Stephen Hsi-fen Soo, born in Kwangxi, China, a Chinese American leader in San Francisco and longtime civil engineer for the city's Department of Public Works, died April 3 after he suffered a stroke earlier. He was 75.
Soo graduated from the Chinese Naval Academy in Taiwan in 1951 with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and an emphasis in maritime applications. He visited San Francisco in 1955 on a naval training mission and met George Sichoy Young, a native San Franciscan. Upon discovering that their families hailed from the same area, Young brought Mr. Soo home to dinner where the young naval officer met his future bride, Young's daughter Mabel. In 1959, Mr. Soo immigrated to San Francisco to marry. Three years later, he graduated from UC Berkeley with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering.
Soo worked for private industry and for the federal government at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. He was hired by the city as a civil engineer in 1965. He retired in 1989 as head of the department's structural design section. In 1987, he received the city's Engineer of the Year award. Some of his engineering projects include the Ocean Beach windmill restoration, the Stow Lake waterfall, the San Francisco Zoo's hippo home and the Candlestick Park retrofit.
Soo was an active volunteer and leader, with a strong interest in helping immigrants. In 1991, he received the Outstanding Service Award from the Chinese Consolidated Association, known as the Six Companies. He served as the Association's executive secretary. During Chinese New Year in 1999, then Mayor Willie Brown declared Feb. 19 "Stephen H. Soo Day in San Francisco" as a tribute to his service to the city, which included working as translator and interpreter for former Mayor Dianne Feinstein on the San Francisco-Shanghai Sister City Committee and serving as commissioner on the San Francisco Chinatown Economic Task Force. More recently, he was on the board of directors of Richmond Area Multi-Services, an organization dedicated to mental health services and assimilation for new immigrants.
Soo is survived by his wife, Mabel Soo, daughters Nora and Julie and son Brian, all of San Francisco, and son Clinton of Honolulu. (Source: Vanessa Hua, San Francisco Chronicle, May 21, 2004).