San Francisco city officials celebrated the life of the late Mayor Ed Lee with a lively ceremony Dec. 12 at City Hall on the one-year anniversary of his death.
Standing at the mayor’s balcony inside City Hall, the same spot where Lee himself delivered countless speeches, Mayor London Breed described Lee as a humble leader.
“That’s the kind of person he was; he didn’t want the credit. He wanted results. He wanted San Francisco to be a better place,” Breed said.
According to Breed, the two bonded over their connection of growing up in public housing and together they worked to improve the conditions for the city’s public housing residents.
“We’ve already rehabilitated thousands of units because he wouldn’t say no. He said yes to opportunity. He said yes to changing the lives of those people who live in those conditions.”
Lee was born in Seattle to Chinese immigrant parents. Before going on to become San Francisco’s first Chinese American mayor, he led several different city departments, including the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, after having worked as an civil rights attorney for the Asian Law Caucus for 13 years.
Lee, 65, died unexpectedly of a heart attack on Dec. 12, 2017.
Several current and former city officials attended this morning’s ceremony.
Former Mayor Willie Brown said, “He was so honest, so well prepared and so unselfish in every way … He was just an amazing human.
“We don’t mourn him, we celebrate his life. And believe me this city would never be what it is without the standard established by Ed Lee,” Brown said.
Lee’s widow Anita Lee, his two daughters Tanya and Brianna Lee, and his mother were also in attendance.
“So many things about this past year have been so difficult for us,” Brianna Lee said. “The pure shock of how suddenly he was gone, adjusting to the many sharp turns, and strength in having such personal pain become so public.
“But at the same time, the outpouring of love and support from family members, friends and the community at large here in San Francisco has been unforgettable,” she said.
In the wake of Lee’s passing, his family has established a donor advised fund with the San Francisco Foundation called the Edwin M. Lee Community Fund. The fund supports nonprofit organizations and social causes he held dear, like safeguarding immigrant rights, increasing affordable housing and protecting the environment, among other initiatives.
Earlier this year, the San Francisco Board of Education voted to rename the Chinese Education Center in Lee’s and his wife’s honor to the Edwin and Anita Lee Newcomer School. The previous week Lee was inducted into the California Hall of Fame.