Farewell to Sarah Fong-Torres Watkins
We said goodbye to Sarah, my sister, on Sunday, the third of November, at Rancho Nicasio in Northern Marin County. The restaurant and club, owned by close friends, was one of her favorite hangouts.
Sarah, the oldest of the Fong-Torres children, died in mid-October. It was cancer; she was 72. She was the third sibling I’ve lost in three years. As the last two of the kids, and with a 92 year-old mother in nursing care, we had a responsibility to take care of family matters. We had a special bond.
But there were other reasons for our connectedness, and I noted some of them in my remarks at the memorial. Sarah was remembered for her humor, her spunk, her candor, and her heart, by best friends Annie Sampson and Ellen Blonder, husband Dave Watkins and son Jason, attorney and friend Ken Coren, and by others who stepped up to the microphone and told stories.
Here, edited for space, are my remarks.
On behalf of the Watkins-Fong-Torres family, welcome to this Celebration of Sarah Watkins.
This is not a memorial service. Sarah would have none of that. She would not want us grieving, although we do. She would want this to be not about her, although it must be.
I can see her off in the distance, smoking a cigarette, tapping her feet. Let’s go, already. And so we will.
It seems like forever that it was the five of us. The five Fong-Torreses. Even after Barry died, too young, in 1972, I thought of us as five kids. Even after Sarah and Shirley married and had different names. We were the Fong-Torres family, five kids bound by one weird name.
Sarah was the first born; the first who’d have to explain that name—the product of an immigration scheme. She’s the one with whom I had the longest time, and whether by circumstance, by genes, or by personalities, we had an especially strong bond.
We were raised in Oakland’s Chinatown and spent a lot of time at the New Eastern Café, in the early to mid-‘50s. We were kept in a...