By Carsten Strand and Clayton Barker
Chhay Wong, a junior at Loy Norrix High School and Calvin Chao, a freshmen at Western Michigan University, drowned on a lake in Van Buren County during a boating accident on June 3rd, 2015. His death shocked the students of Loy Norrix and the surrounding community. The funeral was held at Redmond Funeral Home on Saturday, June 6th.
Chhay was born on November 17th, 1997, and in 2006 his family was sponsored by his uncle to come to the United States from Cambodia. Chhay Wong and his family practice the Buddhist faith. Chhay’s body will undergo cremation in his favorite PeaceJam shirt which says “College Bound” across it. Pictures that Edison elementary school students drew will also be cremated with his body. These pictures signify the tight bond Chhay had with many of the students at Edison elementary as he tutored them for PeaceJam. The students at Edison drew Chhay with an orange streak in his hair, representing his involvement with the swim team.
Chhay was a diver, and at the end of the season all the swimmers and divers dye their hair with bleach as a tradition. Chhay was a member of The National Honors Society, PeaceJam, the track team, the tennis team, and the swim and dive team at Loy Norrix.
“His death had a big impact because he had a big impact,” said tennis coach Art Williams.
Chhay tutored students at Edison Elementary School and actively went above and beyond for community service.
“He would light up working with those kids,” said Williams.
Chhay is survived by his sister, Mey Wong at Loy Norrix High School. “I appreciate everyone, helping to be his friends and his family through all of this,” said his sister Mey.
Friends of Chhay have reached out to Mey, helping her cope through this tragic event. “Getting through the death, they have helped me a lot,” said Mey.
Chhay was one of Loy Norrix’s most active members. He was very involved with community service, and trying to make Loy Norrix a better place.
“Chhay had already made a huge difference,” said Williams.
Sveri May, the leader of PeaceJam, said that out of the 35 projects that PeaceJam has done this year, Chhay was at every single one of them.
“Most students do ten to twenty projects, but Chhay did all 35,” May continued, “He was my People’s Choice Award [for next year].” The “People’s Choice Award” is given to a student who shows extreme work ethic and overall is just a good person. Teachers at Norrix nominate students for this award. May plans on still dedicating her People’s Choice Award to Chhay in 2016, which is the year he would have graduated.
The consensus among teachers and coaches on Chhay is simple; he always gave 100 percent, all of the time. He always had a smile on his face, and he had a heart of gold. Chhay was way too young to leave this world, and one of the most painful thoughts is of the amazing things he could of done in his future. The world will no longer be able to be graced with Chhay Wong’s amazing personality, friendship and care.
Chhay Wong’s death is exemplified by his time alive. Seeing the massive impact he had on students, teachers, family members and anyone else touched by this grievous event shows how Chhay lived his life to the fullest. Chhay Wong’s life may have been short but his involvement with the community and bonds created with others will live on.