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Local Tibetan leader  killed in hit-and-run

The street scene intersectiDevMaplewood looking East up Devavenue where 44 year old Tsering Dorjee was fatal victim  hit run

The street scene at the intersection of Devon and Maplewood looking East up Devon avenue where 44 year old Tsering Dorjee was a fatal victim in a hit and run incident that happened last night in Chicago. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

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Updated: December 15, 2012 6:16AM

When Kalsang Wangmo’s mother-in-law called from India to ask about her son Tuesday morning, the Rogers Park woman couldn’t bring herself to tell the truth.

She told Tsering Dorjee’s mother he was getting ready for work.

“I just said that, ‘Oh, he’s in the shower,’” Wangmo said. “I can’t tell her. She had a heart problem.”

The truth was Dorjee, 44, was killed Monday night after he and his brother-in-law were struck by a car in a hit-and-run collision in the West Ridge neighborhood on the North Side.

Dorjee was pronounced dead at St. Francis Hospital in Evanston at 11:30 p.m., according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office. Dakpa Jorden, Wangmo’s brother, was also injured. Wangmo said he suffered a fractured neck and leg and expected to go into surgery Tuesday morning.

The two men were crossing a street near West Devon and North Maplewood about 6 p.m. when they were hit by a motorist driving a dark-blue Volkswagen Beetle with the Illinois license plate P121817, police said.

Dorjee immigrated from India under asylum about 18 years ago, his wife said, adding he only became a U.S. citizen last month. He was a leader within the Tibetan Alliance of Chicago, Wangmo said, and he was the vice president of the Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce.

“Tsering was a great man,” said Autumn Davids, the chamber’s secretary. “He was very much a family man. His great ability when it came to the chamber was he taught every single member of the board how to open their mind enough to accept the cultural differences when it comes to areas like Clark Street and like Devon Avenue.”

Then she added, “It takes a monster to drive away after someone’s hurt.”

Wangmo was in tears Tuesday as she talked about her husband, a man she’s known since she was 8 or 9 years old. They went to the same high school in India, she said, but fell out of touch when he moved to the United States. They were reunited when Dorjee, while living in Chicago, saw her father during a visit to India. He gave Dorjee her phone number.

Together the couple had three boys — Tenzin Thinlay, 6, Tenzin Dhargyal, 3 and Tenzin Jordan, 1 — who roamed their apartment Tuesday amid Mickey Mouse toys and children’s bicycles while Sesame Street played on the television. They had yet to fully understand what happened to their father.

Wangmo said she doesn’t know what her husband and brother-in-law were doing when they crossed the street Monday night. Their work schedules made it difficult to spend time together, she said. Jorden works for Panera Bread, she said, while Dorjee worked for the Cook County Clerk’s Office for 14 years.

“Tsering Dorjee was a much-loved member of my Vital Records staff since 1998,” said Cook County Clerk David Orr. “Tsering was an incredibly kind soul and dedicated public servant. News of his death this morning brought his co-workers to tears. Our deepest condolences go to his wife, children and family. He will be dearly missed.”

Lhakpa Tsering and Karma Dhargyal of the Tibetan Alliance of Chicago visited Wangmo’s apartment to offer condolences, as well. They said about 300 people make up the local Tibetan Alliance, but the group has never experienced such a sudden, unexpected death.

“We seek the justice for the death,” Lhakpa Tsering said. “We want to seek the justice, and the perpetrator has to be prosecuted.”

The men also said they wanted to help Wangmo. But the stay-at-home mother was already wondering Tuesday how she and the boys will survive without Dorjee, who worked to support his family while she took care of the children at home.

Wangmo said they’ll likely be forced to move back to India. At least there, she said, they’ll have family.

“I don’t know nobody here in Chicago,” Wangmo said.

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