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Published on February 23, 2024
Seattle's 'Batman' Donnie Chin and Pediatric Advocate Dr. Abe Bergman Awarded Washington's Highest Civilian Honors PosthumouslySource: Facebook/Governor Jay Inslee

Two late local legends, Donnie Chin and Dr. Abe Bergman, were posthumously honored with Washington state's highest civilian accolades Wednesday, the Medal of Valor and the Medal of Merit, respectively, marking the first instance these honors were awarded since 2015.

Chin, dubbed "the closest thing we have to Batman in the state of Washington" by Gov. Jay Inslee, founded the International District Emergency Center back in 1968 when he was just a teen. A volunteer organization, the ID Emergency Center became a beacon of hope and safety in Seattle’s Chinatown, Little Japantown, and Little Saigon neighborhoods, with Chin himself often outpacing first responders to emergencies. Tragically, his life was cut short in 2015 at age 59, killed in a shooting while responding to reports of gunfire—a case that frustratingly remains unsolved, as reported by KING5.

During the ceremony, Chin's contributions were summed up by his sister, Constance Chin Magorty, who said, "He saved hundreds of lives. He was a hero but not for how he died, but for how he lived," according to News From the States.

Alongside Chin, Dr. Bergman's lifetime dedication to pediatrics and advocacy was celebrated with the Medal of Merit. Passing away last November at the age of 91, Bergman is revered as a pillar in the medical community, known for his efforts to improve children's safety and health policies. He played an instrumental role in rallying for federal laws in the '60s and '70s, including legislation mandating flame-retardant children's sleepwear and child-resistant medication packaging. As The Columbian put it, Bergman helped shepherd a 1974 law that placed the oversight of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome research under the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Washington state Supreme Court Chief Justice Steven Gonzalez spoke of Chin's unshakable commitment to his community, providing an alternative to traditional first responders for residents who may be wary due to cultural or language barriers. "He was the kind of neighbor that we hope to be," Gonzales remarked. Meanwhile, Bergman's reputation extended far beyond his medical expertise, as he became a key figure in influencing policy—a feat aided by his straightforward approach, as his son Matthew Bergman put it, by presenting issues to political leaders in "very stark, unemotional, empirical terms," as gleaned from a News From the States interview.

As Gov. Inslee aptly proclaimed, "This is the highest honor the state of Washington can bestow," reminding onlookers of the profound impact two individuals can have on a nation.