‘Celebration of Life’ for San Francisco Mayor Who Died at 65

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Prominent Democrats including U.S. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Dianne Feinstein are among the scheduled speakers Sunday at a public celebration to remember the life of San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, who died at age 65 last week after collapsing while he was grocery shopping.

Lee, also a Democrat, was San Francisco’s first Asian-American mayor and a former civil rights lawyer who led the city out of recession and into an economic recovery driven by the technology industry.

He died early Tuesday after collapsing Monday night at a grocery store. The medical examiner’s office has not released a cause of death.

Pelosi and Feinstein, both from San Francisco, will eulogize Lee at the celebration in the rotunda of City Hall. Lee’s daughters also plan to address the crowd.

Lee’s casket will not be present, as it was on Friday when his body laid in repose in the rotunda of City Hall.

Local celebrities and on Friday said goodbye to Lee, stopped momentarily before his closed casket that was draped in an American flag and behind velvet rope. Some bowed or prayed, saluted or cried before continuing to a side room where they could write condolences.

Outside the building, floral bouquets and handwritten notes filled half of the steps. One message on a piece of tie-dyed cloth referenced the San Francisco Bay Area-based Grateful Dead and its late guitarist Jerry Garcia.

“RIP. ‘What a long strange trip it’s been.’ P.S. Say hi to Jerry,” it read.

San Francisco resident Calvin Yee said he did not know the mayor but identified with Lee, who was also a second-generation Chinese American. Yess wants his two sons, a college student and college graduate, to emulate Lee’s dedication to public service.

“I want them to know that public service is a valued and important part of our everyday lives, and you can serve others, and that’s how you can, to me, gain true happiness,” Yee said.

Edwin Mah Lee was born May 5, 1952, in Seattle to immigrants from Toisan, a rural village in China’s southern province of Guangdong. His father was a cook, and his mother a seamstress. They raised Lee and his five siblings in public housing.

Lee was city administrator when he was appointed to serve the remainder of former Mayor Gavin Newsom’s term in 2011. He was elected to the position later that year, and he was re-elected in 2015.

Supporters say Lee tackled homelessness and built affordable housing unlike any San Francisco mayor before him.

Critics blamed him for a modern-day San Francisco where jobs are plenty but housing prices are among America’s highest.

But supporters and opponents praised him as a kind, polite man whose corny jokes will be missed.