, Arnold was always to the point, never mincing words. As Nanci would say, “Arnold has no filter”, always speaking his mind, caring little about what others thought and always speaking his truth. His candor earned him the trust and confidence of so many family members who sought help and guidance from him. Whether folks could take Arnold’s harsh truths and tough love, his hard exterior also came with a soft side that was all love, generosity, help and support when it really boiled down to it. Arnold was a kind, caring spirit that was always one to help in the end – but only after someone demonstrated that they were willing to help themselves. Arnold always offered wisdom that will be sorely missed.
Arnold’s inner circle also knew that he picked up many of his parent’s cooking skills. He had a wicked knack for whipping up something delicious out of whatever was in the fridge. Among the family, he was most famous for his turkey jook which he would promptly make following Thanksgiving dinner. But other favorite recipes include beef and barley soup, winter melon soup, bird’s nest soup, artichoke chicken, mustard green chow fun, and beef stew. For Arnold, cooking fed his soul and nourished his family.
Family Always Came First
Arnold leaves behind his son, Ryan, and his wife Anna, his daughter Lisa and her husband Victor and their families, as well as his beloved Lhasa Apso, Jakie whom he dutifully walked morning, noon and night. Among the breadth of his accomplishments, the title he relished in most, was his role as a grandfather two four grandsons, Ryan Jr. (18), Pharaoh (15),Daedalus (12) and Grayson (7), – and he reminded us regularly that it was never too late to give him a granddaughter. Most recently, Arnold took great pride in Ryan Jr graduating from highschool and getting accepted into Northeastern University in Boston. He called Pharaoh, “Bub”, and was waiting for the day Pharaoh would grow past him in height. Arnold patiently taught Daedalus how to make his favorite peach and apple pies and loved sitting with Grayson when he’d visit daily to sit together and play “Candy Crush” and “Toy Blast”. Arnold was also beloved by the Chin/Chan and Ow families whom he was a trusted brother/brother in law, uncle, and cousin to so many. He is survived by his brothers Winston, Eddie and Raymond and sister Melanie.
Gone too soon, Arnold leaves behind a legacy of culture, traditions, recipes, memories and antics that will live on forever. He uplifted those around him through his generosity and deep desire to be a force for good.
Celebrating Arnold’s Life & Legacy • If you would like to send a card or condolences to the family, you can send them to: 2260 Palou Street, San Francisco, CA 94124 (no flowers at this time, please) • The family would love to see your memories of Arnold, you can upload pictures, share stories, and video memories of Arnold here. • Memorial funds in Arnold's name are being set up for Chinese Hospital and OnLok Senior Services - two organizations that were close to his heart: Chinese Hospital: Checks can be made payable to Chinese Hospital, Memo: Donation in Memory of Arnold Chin and sent to: Chinese Hospital Fund Development 845 Jackson Street San Francisco, CA 94133 or via credit card on their online web portal, you may manually enter an amount and write in the note In Memory of Arnold Chin. OnLok: • Gifts should be made payable to On Lok and indicate they are in memory of Arnold Chin in the memo line or in a cover note. Checks may be mailed to: On Lok, Attn: Zack Macdonald, Director of Development, 1333 Bush Street, San Francisco, CA 94109 • Gifts can also be made online by check at https://onlok.org/support-us/donate/ Again, there is a space on the form to indicate the gift is in memory of Mr. Chin. • A Memorial/celebration of life service for Arnold will be held on July 18 in San Francisco at Portsmouth Square @ 12:00 PM
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
Arnold Y.K. Chin
June 26, 2021
We were truly blessed to have known Arnold. He was so full of life and enthusiasm.
He will be deeply missed by his Waikiki Banyan Ohana.
Our love and prayers for his family.
June 19, 2021
I’ve known Arnold because of the great work he did for the Dragon boat community, He was the one responsible for getting some of our high school teams to visit China (most of the high schoolers where their first time traveling overseas).
He was able to get representation of our CDBA youth teams to participate in the competitive races in Macau. He will truly be missed. Sincere condolences to his family.
SF Dragon Boat Festival Director
June 18, 2021
We are truly saddened to hear of Arnold's passing. Please accept our condolences at this time.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Arnold's family.
AOAO Waikiki Banyan Board of Directors & Administration Team
June 16, 2021
We are so sorry for your families lost, it was a shock for us, our sincere condolences. Enjoyed working with Arnold.
Waikiki Banyan previous Board Members