Chi-wei Lin was a scientist, public servant, painter and gardener. Most of all, he was a problem solver who applied his mental clarity and creativity to all aspects of a rich and varied life.
In his last few decades, living by the ocean with his beloved wife Donna, he transformed the city government of the lovely town he had retired to, and researched and developed his own Parkinson’s medication. The former cancer researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital and former mayor of Trinidad passed away at his home in Trinidad May 23 of lymphoma. He was 81.
Chi-wei Lin was born in Hong Kong to Sen-Li and Shi-Zee Lin toward the end of WWII. His family of seven moved to Taiwan, escaping the establishment of Communist China. He graduated from Taiwan National University after serving the mandatory Taiwanese military service.
Emigrating to the United States in 1964, he studied biochemistry at University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he earned his Ph.D. and married his first wife, Julia Chi-jow Wang, with whom he had his only daughter, Angela Lin.
Dr. Lin headed a research laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, studying cancer cells and publishing dozens of articles over the next 20 years. These publications are cited by other cancer researchers to this day. During weekends, he grew the family’s fruits and vegetables while designing and building the household’s furniture.
Taking a leap of faith, he retired from cancer research in 1997, and moved to the small town of Trinidad with his second wife, Donna. Dr. Lin and Donna soon recognized Trinidad as a truly unique place. Wanting to preserve its future, he served on the Trinidad City Council from 2000 to 2008, including a four-year term as mayor. He drove for the adoption of a more modern form of city government and enabling a dedicated police department, new sidewalks, and renovated and repaved the town’s tennis court. Chi-wei always understood the many sides of Trinidad’s challenges and could often draw a compromise from seemingly intractable situations.
Trinidad also stirred Dr. Lin’s creative side. Inspired by the sea and the sky, both Dr. Lin and Donna took up oil painting. Together, they created dozens of paintings capturing the area’s unmistakable landscapes and even more colorful residents.
In 2005, Lin was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease over a game of tennis with a friend who happened to be a doctor. Having trouble with his serve for several months, his friend had an inkling of the cause: “Chi-wei, I think you have Parkinson’s.” A neurologist determined this diagnosis to be true.
Applying his scientific discipline to the problem, Lin proceeded to study Parkinson’s Disease with immaculate vigor, reading research papers on Parkinson’s studies. He spent his last decade researching and growing fava beans, now shown to be partially substituted for part of the conventional medication without the side effects.
Donna was his constant companion during his political career, artistic endeavors and fighting Parkinson’s until her death in 2012 after 21 years of marriage.
Chi-wei Lin is survived by his brothers and sisters: Chi-chang Lin (and Claudia), Chi-chen Lin (and Renee), Sandra Lin, Yuan Lin (and Robert), and his daughter Angela (and David Goldman), as well as numerous nieces and nephews.
There will be a memorial to his life, with a subsequent auction of his paintings benefiting the preservation of Trinidad’s historic lighthouse, Saturday, Nov. 4 at 2 p.m. at Trinidad Town Hall, 409 Trinity St. If you cannot attend, in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Trinidad Coastal Land Trust, P.O. Box 457, Trinidad, CA 95570.