Lina Fat left Sacramento a better place

Jeff vonKaenel

I do not know if there is a way to measure the force of nature, but it decreased last week when Lina Fat left us, after 81 years on the planet.

Born in Hong Kong in 1938, she moved to the United States to attend a liberal arts college in Nashville. Later she moved west to attend the UC San Francisco School of Pharmacy. After moving to Sacramento, she met her future husband, Ken Fat, son of the famous Frank Fat. Frank Fat’s was the Chinese restaurant and bar a few blocks from the state Capitol where many political deals have been made over the last 80 years. All of us living in the Golden State have been impacted by words written on the napkins of Frank Fat’s.

For a few years, Lina worked in her husband Ken’s dental practice. Then for several years, she focused on her family and her three children. In 1974, when the Fat family started to develop their restaurant empire, Lina went into the family business, working at their original restaurant in Old Sacramento, then called China Camp. The Fat family now has two other restaurants in Roseville and Folsom.

I got to know Lina Fat in 2007 when she was putting together the Sacramento World Music and Dance Festival. The festival had a few famous international artists plus numerous local music and dance groups performing over several days.

I was thrilled that she was putting together this event because I believe we have so much undiscovered musical and artistic talent in Sacramento. Since moving to Sacramento in 1989 to launch SN&R, I have tried to find ways that the paper could help support the arts community, including starting the Sacramento Area Music Awards and the Downtown Friday Night Concerts in the Park, helping to start Second Saturday and organizing the JAMMIES, which was a music awards show for high school students.

SN&R’s event that was most like Lina’s was our Call for Unity. The annual event started on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks and featured interfaith music performances by different Sacramento religious groups. Many of those groups would be natural candidates for Lina’s festival.

So naturally I told Lina that I wanted to help. We met for lunch at her Old Sacramento restaurant and I soon agreed to sit on the board of the Sacramento World Music and Dance Festival. Here I got to know Lina, whom I came to love and admire.

Music festivals, especially those involving amateur groups, have a lot of moving parts: Different sound requirements for each performer, marketing challenges, weather problems, artists’ egos—the challenges go on and on.

Lina was not a festival promoter. But she was a force of nature. Her effort, her passion and her ability to persuade people to get involved were a joy to see and experience. What she lacked in festival knowledge, she made up in enthusiasm and persuasion. Many hands make for easy lifting, and Lina always made sure that we had many hands.

The World Music and Dance Festivals were cool. They put the spotlight on dozens of artistic and musical groups. They made Sacramento a better place, as did Lina. She will be missed.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.