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Originally published January 29, 2014 at 8:54 PM | Page modified January 31, 2014 at 12:59 PM

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Vera Ing, stalwart activist for Chinatown ID, dies at 73

Vera Ing, a political activist and patron of the arts who was also a leader in the development of Seattle’s Chinatown International District, has died. She was 73.


Seattle Times staff reporter

Vera Ing moved in prominent social circles and made strong, lasting connections with many of the people she met, regardless of their station in life.

She was an urban planner by training and a community activist by choice, who left her mark on projects throughout Seattle’s Chinatown International District.

Mrs. Ing was a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat who once worked for a Republican city councilman and a patron of the arts whose name appears alongside her husband’s above the entrance to the Wing Luke Museum store.

“Vera straddled two worlds — one as a fun-loving socialite when she and her husband stepped out dressed in tux and gown,” said Bob Santos, a longtime friend and civil-rights activist.

“She was also very serious about local civil-rights efforts.”

Mrs. Ing died Jan. 18 from ovarian cancer. She was 73.

Friends and family describe a woman driven by her diverse interests, who dedicated much of her life to improving conditions in Chinatown ID, where she grew up.

“She was a go-getter, a doer, always engaged,” her husband, Joey Ing, said.

In a spare bedroom of their Mount Baker home, he said, his wife left instructions for the services that were to follow her death: The hearse and two limos carrying the family were to drive slowly past her childhood home on Canton Alley in Chinatown ID, before proceeding to another on Jefferson Street where she also had lived.

Mrs. Ing had a flair for organizing events.

Each year during Seafair, she and her husband hosted dozens of people at their Lake Washington home, which Joey Ing describes as being “on the 40-yard-line for the hydroplane races.”

And the couple held fundraisers for politicians and political hopefuls from both sides of the aisle.

Former Gov. Gary Locke, now U.S. ambassador to China, who was a beneficiary of one of those fundraisers, called Mrs. Ing “a convener of people of all different backgrounds and interests.”

“She really cared about the Asian community and preserving the heritage of the Chinese American community,” Locke said from Beijing. “Everywhere you went you could expect to see Vera there, pitching in, helping out, always cheering you on.”

Born in Seattle, Mrs. Ing married in 1960 and got her degree in urban planning from the University of Washington in 1973.

She worked alongside her architect husband on several projects and in the early 1970s, opened a small art gallery in his Pioneer Square building to display the work of local artists.

In the mid-1990s, when she served as president of North Seattle Community College Foundation Board, he was president of the South Seattle Community College Foundation Board.

“I love sports, and Vera followed along with me in everything I was interested in,” Joey Ing said. “We took up skiing at an older age; we took up golf. For the past 30 years, we’ve played volleyball. Everything we did, we did together.”

Jerry Lee, chairman of the Mulvanny G2 Architects, whose firm merged with Ing’s in the 1990s, said Mrs. Ing was like a mother to him when he arrived in Seattle from Philadelphia 40 years ago.

“She had a great heart and was always levelheaded,” Lee said. “For her, it was never about money ... but about doing the right thing.”

She led or served numerous local organizations, including the State Liquor Control Board, the Bumbershoot Advisory Committee and hosted the ceremonies for the American/China exhibit at the world’s fair in Spokane in 1974.

She accompanied state and local officials on several trade missions to Asia, including twice with Locke when he was governor.

Mrs. Ing also served as chairman of the International District Improvement Association (Interlm), a community organization that promotes development in that neighborhood.

Under her leadership in the late 1970s and early 1980s, InterIm helped build the International Community Health Clinic, wrote the charter for the Seattle Chinatown-International District Preservation and Development Authority, built the Danny Woo Community Garden, and saw to the development of low-income housing for seniors.

“Vera loved being in the role of an advocate,” said Santos, who served alongside her. “We took a lot of innovative approaches to preserving the ID. She was quite an effective leader in that sense.”

A celebration of life is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Saturday at North Seattle Community College, 9600 College Way N.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by sons, Joel (Audrey) and Jeffrey, both of Seattle; daughter JaDeane Ing, of Greenwich, Conn; sisters Mari Eng and Helen Mitchell, both of Seattle.

Lornet Turnbull: 206-464-2420 or lturnbull@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @turnbullL.



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