Nemesio Domingo Sr., Activist Who Worked In Filipino Community

Every now and then, a person steps forward and, despite the obstacles confronting them, embraces the challenges of life. For these individuals, who are rare and often misunderstood, even the prospect of death fails to dissuade them from their dreams.

Nemesio D. Domingo Sr., who died last week at the age of 82 from a prolonged heart condition, was such a man, his family said.

Gentle by nature, he was compelled to be valorous out of necessity. As a result, he helped transform Seattle's Filipino community - once a torn, politically stratified group - into one that is among the most respected in the city.

The transformation did not come without a great price.

One of Mr. Domingo's three sons, Silme, along with colleague Gene Viernes, was gunned down here outside a cannery workers' union a decade ago. The two men had been trying, with assistance and support from Nemesio Domingo Sr. and other reform-minded activists, to rid the troubled union of corruption, said family members.

"Silme was very close to him," said Adelina "Ade" Domingo, 62, wife of Nemesio. The couple raised five children.

"Silme was his drinking buddy, his card-playing buddy," she said. "Silme was his son and his friend. When Silme died, it seemed like he lost the light."

But he regained it a short time later and went on to become president of the International Longshoremen's & Warehousemen's Union, Local 37, the union for which his son died.

"He was a really very gentle person," Mrs. Domingo said of her late husband. "But in a sense he was very strong in his own convictions. He believed in the goodness of people. He believed that what his children were doing was right, and he never turned his back on them."

Nemesio Domingo was born in Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur, the Philippines. He came to the United States in 1927 from Vancouver, B.C.

Hard-pressed to find work, he discovered something else he'd never experienced in his homeland: discrimination.

"He was working as a farm laborer in Yakima," his son, Nemesio D. Domingo Jr., said, recounting the story his father shared with the family.

"During the hot nights the workers would sleep in cellars, which were the coolest places to be. One night the cellar he was living in was firebombed by vigilante groups who were trying to chase Filipinos out of Yakima," the son said.

Instead of stirring fear, the experience left Nemesio Domingo with a great resolve to ensure that his family would never have to experience similar indignities, his son said.

"Out of that experience he became determined that his children would go to college and would get the best of whatever he could provide," said Domingo Jr.

At the top of his list was education.

"He was successful to that extent," Domingo Jr. said. "He sent all six (his five children and a relative he cared for like his own) to college. All six of us graduated."

He served in the U.S. Army for 22 years. He was a member of Post No. 6559 of V.F.W., Post No. 40 of the American Legion, Burgos Lodge CDA. No 10, Cannery Workers Union Region No. 37, I.B.U.-I.L.W.U., the Visayan Circle, Sons and Daughters of Santa Maria, and the Bataan-Corregidor survivors.

Besides his wife of 45 years, and Domingo Jr., he is survived by daughters Evangeline Keefe, Cynthia Owens, and Lynn Maynard. Also surviving are a brother, Dr. Estanislao Domingo, and nine grandchildren.

A rosary will be said followed by organization ritual service at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Butterworth-Manning-Ashmore Mortuary. The funeral Mass will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Alphonsus Church.