BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The Monterey Park mass shooting is a traumatic and shocking blow to the Asian Pacific Islander community across the nation and the pain is felt here in the heart of Kern.
One of the 11 people killed in the southland was a long-time resident of Bakersfield.
Her name was Diana Tom. According to an elder in the Bakersfield Chinese community, she was well-known throughout the Central Valley for her personality, charm and kindness.
Diana Tom lived in Bakersfield for more than 25 years. When news spread of her death it shook the Central Valley Chinese community.
“Everybody went into shock. This is something unbelievable,” Patrick Leung an elder of Ying On Association said. “I knew her for 40 years we had been friends for 40 years we have danced together. We have sang together.”
Leung is considered a pillar and rock of the Chinese community in Bakersfield. He’s also the chairman of the Confucius Church of Bakersfield.
He was Diana Tom’s close friend and when he heard about the shooting at the dance studio he got very worried about her.
“Since I knew that she goes to that dance studio quite often,” Leung said. “I tried to text her, I tried to call her, I tried to send message to her in different situations. There was no answer. So I knew, ‘Oh my god something must have happened,…’ The son called us back the next day and say, ‘she was shot and she was in the hospital and she was in critical condition.’ So we pray and pray that hopefully, she would recover but a few hours later the son called us and say, ‘Oh I’m sorry she passed away.'”
Leung said Diana Tom was the final victim. But she didn’t die at the dance studio. She was alive after being shot and with her last bit of energy made one last phone call.
“She was the 11th victim,” Leung said. “Actually at that time she was actually alive and after she was shot she was alert enough to call the son and tell the son, ‘I was shot.'”
For people across the central valley, you’ve probably seen the product of her life’s work multiple times if many times a year.
“She actually was the regional managers for the panda express,” Leung said. “She actually set up all the panda express restaurants here in Bakersfield and throughout the Central Valley.”
Diana Tom was 70 years old. Leung says he remembers spending many fun hours singing, dancing and laughing along while watching her be silly, enjoying her life.
“She was a very outgoing person,” Leung said. “She loves to sing, she loves to dance. She invited all her friends to go over to sing karaoke so we did and she isn’t that bad of a cook either. She managed a restaurant so she knows how to cook, she entertained us while we ordered food.”
Diana Tom is survived by her husband and son. She also has other family that still live here in Bakersfield.
Now Patrick Leung and his family have been to the Star Dance Hall in Monterey Park California many times. Leung said his son teaches Kung Fu to the children at the studio.
It wasn’t just Diana Tom that Leung knew from the shooting. He was also friends with 72-year-old Ming Ma the general manager of the dance studio. Ming Ma was also killed during the shooting.
Leung said Ming Ma was a really nice person. He was gentle and very pleasant. Leung said Ma would always greet him with a smile and ask how he was doing but the kindness wouldn’t just end there, Leung said.
Ming Ma would ask about Leung’s family and always say nice things about his son and the Kung Fu lessons he taught at the studio.
Patrick Leung said both Diana Tom and Ming Ma will be greatly missed.
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