By Marco Ceccarelli
The tragic loss of two valued and treasured members of the Perth Vietnamese Catholic Community recently sent shockwaves throughout the Archdiocese of Perth. Nga Dinh and Anh Hoang passed away in late February while on a holiday in Cairns with family and friends. Their funerals were held on 12 March 2016 at the Vietnamese Catholic Community Centre in Westminster.
The phrase often used by friends and family to describe Nga Dinh and Anh Hoang in the weeks following their passing was brief and to the point: “They were women who gave much and expected little in return”.
Whether this was in reference to Ms Dinh’s wholehearted commitment to caring for her disabled husband, to Ms Hoang’s organ donation which saved the lives of four people after her death, or quite simply to the tireless service of both women within the Perth Vietnamese Catholic Community, one thing is for sure, theirs were purposeful lives in service to others.
Mother of two and wife of Hien Nguyen, 51-year-old Ms Hoang was born in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam in 1965 and arrived in Australia in 1983 at the age of 16. Her Catholic upbringing back home meant that Ms Hoang kept her faith alive in Perth and quickly became involved in choir groups with other Vietnamese Catholics.
It was in the choir group that she met her husband, Hien, whom she married in 1988 and often accompanied on lengthy trips to Port Hedland, WA, where he worked as a Metallurgist and where both their children were born. The couple settled permanently in Perth in 2005, where Ms Hoang took up a part-time job and became much more involved in the Perth Vietnamese Catholic Community, particularly in St Celia’s Choir.
“She very much enjoyed singing in the choir,” Mr Nguyen said.
“She attended the choir with her other two sisters, who also sing very well, and she loved singing solos. She also enjoyed physical activity and never skipped her exercise,” he added.
“There is now a big vacuum in my life and I don’t know when that will be filled… one thing I do want to say is that she was a very wise woman and a wonderful mother.
“She was a great presence in all of our lives. She raised our children perfectly and, when I worked 1,700km away, she left the comforts of friends and family in Perth to provide invaluable company to me. She was also of indispensable service to the Vietnamese Catholic Community.”
Even after her death, Ms Hoang’s altruism continued to live on as she donated her heart, liver and kidneys to patients waiting for a transplant.
“She saved the lives of four people,” Mr Hien said. “She brought happiness to four families. Just imagine if you were waiting for an organ transplant and the news arrived that a heart was being donated… we need to celebrate this.”
Similar comments about selflessness and service were used to describe 48-year-old Nga Dinh.
Also born in Saigon, Ms Dinh has been described as a person who never tired of helping others, a quality she demonstrated through the steadfast assistance she gave to her husband who requires full-time care. The care she showed to her husband was an inspiration to all who knew her and admired her caring spirit.
Ms Dinh also had a passion for singing and joined Ms Hoang within St Celia’s Choir.
Choir leader Lamson Lam, who regarded both women as talented vocalists within his choir, spoke of Ms Dinh as a person who loved to be surrounded by people and who wholeheartedly dedicated herself to whatever task was entrusted to her.
“She had a very big heart, a very big heart indeed. Whenever a large function had to be organised, she was always the first to volunteer and begin making arrangements. We were looking forward to have her sing in the choir this Easter, but it would not be so.
“We really miss her. We miss both of them very much,” Mr Lam said.
More than 600 people attended the funerals of Nga Dinh and Anh Hoang, celebrated by St Mary’s Cathedral Assistant Priest Father Michael Quynh Do, on 12 March 2016.
From page 6 and 7 from Issue 2: ‘Family: What does it mean in 2016?’ of The Record Magazine