A standing room only crowd packed into City Hall for the memorial service of late San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee.
An overflow crowd also watched on a live stream in the San Francisco Main Library just a short walk away from city Hall and still more stood outside the steps of city hall and in front of hundreds of flowers left on the city hall steps.
Inside the crowd was gathered at the bottom of the steps with the Rotunda towering above them. An honor guard stood atop the steps before the memorial began.
Across the street from city hall, a giant American flag hung from two aerial ladders provided by the San Francisco Fire Department.
Lee was remembered as a genuine human being with no pretension. He genuinely cared about the people of San Francisco and the underrepresented.
Tania and Brianna Lee, the mayor’s two daughters, spoke on behalf of the family.
Holding back tears, the two thanked all those who have extended their condolences.
They talked about their father as an inspiration.
“Through out everything , his passion for service permeated everything he did.” They recalled their father taking them door knocking, campaigning and to community organizing meetings.
They joined their father during their high school years to paint over graffiti, despite their protest.But he always enticed them with promises of burritos later.
The two announced a charitable fund in their dad’s name at the San Francisco Foundation to continue his fight to end homelessness and other issues important to the city.
Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom followed the daughters. It was Newsom who Lee replaced after Newsom’s election as Lieutenant Governor.
“This wasn’t supposed to happen,” said Newsom about Lee’s death. He described Lee’s charisma as public service. He was “uncool in some ways, but had friends like Willie Mays and Joe Montana.”
“Decent, honorable humble human being who always wanted to do the right thing,” said Newsom about Lee.”Ed’s life was about triumphing together.”
Newsom said cries of “Chinese must go” are part of our distant memory.
“Ed Lee was my friend. Ed Lee cared deeply about everyone in this room,” said Newsom.
Minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) recalled how both she and Rep Jackie Speier (D-California) cried when they learned during their morning Democratic Caucus meeting of Lee’s passing. She recalled the last time she was with Lee.
“He always had that smile. He smiled and gave you that feeling that it would happen,” said Pelosi about Lee’s optimism.
Charlotte Malliard Schultz, the chief of protocol for the city of San Francisco, recalled how Lee described his speeches as “short because he was short.”
Schultz read words from former President Clinton who said he liked Mayor Lee the moment he met him. President Barack Obama said he was grateful for everything he did to “advance our shared vision and shape a future of great prosperity in San Francisco and throughout the nation.”
“Your golden sun will shine for me and Mayor Lee was a golden sun,” wrote Tony Bennett in a letter also read by Schultz. Bennett then sang those famous words from his classic song, I Left my Heart in San Francisco via video.”
Her husband, former Secretary of State George Schultz, described Lee as one the people could trust.
Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, who was among those who convinced Lee to run for Mayor after his interim appointment, also spoke. He talked about how Lee never really wanted to become mayor. “I’m not sure Ed Lee wanted any job except one. He was one of the lawyers who handled the integrating of our fire department.” He joked that he has accepted more credit for Lee’s accomplishments than Lee has himself.
Another former San Francisco mayor also spoke.
“He was incredibly effective in government management with a proud history in civil rights,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Feinstein recalled how Lee met his wife Anita in Hong Kong when Anita tutored Ed in Mandarin.
She also recalled the Ping Yuen rent strike lead by Lee for the Asian Law Caucus and listed a long resume of public service.
“Ed Lee’s 27 years of public service to the city of San Francisco is truly compelling and unique,” she said.
“This community showed a Chinese American could reach the pinnacle of public service,” recalled Feinstein about Lee’s election as the first Asian American Mayor in a major city. “A new generation of Asian Americans now knows an Asian American can hold the highest office in this city.”
“Ed Lee is a very unusual political leader,” said California Governor Jerry Brown. He described Lee’s “infectious smile.” Every call from Lee was always pleasant. He asked for things with a “charm and humanity that was always welcomed.”
“Ed Lee was a real person. He was a person who communicated integrity and a love of love,” said Brown.
Acting Mayor London Breed said Lee meant a lot to the city, meant a lot to the Chinese American community.
Mayor Lee was like Beyonce with a moustache,” recalled Breed about a trip to China she took with Lee.
She thanked the family for sharing him with the city of San Francisco.
“San Francisco has been fighting for its values. Mayor Lee was a guardian against dangerous winds,” referring to the Trump administration. “Our mayor served others before himself. He fought for his city with a quiet dignity.”
Rabbi Beth Singer started off the memorial telling the two daughters and Mayor Lee’s wife Anita that there father truly touched a lot of people.
“Mayor Lee was not looking for more attention from the NRA. He was interested in a safer city and was not seeking attention for himself,” she said. “We will remember him.”
The memorial at City Hall began shortly after 3 p.m. today.
Rev Marc Andrew Andrus wrapped up the service with a prayer.
“Receive him with the arms of your mercy,” he said.
The service ended with the singing of He’s Got the Whole World in his Hands.
Music was provided by the San Francisco Symphony along with the Glide Memorial ensemble and Beach Blanket Babylon’s Misa Malone.
The body of Mayor Lee was not at today’s memorial. A private burial may have already been held or is being planned for later.
Among those who was planning to come was Jeannie Kim, owner of Sam Diner where Lee had his final breakfast, according to ABC7.
“We are going to dedicate this table, we’ll have a little plaque for him,” she said.
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