‘Uncle’ Bob Santos speaks at a book reading in the CID on June 16, 2015. • Photo by Maria Batayola
‘Uncle’ Bob Santos speaks at a book reading in the CID on June 16, 2015. • Photo by Maria Batayola

The International Examiner asked the community to share their memories of “Uncle” Bob Santos. What follows are some of the responses. Please visit iexaminer.org and see future issues of the IE for more memories. And please continue to share your memories of Uncle Bob by emailing [email protected].

Theresa Fujiwara:

It is hard to find the right story to share about Bob Santos. He was such a big part of my life—professionally and personally for the last 50 years. I think he cherished the “Gang of Four” exchange trip to Japan as a unique and memorable experience so I will share a little about the trip.

In March of 1992, I was able to spend a week in Japan with Bob and his other gang of four—Larry Gossett, Roberto Maestas and Bernie Whitebear. We were there to share their community building experience as leaders of color in the U.S. with Japanese government and business officials. Our hope was to build a better understanding of the race and social justice movement in America.

During the day, Bob was a serious diplomat—presenting information on the Asian American movement and the struggle to preserve the International District—in Tokyo, Kyoto and Kobe. At night, he was “Uncle” Bob to everyone in the karaoke bars.

I was able to witness Bob use his people-to-people charm in an international setting just as effectively as here at home. I also watched as he deepened his lifelong bond with his Gang of Four brothers.

Sue Taoka:

Of the many stories I have of Bob, my favorite is how we first met. As a student at the University of Colorado, I was is was sent to the White House Conference on Aging in Washington DC as a youth delegate. Bob saw a country kid awed by the chandelier in the hotel lobby. He then came up to me and said, “You must be Sue Taoka, you’re coming with us, sister.” Bob (or the Silver Fox as he was known then) and Jim Miyano each took an elbow and lifted me off my peddling feet and took me to the API Caucus meeting. Bob made sure I had someone to have dinner with each evening (I was too young to drink) and made sure I was okay. After returning to Colorado, Bob would write and let me know about the activism in Seattle and I would tell him about the organizing we were doing in Denver. He ended each letter with, “Come to Seattle and I’ll give you a job.” I did and he did! I am indebted to that man for so much! (He even introduced me to Dicky, but that’s another story).


Elaine Ikoma Ko:

I have hundreds of memories and stories of Bob as I worked along side with him for four decades. Even right before his untimely death, we had plans to reprint his Hum Bows, Not Hot Dogs book.

Some of my best memories are working with Uncle Bob in the ’70s in the old Inter*Im offices in the old bank building on the corner of Jackson and Maynard. Because we were in a storefront, all the “manongs” and elderly Chinese residents would be hanging out with us staff and the young activists would stream in to the office all day long. Looking back, working in the office everyday was like a “party” with Bob the “life of it,” of course.

It seemed like staffer Dan Rounds would always be the only one working and every once in a while, he’d look up from his desk in the corner and join in the laughs. Actually everyone worked hard and partied hard, too.

I do remember the serious moments. About once every week, Bob would slam the phone down on someone as he was cussing. It was his way of getting things done, and it worked. We do have a real neighborhood and community as a result!

Uncle Bob, thank you for being my best friend forever.

Estela Ortega:

Our beloved Bob Santos is one of those people who figured how to live his life fully with passion and love. Maybe this is why Roberto always called Bob by his last name in English, “Bobby Saintly.” Bob always ensured that El Centro was connected to struggles and events in the Asian Community. We were with there helping protest the construction of the Kingdome, we were at memorials, fundraisers, the skits with the Four Amigos at the Northwest Asian Theatre, the get together’s at Bob and Sharon’s home on New Year’s Day to the yearly pig roasts and so many other times supporting each other and most importantly creating relationships and friendships for a lifetime.

El Centro de la Raza was given the honor to open up a childcare center at Hirabayashi Place; Bob, Roberto, Bernie, and Larry will forever be remembered at Hirabayashi Place as each of the classrooms is named after one of the Four Amigos.

Bobby Saintly es un ejamplo (is an example) to our children on how we are to live our lives with justice and beauty in this world of ours. VIVA Bob Santos, PRESENTE!!”

Larry Gossett:

Bob Santos was a pivotal figure in the life of people of King County. The strong and vibrant International District will be “Uncle Bob’s” living legacy for the people of this region—it was his home, and he protected that neighborhood and the rich history of the people of all races who lived in that community every day of his life.

Personally, I’ve lost a dear friend and ally who worked on empowering communities of color throughout our region and nationally. I was immensely proud of Bob being one of my ‘Amigos’ and with Roberto Maestas and Bernie Whitebear, we spoke, marched and, at times, went to jail to ensure that our communities received the opportunities that had been denied them for too long. My deep condolences to his wife Sharon, his six children and his grand and great–grandchildren. He will be deeply missed.

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