Medals of Merit and Valor to be awarded Feb. 21 at state capitol

OLYMPIA — For the first time in nine years, Washington’s Medals of Merit and Valor will be awarded Wednesday at a ceremony in the state Legislative Building.

The Medal of Merit recognizes exceptional individuals who perform outstanding services for Washington and its residents. The Medal of Valor is awarded to anyone who has saved, or attempted to save, the life of another at the risk of their own safety and is not acting in the course of duty as a Washington police officer, firefighter, or other government-employed first responder.

This year, Secretary of State Steve Hobbs will join Governor Jay Inslee, Lieutenant Governor Denny Heck, and Chief Justice Steven C. González to posthumously recognize Donnie Chin with the Medal of Valor and Dr. Abe Bergman with the Medal of Merit for their service to Washington state. The awards ceremony will take place in the State Reception Room on the third floor of the Legislative Building, 416 Sid Snyder Avenue Southwest, Olympia, at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

“These are the highest civilian honors awarded to the people of Washington, and it is my privilege to bestow recognitions on such worthy recipients,” Secretary Hobbs said. ”Donnie Chin and Dr. Bergman exemplified what it means to be heroes. Both of them worked every day to make their communities better, no matter the obstacles.”

Donnie Chin founded the International District Emergency Center (IDEC) volunteer organization in Seattle in 1968. For more than 40 years, Mr. Chin selflessly patrolled his community's Chinatown, Little Japantown, and Little Saigon areas. From the time he was a teenager, he walked the streets watching for people’s safety, especially elderly residents. He broke down cultural and language barriers in the area while he fed those experiencing food insecurity, assisted in many emergency calls, and passed out his number to anyone who needed it. The Seattle Fire Department called him a “guardian angel” and made many attempts to hire him, but his first love was volunteering for his community.

“He dedicated his life to serving the Chinatown International District and was a vital liaison in building trust and understanding with the Seattle Fire Department,” Seattle Fire Department Chief Harold D. Scoggins said.

Chin was killed in a shooting in 2015.

Dr. Abraham “Abe” Bergman was a renowned professor, pediatrician, and national leader of child safety rights who led a fulfilling life caring for others.

Dr. Bergman graduated from Case Western Reserve Medical School in 1958 and began a residency at Boston Children’s Hospital. He joined the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine in 1964. He practiced at Seattle Children’s Hospital (then known as Children’s Orthopedic Hospital) before becoming the chief of pediatrics at Harborview Medical Center in 1983.

Over the years, Dr. Bergman worked alongside U.S. Senators Henry “Scoop” Jackson, Slade Gorton, and Warren Magnuson to assist with landmark legislation, including the Flammable Fabrics Act of 1967, which required children’s sleepwear manufacturers to make them flame-retardant. In 1970, he helped with the Prevention Packaging Act, which required medications to be sold in child-resistant containers, and the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Act in 1974, which gave the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development the responsibility of overseeing research.

Dr. Bergman passed away surrounded by his children on November 10, 2023, at 91.

“Dr. Bergman, through his national political efforts, improved the health of more children than most pediatricians will see in a lifetime,” Harborview Medical Center Chief of Pediatrics Dr. Brian D. Johnston said. “His colleagues at Harborview remember him equally for his generous capacity as a mentor, his commitment to local communities, and his passionate work for health equity long before there was a term for that concept.”

Washington’s Office of the Secretary of State oversees areas within state government including managing state elections, registering corporations and charities, and governing the use of the state flag and state seal. The office also operates the State Archives and the State Library, documents extraordinary stories in Washington’s history through Legacy Washington, and administers the Combined Fund Drive for charitable giving by state employees and the Productivity Board state employee suggestion program to provide incentives for efficiency improvements. The Secretary of State also oversees the state’s Address Confidentiality Program to help protect survivors of crime.