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Jack Chow, staple of Vancouver's Chinatown, laid to rest at 90

Last Updated Feb 28, 2021 at 9:46 am PDT

(CityNews photo)

Jack's son says his dad loved the building and the community in which it stands

The building that houses the family's insurance business is world-famous because it is extremely narrow

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — A fixture in Vancouver’s Chinatown for 50 years, Jack Chow passed away earlier this month at 90, and was laid to rest Saturday.

All four of his children work in the insurance business he established, housed in a commercial building that has been recognized as the narrowest in the world by the Guinness Book of Records and Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

Jack’s son says his dad loved the building and the community in which it stands, saying he always pushed to keep the community vibrant.

“Basically he invested in Chinatown and made it his lifelong passion to keep Chinatown bustling. That’s the way he remembered it. Back in the olden days, that’s the is the way it was” Rod Chow says, noting people would travel from all over the city to see his father about insurance.

“That brought people into Chinatown. He always had this love for Chinatown.”

Jack saw potential in the block-long, narrow, dilapidated building at 8 West Pender and purchased it as Vancouver was getting set to host Expo ’86.

“He hired architects and he did this amazing job. He totally transformed it but brought it back to its historical beauty and stature and put his insurance office in there,” Rod says.

“This was ultimately his landmark location, his pride and joy at Pender and Carrall Street. It’s a really amazing, unusual landmark. He made it famous.”

At its narrowest, the building is just 4’11’ wide.

“The sign on the building is the only sign in the world that’s actually wider than the building itself,” Rod says.

Jack had to fight with city hall to get four walk-up windows authorized, a decision Rod says only recently paid off.

“We didn’t really get a lot of use out of them over the years, but then when the pandemic hit that’s how we stayed in business,”:he says.

“That’s the way we’ve been doing business so we owe that to his ingenuity and his vision. He really had vision, for Chinatown, for the whole community.”

Rod says the neighbourhood — like his father’s building — remains iconic. But his father’s gifts for planning and creativity will also be needed to help it recover from the economic fallout brought on by COVID-19.

“Chinatown will always be this historical area of Vancouver, it’s never going to lose that stature,” Rod says.

“We’re here to stay. My brothers and sisters are all in the business, and we’re going to carry on his legacy and continue to promote Chinatown, make it a place to come back to.”

Born in Cumberland, B.C., Jack moved to Vancouver to attend high school.

“He later met and married his beautiful and loving wife Jean, and together they proudly brought up their four fine children,” an obituary written by the family reads, noting the couple was married for 63 years.

“Jack was an exceptional, remarkable, and magnificent person, and we are so proud of everything he did for us and for others. We wish for him now to rest in peace, love and joy with the comfort that we will look after our mother and each other, and that we will continue to carry on his great legacy that he and our mother have built together for us to cherish.”