SAN FRANCISCO—Longtime political activist for San Francisco’s Chinatown, Rose Pak, died on Sunday, September 18,

Pak, 68, died of natural causes in her home, according to a spokesperson for the family. She returned to the Bay Area in May after spending months in China to receive and recover from a kidney transplant.

“We are all in a state of shock and profoundly sad at this moment,” said Gordon Chin, a founder and former director of Chinese Community Development Center in a statement on behalf of Pak’s family and close friends.

Ms. Pak received a warm welcome upon her return to the states – where she was greeted at the airport by a cheering crowd of 300 plus individuals including California’s Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and San Francisco’s Mayor Edwin M. Lee, the NY Times reported.

While Pak rejected the identifier of “power broker,” she was a widely feared figure in Bay Area politics for her fervor and outspokenness. She is recognized for her advocacy on behalf of Chinese-Americans and rising to power during an era when men held most of the political clout.

“If I was white, they’d call me a civic leader,” she would rasp, with absolutely no sign she was joking, the SFGate wrote in Pak’s obituary.

Pak was born in Hunan, China in the late 1940s and moved to the Bay Area in 1967. She fully integrated herself into the Chinatown community and became a significant proponent for the neighborhood’s well-being.

She never held an elective office or sat on a city commission, but helped change the political face of San Francisco. As the city’s Asian American population exploded, she worked to involve her community more directly in politics.

“Rose and I have been friends for more than 40 years, and I am among a great many people whose lives were touched in a profound, positive way by this extraordinary woman,” said Mayor Lee in a statement. “This is a great loss to the City as a whole and the Chinese community in particular – a community that Rose served, supported and fought for, often fiercely, her entire adult life,” he added.