The late Taylorsville Municipal Judge Michael W. Kwan will lie in state at Taylorsville City Hall on Friday, July 31. Judge Kwan passed away on Tuesday, July 21 with his family by his side. He was 58.
A procession will travel from MacDougall funeral home to Taylorsville City Hall at 1:30pm. Judge Kwan’s body will lie in state from 2:00-4:00 pm. where the public is invited to pay their last respects. As required by Salt Lake County, masks are required and social distancing protocols will be followed.
If you wish, flowers may be sent for his private service at MacDougall Funeral Home on Friday morning, July 31, 2020. Or in lieu of flowers the family suggests a donation to OCA, Asian Pacific Advocates* in memory of Judge Michael Kwan at www.ocanational.org/donate.
Judge Kwan and his family are long-time residents of Taylorsville and have been actively involved in the community on many levels. Judge Kwan presided over the Taylorsville Justice Court for 22 years, since 1998.
In Taylorsville, Judge Kwan started one of the first DUI/Drug Courts in the nation in 1998. This program received the Governor’s Award for reducing drug and alcohol abuse and related crimes in 2008. Judge Kwan received a law degree from Whittier College School of Law and was certified in Chinese law by the East China University of Politics and Law in 1993. He served as a pro temper judge in Third District Court from 1996 through 1998. He received the Utah Judicial Council’s Quality of Justice Award in 2001.
Judge Kwan taught judicial education courses across the country for the Utah Judicial Institute, American Bar Association and National Drug Court Institute focusing on traffic, evidence, Constitutional law, and criminal procedure and law.
Judge Kwan was the founder of the OCA-Utah Chapter, a past OCA National President, and a mentor and leader to countless community members. He is survived by his wife, daughter, son, and sister, Utah Representative Karen Kwan.
The Kwan family release this statement -“The Kwan family is deeply saddened by the terrible and shocking news that Michael, our son, brother, father, husband, uncle, cousin, friend and dog grandfather has passed away and left us far too soon. We are grateful for the support offered by so many and ask that you give our family some time as we sort through details surrounding his sudden passing.”
Judge Kwan was also a volunteer advisor to many other OCA chapters, as well as the OCA National Executive Council. He turned OCA National Conventions into family trips and, as an OCA Building Committee Advisor, even brought his daughter to the official opening of the OCA National Center Office, calling it “a historic moment.” Judge Kwan was a visionary for OCA, advocating for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, but also selflessly committing himself to supporting and uplifting the voices of other communities of color.
In 2019, as the president of the Chinese Railroad Workers Descendants Association, Judge Kwan, himself a descendant, spearheaded the recognition and celebration of Chinese American railroad workers for the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. Judge Kwan and Max Chang brought Jason Ma’s original musical, Gold Mountain, which centers around the lives of Chinese Railroad workers in the Sierra Nevada circa 1867, as semi-staged concert presentations in Salt Lake City and Ogden as part of the Spike 150 celebrations.
I was fortunate enough to spend the week as the archival photographer for Jason Ma’s Gold Mountain and his company of Asian American actors.
Max Chang writes, “Without Michael, Gold Mountain during Spike 150 could not have happened and it’s only the beginning of Gold Mountain. I lost my friend, mentor, co-executive producer and above all my brother Michael Kwan, today. The sadness is inexplicable. While I’ve only known him for less than three years, the work we did together to ensure his ancestors were properly honored at the 150th Anniversary of the golden spike was so remarkably life changing. I love you so much, Michael. I had so much more to learn from you.”.
Photo Flash: Ali Ewoldt, Ann Harada, David Henry Hwang And More Celebrate Jason Ma’s GOLD MOUNTAIN In Salt Lake City
america.cgtn.com: New US musical chronicles early Chinese railroad workers
“Mike Kwan was an extraordinarily steady and strong voice of reason and equality both for OCA and the communities around him,” said Sharon M. Wong, OCA National President. “His lifelong dedication to justice can be seen through his career as well as his community work advocating for the equal representation of AAPIs and minorities in history and culture. Mike was a reliable leader and many sought his wisdom. As we grieve the loss of our dear friend, we must honor his legacy through the work that we do.”
“Michael Kwan was a man of utmost integrity,” said Leslie Moe-Kaiser, past OCA National President 2016. “He was a leader replete with courage and compassion, and possessing a fine elegant mind. I will deeply miss him as a mentor and friend.”
“Michael Kwan was always a thoughtful leader with great ideas,” said Ken Lee, OCA National CEO and past OCA National President 2009-2013. “Dedicated to keeping OCA accountable in being inclusive, he was constantly reaching out to communities in the Pacific Islands and even visited them during his term as OCA president. He was an advisor to me and, most importantly, a great friend. We will dearly miss him.”
“Judge Mike Kwan was truly a leader among leaders,” said Ginny Gong, past OCA National President 1993, 1994, 2005-2008. “His temperament, his words, his humor, and his commitment to justice distinguished him from all others. He was a staunch advocate for OCA’s mission and the Asian Pacific American community’s causes. He will surely be missed.”
“It is so hard to comprehend the passing of such a close friend and so suddenly,” said Michael Lin, past OCA National President 1995-1998. “Through OCA, we had worked closely for at least 10 years. Michael was such a gentleman and always had the most thoughtful advice for us. We will miss him a great deal and our deepest sympathy to his family.”
“Judge Mike Kwan was a noble soul. He dedicated himself to public service, both as a judge and as a community advocate,” said Claudine Cheng, past OCA National President 1991-1992. “Among his many legacies was the historic celebration of the 150th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad in Utah last year where, for the first time in history, the contribution of Chinese American railroad workers was properly acknowledged. Judge Kwan was instrumental in coordinating that monumental event. For that and many other of his community contributions, and for his friendship, we will forever be grateful.”
“Equality, equal justice, American History, Asian Americans AND Pacific Islanders, and OCA are all synonymous with The Honorable Michael Kwan.” said Daphne Kwok, past OCA National Executive Director. “OCA is so grateful to have had Judge Kwan as an OCA member, as President of the OCA Utah Chapter, and as an OCA National President. He gave 888% of his energy and commitment to bringing all AAPIs ‘to the table.’ I’ll remember him from last year’s historic 150th anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad commemoration which he led making sure that Chinese Americans were not left out 150 years later. The OCA family has lost one of our OCA giants.”
sltrib.com: Utah justice court judge known for advocating for Asian American has died
Deseret.com: Utah municipal judge who criticized Trump, championed Asian Americans dead at 58
kutv.com: Utah judge who started one of nation’s first DUI/drug courts, dies ‘suddenly’
nbcnews.com: 150 years ago, Chinese railroad workers risked their lives in pursuit of the American dream
Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman. She stars in and served as Executive Producer for the short independent films Hide and Seek, Balancing Act, Rom-Com Gone Wrong, Belongingness and When the World was Young. She is also the Executive Producer for The Cactus, The Language Lesson, The Writer and Cream and 2 Shugahs. The Lia Chang theater portfolio collection,1989-2011, is in the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) collection located in the Library of Congress’ Asian Reading Room and can be accessed here.
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