July 03, 2010


My dad passed away four weeks ago. I haven't had the capacity to write, but my sisters have, and if you have ten minutes, I'd be so happy if you'd let me share their beautiful memories with you.

My favorite line of the three letters? From my third sister: "If Silvio and I can raise Lulu to love us half as much as we loved my father, we still win."

From my eldest sister, Kiki, read hers here: The Buttercream

leaving Orlando!


From Kelly:

Dad 1959Dear friends and family,

Just to let you know that my dearest Dad, Chuong Giu Hong, passed away peacefully last evening at 8:26 PM. We were all here with him and his passing was peaceful, quiet, and dignified, as he was in life. His last look was at my mother, Bach Tuyet, to whom he has been married for 42 happy years.

We are deeply saddened by his death, but so very grateful for his life. He was the best dad anyone could have ever had. He was gentle, kind, loving, generous, and very funny. I think it's a testament to the way he and my mom raised the 5 of us that we each felt ourselves especially loved, and the "favorite" in their eyes. My Dad was an immigrant to this country, and exemplified the American Dream. From being a Lieutenant Colonel in the Vietnamese army, liaising with the CIA during the Vietnam War to try to save his country, and eventually losing it, he was a cashier at our local Giant Food for 27 years. In that 27 years, he never took a single sick day or was late even once. It was hard physical labor and he never once complained. That is where our work ethic comes from. He and my mother provided a beautiful home for us, braces, college educations, and all the love we could have. Today we have them to thank for any professional or personal successes we as a family have achieved. He literally saved our lives 35 years ago when we fled Saigon and gave us new life in this wonderful country.

My Dad was also one of the wisest men I ever knew. My parents were living in Arlington VA not far from the Pentagon and I in NYC on September 11th. I called my parents to reassure them that I was well and I remember my father saying: "Con [child], sometimes you're in the wrong place at the wrong time. There's nothing you can do. You must live your life and never be afraid. There is nothing to be afraid of." That was how he lived his life, and how I hope to live mine.

My Dad is one of the few people I know for certain who left this life with no regrets. He lived for his family, and provided well for them, and died knowing we were safe, happy, healthy, and there for each other.

In his loving memory, we go on.


and from Souris:

Dear family,

CHUONGThank you for your kind words. Your thoughts mean a great deal to me, Silvio, and our extended family. To my surprise, my eyes aren't sweating too badly and its mostly because my father passed exactly how he (and we) wanted.

At 77 years old, my father, Chuong Giu Hong changed cosmic addresses last night at 8:26 pm in the company of his family. Before taking his last breaths, he opened his eyes for the first time in days, looked intently at my mom, his wife of 42 years, closed his eyes and left peacefully. I told my mom it's because she is so beautiful he wanted one last look to take with him to the afterlife.

Our family arrived in America as war refugees in 1975. My parents, who lived a very privileged life in Viet Nam, had to start over with five kids (ranging from two months old to five years old) in a mostly foreign country. They worked hard for everything we had and made sure we worked hard right beside them. I remember being told, "If you can't do it with a smile, don't do it at all." When things appear seemingly impossible, all the Hong kids can STFU and just do it. Thank you, (mom and) dad for this ability we've all discovered is not-so-normal.

I feel especially fortunate to have been able to spend the last month with my dad in Florida. And with Lulu, no less. That said, I never felt far from my father since we checked in often. I am lucky to have been raised in a family that needed and wanted to know several times a week, "Hey daddy, what are you eating for dinner?" and then my dad would tell me and then I would lament my missing another fantastic mom-made-meal. We made the mundane, meaningful. Especially knowing that dad was on "borrowed time" -- something he sometimes reminded us of (since his father, who was born in 1888 passed in his early 60s).

In the past couple of weeks my dad was already preparing for his journey ahead. We talked about taking a cross country road trip (he loved traveling cross country, as do I, having done it three times already) and although in my heart I knew he was too fragile to physically hit the road, I walked him through all the different places we would visit together. Dad wanted to return to Arlington, Virginia where we were raised and to visit, Carmel and Monterey Bay, California and surprisingly to me, he wanted to visit Seattle, Washington again. He also wanted to return to his beloved Paris. Dad also told me he'd "drive through Texas". That made me laugh. I'm happy dad is now out and about continuing his adventures.

My father imparted a lot of wisdom to us over the years, always in a kind and non-obtrusive way. He was not religious but lived with principal and discipline. There are few people I've met with my father's integrity -- a trait I strongly admire. He was also loyal to the core. Sony, Charmin, and Bounty made a ton of money from him over the years!

Dad reminded us that money comes and goes, you can lose your country and never to see it again, and "family is everything" (the one you are born into and the one you make). He also warned me to be careful what you wish for, as he had once wished we would all someday, be educated in America (as all foreign bourgeoise desire) and while he got his wish, it wasn't exactly how he planned.

I'm grateful that I got to say everything I wanted to, to my father. And I'm even more grateful, he often told us he loved us. Although Lulu only got to know her grandfather for a year, this past month she made him smile a lot. He remarked she was so beautiful and funny and was happy to have her around squawking up a storm. Shortly after he passed, while she stood over him, Lulu waved frantically to him with a huge smile on her face. Just waving and waving and smiling and smiling. I'm certain she got a secret message. Maybe she'll share it with me someday.

If Silvio and I can raise Lulu to love us half as much as we loved my father, we still win.

I love you daddy. Bonne nuit, a demain (Good night, see you tomorrow in French -- the last thing my father said to us every night after he tucked us in and turned the lights off).