Where Food, Drinks & Stories Are Shared

Bane Thong Vanh

February 12, 1948 - July 25, 2021
Kalamazoo, MI


Life Story Service

Sunday, August 1, 2021
1:00 PM to 3:00 PM EDT
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
Kalamazoo Location
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
(269) 375-2900

Cremation will follow with final prayers.

Driving Directions


At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.

Directed to the family: Chay Thongthi
5765 Coddington Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009


Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.

1830 S. Westnedge
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
(269) 349-4961
Driving Directions
Web Site

Life Story / Obituary


Bane enjoyed nature and most of all, he loved to see people smile and hear their laughter. When he was young he gardened, hunted, and fished every weekend. Bane was also a wonderful story teller. Everywhere he went, people would gather around him to listen to his funny “life stories”. There was always a happy vibe if Bane was around. Bane was known as the “gas station uncle” to his nieces and nephews. No matter what time of day the nieces and nephews visited, he would pack all of them into a 4 person car and bring them to the neighborhood gas station. There, they got to choose any sweets their little hearts desired. He was a man with a huge heart. Anyone in need could come to him for help and would immediately be welcomed and treated like family. His kindness impacted all who knew him. His legacy will continue through the people whose lives he has touched.

Bane Thongvanh, ethnically Tai Dam, was born on February 12, 1948 in the small village of Banh Chau, currently known as Sonla, Vietnam. He was the second oldest of Pao Thongvanh and Khin Thongthi. Bane came from a family of 14 siblings in total, consisting of 11 boys and 3 girls. Bane is survived by 2 sisters and 4 brothers. A civil war in Vietnam broke out in 1954 and the small neutral Tai Dam country was taken over by the Communist North Vietnamese. At the tender age of 6 yrs old, Bane’s parents migrated the family out of their homeland Sonla, Vietnam to the neighboring country Laos. The family settled in a small village called Siengkwong. Here, they made a living by growing rice. In 1962, the family moved to the outer part of Vientiane, Laos in search of better opportunities. This is where Bane received an opportunity. He was lucky to be one of the few chosen to enlist into a boys military academy (Gee-Nai-Moe). Bane studied there from 1962-1967. After he graduated from the Academy, Bane decided to continue to work in the military.

At the age of 20, Bane found the love of his life in the spring of 1968. He met Nhay Lothi while she was visiting her aunt in Vientiane. After a few months of courtship, Bane decided to ask for Nhay’s hand in marriage. They were married on May 15, 1968. The couple envisioned a big family but was only blessed with one daughter in January 1973, who was their 3rd child, Chay. The other 6 newborns were all carried to full term but passed away at birth due to a bacteria that infected the lungs.

Despite this, the couple continued a happy and simple life together until April 9, 1977. Bane was once again forced to leave his country. Laos was taken over by the Communists. With a dream of a better life for their own family, the couple made a risky decision to leave. The couple packed a small amount of belongings that they deemed important and quietly snuck out of Laos. The escape had to be carefully calculated and well planned out. The family took off on foot, walking at night in pitch black darkness through a dense jungle. They would hide in caves during the day before continuing the journey at night. The family continued traveling for a week until they reached the banks of the Mekong River. Immediately at the edge of the cold, dark river bank, the family silently scrambled and quickly got onto a handmade raft that Bane and his close friends had made ahead of time, specifically for this particular occasion. The family slowly and carefully rowed their raft towards freedom. The pitch black darkness of night shielded the family from harm across the cold Mekong. The family safely made it across the river to Thailand within a few hours.

In Thailand, the family resided in the overcrowded Nongkai Refugee Camp. They were assigned to stay in one of the small, cramped, one room spaces. The building was an elongated building that was sectioned off into 32 or so rooms. Each room was 8x10, no bigger than half the size of a one car garage with cement floors and tin roofs/walls sections. Food was distributed to each family weekly by the Thai government. The family persevered in the refugee camp’s harsh conditions in hope that one day they would have the chance to be sponsored over to “a land of dreams” where they could raise their family in hope of a brighter future. In early 1980, the refugee camp was engulfed in a raging fire in the middle of the night. The whole refugee camp was burned down to almost a crisp. The family was lucky to get out of the deadly fire alive but lost all of their precious belongings besides the clothes on their backs. The family was provided a small pitched tent to sleep in amongst thousands of other refugees in the plowed rice fields. The hard ground was now their beds and the stars were their only light for the evenings.

Luck shined on Bane and his family in March 1980. Their prayers were answered. They were chosen to be sponsored to the United States! On the 18th of March, 1980, Bane and his family landed in Aberdeen, South Dakota. In the “land of dreams”, the couple raised their family. Faced with the language barrier, the family had to quickly learn English as well as the American culture. Not long after their arrival to the United States, the family was acclimated and well on their way to building a bright future for themselves. One of the greatest things was given to them, the chance to live the American Dream. Anything was possible and achievable through perseverance and hard work. With the little English that they knew, Bane and Nhay were fortunate enough to be hired to work at Control Data in 1981. The endless support of their sponsors and new friends helped them land such wonderful jobs. Later on, in the summer of 1989, Control Data was shut down and bought out by Seagate. Seagate decided to assume Bane and Nhay’s employment and transferred the couple to the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul), Minnesota. Bane worked at Seagate until he reached full retirement on July 8, 2014.

Years had passed and in the summer of 2019, Bane received news that he had been diagnosed with Lymphoma. He immediately underwent chemotherapy. His treatment was continued in Kalamazoo Michigan where his daughter, Chay and 4 grandchildren resided. Bane was gifted with 3 granddaughters, Doungbagai, Ynodoula, and Soudsada along with one grandson, Symaedchit. In October of 2020, Bane was approved for a very new and effective cancer treatment for his Lymphoma. He underwent CAR-T and completed it in November 2020. Bane has been cancer free ever since. During his fight with cancer, Bane’s siblings, in-laws, nieces, nephews, and close friends all showered Bane with unconditional support and love. Bane was deeply touched and so grateful for all that he received from all the people that he held dear in his heart. Looking forward to living a cancer free life, Bane focused on getting stronger and even planned trips with his grandchildren. On April 14th, 2021, Doungbagai gave Bane a precious gift, his first great-grandson, Souliyoh. Bane’s family was growing bigger and bigger. The love and family bond was even stronger than ever. Unfortunately, Bane passed away on July 25, 2021 due to sepsis.

Bane was a son, brother, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, great uncle, uncle, nephew, and a friend. He was kindness itself. We will treasure him forever in our hearts and our memory.

We love you Bane Thongvanh.