Chaosarn S. Chao, co-founder, president and CEO of Lao Family Community Development (LFCD), a social service agency with offices in the East Bay and Sacramento, died on April 5 at Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto. He was 67.
Chaosarn Chao was a proud Iu-Mien born in Laos. He immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 28 in 1978. In 1980, he started LFCD in his three-bedroom apartment in Richmond.
The purpose of the agency was simply to aid his fellow Laotian refugees from Indo-China to rebuild their lives in the Bay Area aft they had escaped political and social upheaval that ravaged their homeland.
Today, LFCD is a premier social service and community development non-profit agency headquartered in Oakland. LFCD has seven satellite offices in San Pablo, Oakland and Sacramento.
The agency has a staff of 62 employees who provide services in 25 languages to more than 15,000 clients annually.
The organization also has expanded to meet the needs of the broader community, reaching out to 40 diverse nationalities.
Chaosarn Chao was always proud of the achievements of the Iu-Mien, Lao, Hmong, Cambodian, other refugee, immigrant and minority groups in America and encouraged members of the community to strive to achieve self-sufficiency, reach their highest potential and to give back to society.
Growing up, he was no stranger to tenuous times. He lived with his parents in the rural mountains of Laos during the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s “Secret War” against the occupational forces of the French and the Vietnamese Communist forces (under Ho Chi Minh).
In his youth, Chaosarn Chao witnessed first-hand his father Chao Mai being thrust into multiple leadership roles, becoming the chief of his mountain village at age 18, then the figurehead of his village district at age 25 (controlling 15 villages) and ultimately becoming a member of the city council of a major municipality in Laos by his early 30s.
His father also served as a Commander in the French army of Laos, which was loosely affiliated with the Central Intelligence Agency. His father groomed his son for a future of bold community leadership in the face of adversity, teaching him to have complete devotion to his countrymen.
In 1967, immediately after the death of his father, Chaosarn Chao continued the leadership legacy of the previous 12 generations of his family, graduating from the Royal Lao Army Staff School, achieving the rank of lieutenant, becoming chief of staff for his uncle, Major Chao La (the Lao Mien Ethnic Army Commander), and ultimately being appointed financial officer for the Golden Triangle of Laos, Burma, China and Thailand.
Chaosarn Chao also became involved with the Special Guerilla Unit of the Central Intelligence Agency, fighting against the communist forces of Ho Chi Minh from 1968-1975.
In the wake of the devastating Vietnam War, he escaped to Thailand and later — with the aid of the CIA and other agencies – moved with his family to the United States.
Once in the U.S., he devoted himself to the betterment of the quality of life of refugees and those less fortunate, especially his fellow Iu-Mien and Laotian American people.
This led to founding LFCD. He was a founding committee member of the National Coalition for the Asian Pacific American Community Development in Washington, D.C.
He was the founder of the Iu- Mien American National Coalition; served on the Board of Directors for the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation; served as a commission member for the City of Oakland Health and Human Services; was president of the Lao-Mien Veterans Association; and served for more than a decade on the State Advisory Council of the State of California Department of Social Services.
He is survived by his spouse, eight children, six grandchildren, seven siblings and many relatives, friends and colleagues.
A Celebration of Life Funeral Service will be held Sunday, April 16, 10 a.m. Richmond Civic Auditorium at 403 Civic Center Drive, Richmond.
The Final Viewing will be held 10 a.m., Monday, April 17 at Wilson Ktratzer Funeral Home in Richmond, and the burial will be at Sunset View Cemetery in El Cerrito.
Donations may be made in his honor to LFCD, 1551 23rd. Ave., Oakland, CA 94606, dedicated for the CARE Community Center Project in Oakland.
Information on the CARE Community Center, which breaks ground in June, is available on the www.lfcd.org website. A private foundation will match donations dollar for dollar up to $500,000.