Our friend, Dat Hoang, was laid to rest on March 3rd, in a simple ceremony and blessing in Lawndale. He had succumbed to complications from COVID 19 three weeks earlier. One of our core volunteers in Corazón’s work in Mexico - Dat was a kind, humble, and unassuming man.
When you look at his picture here you might remember him from a Saturday in Mexico, but if you had the opportunity to know him, you would never forget him.
Dat was born in Saigon, Viet Nam, on August 18, 1960, and was raised there until 1975. He and some of his family were among the last of the people able to flee in those final, hectic days of the fall of Saigon. He and his family would be part of the group known as the “Boat People,” as they landed first in Guam, then Camp Pendleton before finally settling in the city of Gardena. His brother, Bao Nguyen, remembers that even when he was young he was, “a super-smart kid, always overachieving and helpful to others.”
Dat’s son, Can Hoang, remembers how his dad always loved the outdoors, camping at Yosemite became one of their favorite places. Can recalls that his father had many jobs before finally settling into a career in technology. Can shares that Dat was a doting grandfather, always bringing gifts and taking them to the park when he visited.
When Dat started volunteering with Corazón, he was fascinated by our house building process. The engineer in him always wanted to know the why and the how of a build. Taurino Valle, our Construction Manager in Mexico, said he was always, “…so meticulous and analytical” when he was building, adding that, “Dat always enlightened us with his laughter, it was a great pleasure to share so many beautiful experiences with him.”
Dat went quickly through the ranks, from volunteer to Blue Shirt, and ultimately to Lead Builder. Dat’s quiet, humble, and unassuming manner, was somewhat at odds with our typical lead builder’s profile. With his engineering degree he quickly mastered the technical aspects of construction, but being a vocal take-charge leader was hard for him. This was something he aspired to. So, Dat found his own path to leadership - through mastery of the technical issues - coupled with patience that turned problems into learning experiences. He became a good and reliable lead builder.
Dat never forgot his roots in Viet Nam, and he dreamed of starting a Corazón like program there. Dat also joined in our rotary-sponsored sanitation system program, bringing septic systems to the participants in Tecate. He discussed his hope to partner with Rotary in Viet Nam to develop a water well project in rural Viet Nam. While his dream projects did not come to fruition, they showed what a caring and giving person he was.
Outside of Corazón, Dat also found time to volunteer with his church and worked with the Be The Match bone marrow donor program.
Dat was a caring, generous and loving man, and he will be missed.
Many family members and friends from Corazón shared their memories with Dat, here are a few we would like to share.
It was always a happy moment when discovering that I was on the same job site as Dat. A truly kind and gentle soul, Dat was a talented builder and indeed, a patient teacher. Saddened by the news, my brother Dan and I are appreciative of the time we spent with Dat and send heartfelt condolences to his family. - Patty Boris
Even as a kid, he was super smart and helpful to those around him. I remember he came home from school one day and rushed to put on his Boy Scout uniform, tied his shoes, and charged out of our house to go help put out a fire at a temple nearby. He came home hours later, soaking wet and covered with mud. - Bao Nguyen (Dat's brother)
Dat was known for loving his son and loving the Corazón community. He was so easy to work with at each build. He was one of those great blue shirts that really knew what he was doing, even though he was from a different industry. - Carol Armstrong
Dat was kind, humble, generous, [...] and caring. He always wanted to help in any way he could. He was always supportive of the volunteers - I never once heard him criticize others, but always willing to help. He will be greatly missed. - Dave Key
Dat was a great friend and much loved by our participants for his beautiful human qualities. [...] Dat always enlightened us with his laughter, always so meticulous and analytical. It was a great pleasure to be able to share so many beautiful experiences with him. Emma and I are very grateful for Dat's life. Our prayers will be with their loved ones and our friends will miss our dear friend and brother so much. Dat changed our lives and joined such a valuable mission with his family in Corazón. - Taurino Valle (Coordinator of Construction in Mexico)
Please feel free to share your memories with Dat in the comment section below.