Emma Mar

Emma Wong Mar September 7, 1926 — September 16, 2015

Emma Wong Mar passed away in her home in Oakland, California after a brief illness, shortly after her 89th birthday.

Emma was an outspoken political activist and socialist for most of her adult life. She remained interested and engaged in politics and current affairs up until the end of her life. She was also a long-time listener-supporter of KALW and “Folk Music & Beyond.” She was one of our most loyal fans and critics. (When she heard something she didn’t like, she had no shyness about letting us know.)

Emma was born to Chinese immigrant parents in New York City on September 7, 1926. Her parents worked hard and struggled to support Emma and her six sisters during the Great Depression. Emma graduated from Hunter College in New York and spent several years working as a medical technologist at Sutter Hospital in Sacramento and Planned Parenthood in Oakland. She married my father, Henry Y. Mar, in 1952 and had two children, me (JoAnn) and my brother Craig.

Emma was an early opponent of the Vietnam War and could be seen carrying picket signs at countless protest demonstrations in the early 60s. She later joined the Peace and Freedom Party and ran as its vice-presidential candidate in 1984 with feminist activist Sonia Johnson heading the ticket. Emma continued her anti-war and pro-labor activism well into the late 90s and mid-2000s. In 2001, Emma was honored with a “Union Heroine” award by the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees union fighting on behalf of low-wage workers in Berkeley. (She was 75 years old at that time!)

Emma was warm-hearted and generous in spirit and a very open and compassionate person. She was outgoing and made friends easily. She was beloved by her immediate family and will be very much missed. There will be a celebration of her life at the Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland. This is a private service for friends and family.

Friend and activist singer-songwriter Si Kahn has offered this poem in tribute to Emma:

Here is the playlist for JoAnn’s tribute program.

You may share memories or learn more on this Chapel of the Chimes obituary page.