Niels Chew, a successful Sonoma businessman with an unmatched record of tireless community service, passed away Tuesday. He was 82.
Chew purchased Dowling Miner Magnetics, a company that produces industrial, educational and toy magnets, in 1967, and grew it from a one-man operation to a thriving company with 45 employees. As owner until 2004, he provided opportunities to Becoming Independent to train and support people with developmental disabilities.
Chew served on the board of the Sonoma Valley Hospital Foundation, Operation Youth, and the Sonoma Overnight Shelter, and El Nido Teen Center. He was the president of Kiwanis of Sonoma Plaza and trustee of the Sonoma Valley Unified School District.
One of his most enduring public service efforts was supporting of the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance as a dedicated mentor and founding board member. He is even credited with starting the organization by adding the organization’s executive director, Kathy Witkowicki, to his payroll at Dowling Magnets so she could kick-off the mentoring program.
He and his wife, Susan, also supported Friends in Sonoma Helping (FISH), contributing their time, talent and financial assistance to this community organization.
Chew was awarded Sonoma’s top community service honor, Alcalde, in 2010. “Niels is best known for his generosity, humility and his unwavering dedication to the causes he believes in,” said Rep. Mike Thompson. “His commitment to service is a powerful example of the positive difference one person can make.”