In memoriam: Cathy Huynh
Cathy Huynh was born Sept. 19, 1985 to Vietnamese parents in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, where she grew up with one older brother. After graduating with a social sciences degree from Brock University in 2010, she, too, came to Korea to teach English at a public elementary school in Ansan. After briefly going home, she returned to Korea this spring to teach at another public elementary school in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province.
She loved children, which bode well for her as a teacher, but her passion was helping people. She wanted to return to school to become a social worker. Her brother was concerned about the employment outlook of her dream job, “but it did not matter to Cathy,” Ly said. “She wanted to help people. She wanted to be with people.”
She also enjoyed photography and had a goal to post a photo every day to document her second year in Korea. Friends remember her as a thoughtful, caring friend with a loud, vibrant, infectious personality and say when they think about her, there’s hardly a time they can remember her not smiling.
“In almost every single picture of Cathy that has surfaced since her passing, she was always smiling, being goofy and just being happy. That was Cathy. She never did take much seriously,” Ly said.
“She always made things more fun when she was around,” another friend said. “She was very outgoing and social, and really enjoyed meeting new people and making new friends. She had a strong spirit and would often put herself outside of her comfort zone and try new things.
“She was so goofy and funny and didn’t mind being the butt of jokes if it meant that it made the people around her laugh and smile.”
She enjoyed cooking and baking. She played field hockey at Cathedral High School and continued her athletic interests in Korea by playing volleyball as well as club soccer with a team in Osan, north of Pyeongtaek.
Cathy enjoyed running and signed up for several races and marathons in Korea. She and Kari were part of a running club dubbed “Team Dirt” which was, friends say, also well versed in flip cup. The two had been gearing up to participate in the DMZ Marathon in late August.
Cathy had a proven thirst for travel since her first road trip in 2003 from Ontario to Florida, and took many opportunities to join tours exploring Korea. She had gone to Nha Trang, Vietnam, last year and was eager to return during her summer break.
“Cathy loved Vietnam. It was probably her most favorite travel destination, having been once already. She loved the food, the people and the culture,” Ly said.
When Cathy found out Kari had also booked a ticket to the country for the same week, the two became excited about their upcoming adventure.
Friends say that Kari and Cathy were both fun-loving, photogenic, quirky individuals.
“I’m starting to realize how alike both of them were,” a friend said. “They were very strong girls, they were very, uh, loud girls, outgoing, and so welcoming — always up for meeting new people and trying new things.”
Cathy Huynh (Sept. 19, 1985 - Aug. 2, 2012)
Friends of Kari Bowerman and Cathy Huynh were invited to share their thoughts, memories and photos. All contributions were subject to editing for length and clarity. The staff of Groove Korea would like to thank all of Kari and Cathy’s friends in Korea, Canada and the U.S. for their help in this tribute. Our thoughts and well-wishes are with you and the girls’ families. — Ed.
Everyone had their bad days, but Cathy had fewer. If you had a problem, she found a way to make it better. Maybe it was a joke or just sitting and listening to your complaints. That’s what a friend should be. They should be there in the good times and the bad. She warmed my spirits in the darkest of times. Her sparkling personality gave me a reprieve and this I will never forget. She was taken from us far too soon, but past memories will never fade!” -Daniel Vorderstrasse
“Cathy was always full of life, love and joy. Just her smile and the sound of her laughter alone would enlighten any room. She is unquestionably the definition of a forever friend; always there to listen, to laugh with, to enjoy the simplest things in life with. Forever friends are hard to find, difficult to leave and never forgotten. Cathy will never be forgotten and will remain forever in our hearts.” –Sophia Hoang
“One evening Cathy and I met up for dinner before a 10k run in the morning. Afterwards we walked around and before I knew it, it was almost midnight. After two hours of sleep, we met up at 4:30 a.m. and two hours later we arrived at the event. The team’s theme was ‘duct tape’ but to be funny we’d purposely spell it wrong. But before the race we’d lost each other and I couldn’t find her until two minutes before it started. The plan was to run next to each other, and together we would spell the team name. Cathy hadn’t put on her duct tape yet. I gave her the T and A letters on my back and I still had P and E, so we could spell at least the word TAPE. The race started and we were off. Quickly we realized that not training and sleeping only two hours were bad ideas. At some point we switched positions and now we spelled PETA. When she realized, Cathy ran in front of me yelling and screaming as I almost passed out from exhaustion and laughter. There was something hilarious about the way she yelled and screamed. She wasn’t angry; it was more comical and entertaining. Afterward, I got some duct tape and put DUCK on her back.” -Susan Thach
“This summer marks six years since I first met Cathy. Our friendship seemed effortless; she was the kind of person you could take anywhere and she’d fit in. She often came to visit on my parents’ farm where she loved interacting with our animals. And when I say interacting, I mean she would get right in there, having the goats climb all over her and wrestling our large dog until he went crazy with excitement. And that’s how Cathy approached life: not just watching idly from the sidelines but jumping right in, and truly living and loving every moment of it. Cathy was also extremely thoughtful. For our birthdays she would make huge cards covered in pictures. When I lived abroad she constantly sent mail and made time to Skype. That didn’t change when Cathy went to Korea. Everywhere in my room are little gifts she sent me and I was always trying to keep up with her flow of postcards and letters. Losing Cathy is the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through and I find it hard to imagine a future without her around. Although our time together was cut short I find peace in knowing that I have no regrets about our friendship and the years we did have together. Cathy touched so many people’s lives and now it is up to us to keep her memory alive.” -Juliet Prey
“It was through an assignment in high school photography class that I met Cathy’s brother when we went to his house to finish it. Through my eventual relationship with him, I also grew closer to Cathy. Last year, before visiting her in Korea we stopped in Beijing. She surprised us there and stayed with us before we met her again in Korea. My relationship with her was that of an older sister; we are the same age but I was always the responsible one. She came to me for life problems, career issues, etc. We talked almost every day. In almost every picture of Cathy that has surfaced recently, she was always smiling, being goofy and happy. THAT was Cathy. She never did take much seriously.Her passing has been surreal and quite honestly, I still don’t believe it. To me, she’s still in South Korea, teaching those kids she loved so dearly.” –Jetty Ly
“I’m so lucky to have been friends with Kari and Cathy. We were on the beach one night at this year’s Mud Fest, and they were tired and left for the hotel early. But instead of going straight back to the hotel, they found a place with ATVs and decided to go ATVing for a couple of hours. It was so funny and random, but that’s how Kari and Cathy were: such outgoing, funny girls, ready to take on any adventure or challenge that came their way. Thank you both for being my friends. I will never forget your strong and carefree spirits, your bright and vibrant personalities, and your kind and genuine hearts.” -Megan McAfee
“Cathy was a free-spirited, strong, compassionate, well rounded person. She was very open-minded, caring, loved traveling and loved her time in Korea. As soon as I heard the news, I felt my heart sink. I couldn’t believe that someone who was so full of life was robbed of a life. Cathy will never know how many lives she’s touched.” -Diana Cao
Supporting the families
Friends in Canada and the U.S. have set up online fundraisers to help the girls’ families with transport, funeral and related expenses. “Kari’s Army,” created Aug. 3, surpassed its $10,000 goal on Aug. 21. Kari’s high-school best friend Jason Von Seth also collected $3,000 for the family through a PayPal account.
Cathy’s high-school friend Jason Gallant set up “Bring Cathy Huynh home” to raise $40,000. Created Aug. 2, the project raised over $25,000 as of Aug. 22.
Meanwhile, friends in Korea plan to throw a party to raise funds on Friday, Sept. 14, at Sin Bin Sports Pub in Itaewon, Seoul. There will be a 50-50 raffle and beer pong tournament, and 50 percent of the sales of all Long Island Iced Teas purchased throughout the night will be sent to Kari and Cathy’s families.
“Anyone and everyone is welcome to attend. Kari and Cathy were both very social and had so many friends, and would definitely say, ‘the more, the merrier,’” said co-organizer Megan McAfee.
Friday Night Fundraiser for Cathy and Kari
Where: Sin Bin Sports Pub in Itaewon
When: Friday, September 14 from 8 pm
Featuring: 50-50 raffle, beer pong tournament, 50% of Long Island sales to go towards the families
For information, search the fundraiser’s name on Facebook.
For the fundraiser dedicated to Kari Bowerman, visit giveforward.com/Karisarmy.
For the fundraiser dedicated to Cathy Huynh, visit gofundme.com/z81i8.