Friends of the Santa Barbara Herb Clinic, family of Dr. Weidong “Henry” Han, and members of the city’s Chinese-American community gathered Sunday at the Fess Parker’s Plaza del Sol to remember the popular herbalist, his wife, Jennie Yu, and the couple’s daughter, Emily Han. All three were found shot to death in their 4640 Greenhill Way home on March 23. Police arrested a suspect two days later, and the case remains in its early stages.
Despite the harrowing nature of the case, Sunday’s ceremony was cast in afternoon sunlight as more than a hundred people listened to uplifting stories of the Han family in life. Neil Chu, President of the Santa Barbara Chinese-American Association, welcomed the audience in Mandarin and English. Accompanied by a single violin, a Chinese church choir sang a bilingual version of “Amazing Grace.” Between stories told by actress Diane Ladd, whom Han treated for pulmonary fibrosis, and the clinic’s CPA Carlo Sarmiento, was a flute solo.
“At a time when I was going through chemo, Jennie made me feel beautiful,” said breast cancer patient J.J. Allison Gustafson, director of Gustafson Dance ballet school, called Emily “talented in ballet.” “She never missed a class,” said ballet-jazz instructor Sophie Kubinyi, “She danced the whole way through.” Angela Mietzke, Emily’s preschool teacher at the Waldorf School of Santa Barbara, said, “She came in with this big, wide smile ready to connect.” Dressed in black, a handful of Han family members who had recently traveled from China sat in the front row.
A close friend from Shanghai told a lighthearted story about an experience with Han: When the two were leaving a medical building at night, Han’s white doctor’s coat became stuck in a door, prompting Han to scream: “There’s a ghost!” Reflecting on Han’s dedication to his career, the friend added, “A good doctor takes time, experience, and hard effort to become a good doctor.”
“He encouraged me to get my own practice of Chinese medicine,” said Dr. David Yang of Goleta Acupuncture Herb Clinic, who worked seven years with Han. Yang recalled Han’s skill at cooking dumplings. “I hope everyone always remembers his smiles.”