Overflow crowd pays tribute to Niels Chew
An overflow crowd filled the Sonoma City Council chambers Monday to pay tribute to the late Niels Chew, a former alcalde and long-time community philanthropist and volunteer.
Chew died on Feb. 25. He was 82.
Mayor Ken Brown read a proclamation highlighting Chew’s 40 years of service to the City of Sonoma and its greater community. A proclamation from the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors was read by Pat Gilardi, district director for Supervisor Susan Gorin. Councilmember Tom Rouse followed, reading comments by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, which had been entered into the Congressional Record.
While best known for his service as a member of the Sonoma Valley Unified School District board of trustees and as Sonoma’s “honorary mayor,” Chew was also credited with founding the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance, the School Resource Coordinator program, and “The Shop,” an organization run for and by teens.
He served on the boards of numerous organizations including the Sonoma Valley Hospital Foundation, Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission, Operation Youth, Sonoma Overnight Shelter and the Teen Center. He was also active in Friends In Sonoma Helping (FISH), Vintage House and Sonoma Plaza Kiwanis.
Owner of Dowling Miner Magnets, Chew’s business was named “Business of the Year” in 2003 by the Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce. He sold it in 2004, but maintained an office in a part of a warehouse he owned and offered free storage space to many nonprofits.
In a 2010 interview upon receipt of his “alcalde” honor, Chew said he credited his father with instilling in him the value of serving others. “During the depression, no one in need ever came to our house and left empty-handed. They knew they would be fed if they came to our door.”
As part of the tribute, Brown presented Chew’s official “alcalde” portrait to Susan Chew, his wife of 57 years. The portrait hung in City Hall during that year. Many family members were present for the presentation. The Chews had four children and nine grandchildren.
Susan Chew thanked everyone for gathering to honor her husband.