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SF to plant ginkgo biloba tree in honor of Rose Pak in St. Mary’s Park

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Rose Pak stands greets supporters during an event celebrating her arrival from China at San Francisco International Airport Monday, May 23, 2016. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)
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San Francisco will plant its “signature tree” in honor of Rose Pak at St. Mary’s Park, and though her name was Rose, it won’t be roses planted in her honor, but a ginkgo biloba tree.

“The historic species awes with beautiful fan-shaped leaves that turn a stunning yellow color in autumn,” San Francisco Public Works officials wrote in a statement. “Like Pak, the species is a native of China.”

The tree will be planted Thursday in celebration of Arbor Day. Pak died in September 2016, and has since been suggested as the namesake for the still-under construction Central Subway in Chinatown, as well.

Public Works and the Recreation and Park Department announced the decision in a statement Wednesday.

Mayor Ed Lee said in a statement, “Her beloved home,” Chinatown, “is a better place because of her, and this tree will be a beautiful reminder of the special impact she left on the community.”

Supervisor Aaron Peskin said in a statement, “If Rose Pak had a memoir, it should be called ‘A Ginkgo Tree Grows In Chinatown.’ The fact that the Ginkgo tree is one of the world’s oldest living tree species is a testament to its hard-scrabble endurance – just like Rose.”

Pak’s long-time protege David Ho told the San Francisco Examiner that the the new extension of St. Mary’s Park rooftop was actually the site of the Kong Chow Temple,  the former oldest Chinese temple in North America. 

“I know she will be especially proud to know we are reclaiming back a part of our Chinese American history,” Ho said.
Although Ho said Pak would certainly enjoy the honor, in life she preferred Portsmouth Square over other San Francisco parks.

“I remember her telling me a story about how she convinced the then retiring gardener at Portsmouth Square Park to plant rosemary since she likes the fragrance,” he said. But soon, he said, “old Italian nuns and ladies” started coming over to pick the rosemary.

He added, by text message, “Ms. Pak was proud, given her childhood Catholic schooling!”

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