Meals On Wheels of San Francisco

Video of Katie and Zane

“Dance Like Zane”: Join MOWSF Volunteer Katie as She Remembers a Friend

Posted March 6, 2015

MOWSF Blog | Senior Stories | Volunteer News

Meals On Wheels of San Francisco (MOWSF) Volunteer Katie Smith is hosting a special memorial dance party as a tribute to her friend Zane, who passed away in January at the age of 91. “Dance Like Zane” will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 15, at the legendary Tonga Room at the Fairmont Hotel (950 Mason St., San Francisco). The celebration will include dancing and specially priced Mai Tai’s. Ten percent of proceeds from bar purchases will benefit MOWSF.


Watch Katie’s Tribute Video to Zane

Meet Zane & Katie

Dance Like Zane Zane and KatieZane and Katie were matched through MOWSF’s Friendly Visitor program in February 2012. The adorable “odd couple” had met regularly ever since. The two had many adventures over the years, but his biggest passion was dancing. During their visits, Zane would teach Katie to dance and play the piano in the common dining area of his apartment building.

“He taught me the Cha-cha-cha, Rumba, Fox Trot, Salsa and more,” says Katie, a 31-year-old experiential marketer for GMR Marketing. “And when he wasn’t up for dancing or going outside, we would watch Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies.” They also made visits to his favorite spots, including Squat & Gobble in the Marina, as well as Japantown.

Zane & Katie Go Dancing

Dance Like Zane Zane and KatieIn the spring of 2013, Katie and Zane had an extra special meet-up. Through a grant from the Brin Wojcicki Foundation, which funded Random Acts of Kindness for MOWSF seniors, Katie was able to take Zane out for a truly special night out.

“I asked if he could do anything in the City, what he would want to do,” says Katie. “And he said he wanted go dancing at the Tonga Room. We got him new dancing shoes and a Fred Astaire DVD set too.”

Once alerted, the Fairmont Hotel San Francisco got involved with the plan. Zane and Katie got dolled up and were picked up in a town car and taken to the Tonga Room, where they had dinner. After dinner, the band announced Zane, and they took to the dance floor. “Everyone was watching. We hadn’t practiced, but Zane just made up dance moves,” says Katie. “It was a very special night.”

About Zane

Dance Like Zane Zane and KatieZane and Katie’s friendship, however, was about much more than dancing. Over the years Zane shared stories about his life and sometimes tumultuous childhood. Zane’s Scott-Irish mother had immigrated to the US where she met his Japanese American father in New York City.

During World War II, Zane and his parents, who had been living in California, were incarcerated in Japanese internment camps. When they were released, they were told they couldn’t return to the West Coast and relocated to Cincinnati. Eventually they moved to New York. For years, Zane worked as a waiter at the New York Athletic Club, where he picked up his love of dancing. After Zane’s father died, he and his mother moved back to San Francisco, where she eventually passed away.

Katie has invited supporters and volunteers from MOWSF, Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly, her coworkers and anyone else who is interested to come and help her “Dance like Zane.”

“Zane really didn’t have family,” says Katie. “It broke my heart to have no one remember such a great spirit, so I wanted to celebrate his life. Now everyone can come and be his family. He would love it.”

You can RSVP to this free event at