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Local Activist, Teacher, and Mentor Leaves a Lasting Legacy of Support for Immigrants

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Erica DeLeon
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This week the Sioux City community lost a committed and caring voice for immigrants and the Vietnamese Community. 

Siouxland Public Media’s Sheila Brummer takes a look at the life and legacy of a major community leader through the memories of two of her friends.

“I can say I love my work.”

Hong Cuc Thi Nguyen talked about her passion for helping people with a local television station after winning one of many honors for her selfless commitment to the community.

Hong Cuc served as an advocate for immigrants, including people from her home country of Vietnam.

“She commanded respect because she listened.”   

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Credit Erica DeLeon

Erica DeLeon, the Executive Director of One Siouxland, first met Hong Cuc a dozen years ago in a previous position at the Mary J. Treglia Community House. 

Hong Cuc served on the Board of Directors and volunteered out of an office at the non-profit organization.

“She had come to the U.S. as a student on a VISA.  She worked for her government and went to Malaysia to teach math for a month. The fall of Saigon happened when she was in Malaysia, so she spent six to seven years there before coming to the United States.”

Hong Cuc arrived in Colorado, then relocated to Iowa City to finish her PhD in education.

“She was close to receiving that degree when she realized she would rather spend time with people than as an administrator.”

1981, brought her to Sioux City for a job with Lutheran Social Services as a refugee specialist.

DeLeon loved listening to her stories.  Historical and engaging.

“I would ask her a question.  Three hours would quickly pass.  She would tell me about her life and I would hear new information.”

DeLeon says for three decades Hong Cuc welcomed, acclimated and connected newcomers with her position as a social worker.  And, her mission continued after retiring more than 20-years ago.

“She was just the matriarch of the Vietnamese community.  Very well respected by everybody.”

And, you can hear that respect in the voice of Peggy La.  

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PEGGY LA

“She has changed people perspective about everyone helping others.  That’s why I look up to her.”

La co-founded Asian Fest a few years back.

She works at her family’s Asian grocery store as she remembers her mentor.  A woman she knew almost her whole life.

“She is the most selfless person I have ever met. Whatever help you need, translation or anything in the community. If she doesn’t know the answer she will find it for you.”

La says she will miss Hong Cuc’s encouragement.  Many consider La as someone who will emerge as the next community leader.

“She will be missed greatly by the whole Siouxland community.  By those who she has touched their lives, not only mine.”

La admits health problems did slow her friend down the past couple of years. 

A caretaker for Hong Cuc says she tested positive for COVID-19 before passing away at the hospital on Wednesday, May 6th, almost a month after her 87th birthday.

A long life, lived for enlightening others on their journey in a new land.

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Credit Siouxland Public Media

Some of Hong Cuc’s many accolades include a Women Aware Lifetime Achievement Award.  In 2016, she was honored with a sculpture outside the Martin Luther King, Junior Transportation Center. 

A special thanks to Siouxland News KMEG/FOX 44 for sharing their audio after she won a Jefferson Award for public service IN 2018.

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Credit Siouxland Public Media
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Credit Siouxland Public Media

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