Vinh Thị Harris, 79, of Kansas City, Missouri passed away in her home on Wednesday, July 29th, 2020.
Vinh was born to Nhưng and Chuấn Đỗ on November 13, 1940, in Hà Đông, North Vietnam. As a child, Vinh and her family did not have much food to eat, especially during the Vietnamese famine of 1945. She witnessed a lot of starvation, pain, and death in the war-torn country. In March 1954, her family decided to escape the communist forces in the North and resettle in Saigon, South Vietnam. To avoid government suspicion, her family could not travel together. When Vinh was just 13 years old, she left her home in Hà Nội, North Vietnam and traveled alone by train to Hai Phong. After reuniting with her family in the large, unfamiliar city, they traveled together by plane to Saigon and moved into a one-room garage. The garage was shared with another family that also fled the north. Both families lived in the garage until they could find permanent homes. After attending Văn Lang Senior High School, Vinh went to school to be a midwife. She graduated on June 15, 1963, but did not want to work in the countryside. Vinh joined a women’s medical army social welfare school, where she graduated First Sergeant and leader of her class on January 22, 1965. During the Vietnam War, American military branches had working partnerships with Vietnamese hospitals to help improve medical care to the South Vietnamese. Vinh worked in a Tân An hospital as a social worker and translator alongside the United States Airforce and Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) Advisory Team 86 of the 555th Military Provincial Health Assistance Program (MILPHAP). This is where she met her future husband.
Vinh immigrated to the United States and married her husband on August 11, 1969, in Suitland, Maryland, just outside of Washington DC. They made their home in the Kansas City area. When Vinh first came to the United States she volunteered in Medical Records at the University of Kansas Medical Center, before accepting a position as a Medical Records Clerk at Menorah Medical Center in March 1970. The couple had a daughter, Holly, in December 1977. A few months later, Vinh slipped and hurt her back on an icy driveway and had surgery to repair it. While recovering, Vinh was unable to even lift her baby so she gave her entire paycheck each week to a family to take care of Holly, visiting her every night and weekend until she was finally strong enough to care for her again. During this time, Vinh and her husband separated.
Vinh was most passionate about her family. While living in America, Vinh dearly missed the family she left behind in Vietnam. Most of her brothers who remained in Vietnam were forced into Communist re-education camps and her brothers, Nghiêm and Thinh, were killed. Being so far away from her family, Vinh was unable to properly mourn her brothers’ deaths. She made it her life’s purpose to do everything she could to help her family get out of Vietnam to safety and freedom and to reunite with them. Even though Vinh was fun-loving and easygoing, she was undaunted and determined when she set her mind to something. For years Vinh submitted formal petitions and wrote to state, federal, and executive government officials to request their help getting her family out of the war-torn country. While some journeys were more harrowing than others, one by one, Vinh’s parents, siblings, and their families reunited in the United States. She helped establish a small home for them in Southern California. Nearly 22 years after Vinh arrived in the United States, her biggest wish came true. Vinh’s mother, Chuấn, became the final member of her family to leave Vietnam and make her home in America in June 1991.
Vinh was a member of The New Apostolic Church in Raytown, Missouri and was baptized on March 22, 1992. Like many other immigrants, Vinh worked hard to ensure future generations could have opportunities that she never had. Vinh was appreciative that her job allowed her to fulfill her dream of giving her family a better life in America. Vinh was a strong and dedicated mother who raised her child without family close by. She had to stretch every dollar in order to give her daughter, Holly, everything she needed and worked three additional part-time jobs while Holly was in high school. When Holly later went to college, Vinh went to the University of Missouri - Kansas City library computer lab to email her daughter almost every evening after work.
Vinh’s employer, Menorah Medical Center, closed its Rockhill location and the employees were re-badged to Baptist Medical Center. On April 14, 2006, Vinh retired from Baptist Medical Center after 36 years of combined service. Shortly after retirement, Vinh became an active member of the Silver Sneakers program at the Cleaver Family YMCA and St. Peter’s Sewing and Knitting classes.
Vinh’s hobbies included reading, watching movies, and watching American football (especially the Kansas City Chiefs). Vinh enjoyed eating all types of dishes, but she always said that America had so much good food and her favorites were KFC fried chicken and McDonald's Big Macs. Vinh loved children and would light up when she was around them. While she missed some aspects of her home country, Vinh loved America and being an American citizen. She was an avid voter who appreciated freedom, democracy, and free speech in America. She was grateful for the opportunities and safety that the United States gave her and her family. Vinh stayed very physically active. When she was not at the gym, sewing and knitting class, or church, she was always cleaning the house or working in the backyard while enjoying nature. She spent many hours in the backyard burning wood in her firepit. She often talked about how appreciative she was of having a roof over her head, a car to drive, food to eat, singing birds, and Mother Nature.
Vinh will be remembered for being charismatic, fun-loving, energetic, helpful, kind, appreciative, and happy. She enjoyed laughing, radiated positivity with every person she encountered, and always had a smile on her face. She had a larger than life personality. Vinh was a hard worker and did her very best her entire life.
In early 2020, Vinh was diagnosed with cancer caused by Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) Exon 19 Deletion, a somatic genetic mutation. Vinh was a very dedicated and wonderful mother and daughter until her last breath. On Wednesday, July 29, 2020 at 4:00 pm, Vinh passed in the manner she lived, peacefully and in faith surrounded by love. Vinh was able to be at peace knowing her life’s purpose was fulfilled because her entire family and their descendants are now living in freedom in the United States and her biggest love, her only daughter Holly, would be okay.
Vinh was preceded in death by her father Mr. Nhưng Văn Đỗ, older brother Dr. Nghiêm Mạnh Đỗ, and younger brothers Sáng Quý Đỗ, Ánh Việt Đỗ, Dũng Đức Đỗ and Thịnh Đình Đỗ.
Vinh leaves as her legacy, her only daughter Holly M. Harris and son-in-law Patrick Binder of Kansas City, Missouri. Vinh is also survived by her mother Mrs. Chuấn Thị Đỗ of Pomona, California; sister-in-law Phương Hoa Nguyễn and family of Irvine, California; older brother Minh Ngọc Đỗ and family of Austin, Texas; sister-in-law Tuyết Tú Hồng Đỗ and family of Los Angeles, California; sister-in-law Phương Liên Huỳnh and family of Westminster, California; younger brother Dr. Hùng Trọng Đỗ and family of Fountain Valley, California; younger sister Oanh Ngọc Đỗ and family of Pomona, California; and younger sister Hương Thanh Đỗ and family of Tewksbury, Massachusetts.
Out of respect and safety for Vinh’s family and friends due to Coronavirus, a memorial service will not be held at this time. A living, digital memorial has been established for Vinh at https://www.facebook.com/groups/vinh.news/
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