FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 2, 2008
MAYOR BLOOMBERG SPEAKS AT FUNERAL SERVICE FOR HENRY CHANG
The following is the text of Mayor Bloomberg's eulogy as prepared. Please check against delivery.
"Mrs. Chang, John, Shiu Yuen, Quin Yuen, Robert, friends and family, Commissioner Hirst, members of DCAS, on behalf of every New Yorker, I offer you my deepest sympathies.
"All across town, in front of schools, hospitals, and government buildings, the City flags have been lowered to half staff. It's our way of showing our sadness - and also our deep respect - when we lose someone who dies while serving this great city. Nearly every time, the flags are lowered because a firefighter or police officer has been killed in the line of duty. But Henry Chang's passing reminds us that the City's greatest champions don't always wear a uniform, and they hardly ever grace the front pages.
"Many City workers toil away, out of sight, without fuss or fanfare, keeping the buildings we spend so much of our lives in safe and clean, and sometimes that work can be very dangerous. These men and women rarely get the credit they deserve. But the indisputable truth is, New York wouldn't be what it is without people like Henry Chang.
"Although I never got the chance to meet Henry, from everything I've heard, he was a true gentleman who lived out the classic New York story. He grew up poor in Taiwan - so poor, in fact, that his grandmother had to send him to an orphanage for a few years. When he was old enough, he joined the Chinese merchant marine to make some money and travel the world. He learned a lot while working in the boiler rooms of those massive cargo ships as they sailed the China Sea. He learned to solve the toughest problems. He learned to come up with ingenious fixes when he didn't have the right parts. (As he said, 'What else can you do? You're in the middle of the ocean!') And he learned something else which stuck with him for his whole life: When they bring out the food family-style, you better dig in quickly if you want to eat!
"For most of the past decade, the Supreme Court building in Long Island City was his home away from home. He worked the day shift, which meant that he was the first one in the building every morning, before the sun rose. And it was his job to make sure that no matter what had happened the night before, the building was up and running by the time the judges and lawyers arrived just a couple of hours later. He would sometimes come in on his days off just to make sure the heat was working.
"Henry had a passion for details, and was always happy to pass his knowledge on to others. He respected his work and the people he worked with. And that respect was returned. One of his supervisors has never gotten over the fact that when Henry received permission to transfer to work closer to home, he was the only person who ever wrote a thank you note. It was something so simple, but so classy.
"There's a saying in the Department that if you do the job right, no one will know you are even there. Henry did do the job right, but I think it's a true testament to his character that everyone in the building knew who he was and is deeply troubled by his passing. In fact, over the past week, a makeshift memorial of candles and flowers has grown outside the entrance to the boiler room.
"As devoted as Henry was to his job, his greatest passion was his family. Nothing was more important. Xiu Qin, his beautiful ballerina from Shanghai, who danced into his life over two decades ago; and his son, John - sharp, strong-minded - with the same knack for details and problem-solving that his father had. Henry immediately saw that talent in John, and was already drilling him on his multiplication tables before he even got to kindergarten.
"John, I know your father was so proud of everything you've achieved. His greatest goal was to see you through high school and into a good college, and you are at one of the best at Duke University. Even though he wasn't able to pick you up this week in North Carolina as planned, you can be sure he is watching over you now - and forever - happy for everything you will accomplish.
"We will always keep Henry in our memory.
"We will be grateful for the lives he touched, and there were many.
"Henry, rest in peace."
Stu Loeser (212) 788-2958