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.
Samaritas - New American Refugee Resettlement Fund
8131 E Jefferson Ave
Detroit, MI 48214
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
Quiet and steadfast, Chung Minh Trinh worked each day with one purpose in mind – providing for his family and making a better life for them. He was a man of few words, but through his deeds his family never doubted the love he held in his heart for each one of them. Sometimes, actions truly speak louder than words.
The 1930s was a period of unrest in China. The decade began with the country embroiled in a civil war and then later in the decade, under attack by Japan. During this tumultuous time, Chung Trinh entered this world on April 14, 1930 in Fukien, on China’s southeast coast. Life was challenging and as a result, Chung was only able to complete schooling through the 2nd grade. His lack of formal education never held him back in life, it only forced him to work harder to reach his goals.
In order to escape WWII and make a better life for himself, Chung left China by boat as a teenager with no other family members and headed for Vietnam. Upon his arrival, he found work on the docks, loading and unloading ships. The job provided enough for Chung to keep food on the table and a roof over his head as well as tuck away a bit each week. Eventually, he was able to save enough to purchase a tricycle with a bed attachment that allowed him to deliver goods around town.
Vietnam had other good things in store for Chung. While in Cholon, he met a young woman by the name of Anh Hue Nhang. She was employed caring for a family of nine children and Chung and Anh Hue were introduced by the children’s parents. After a while, the two were married and they were blessed to see their family grow to include seven children.
To support his growing family, Chung found work in textile sales, working his way up to shopkeeper for the business owner. He was a quick learner and he was soon able to continue on his own in the textile industry. Along with a partner, they were able to build their own business.
However, after the fall of Saigon, unfavorable events took over the country. Communists forced people into hard labor and enforced food rations. Because any form of retail sales were prohibited, Chung’s business suffered. In addition, goods and property were seized. Therefore, Chung started to purchase gold bars and hid them in the walls of his home to prevent them from being discovered when Communists came to search his home. This gold was later used to secure passage on a boat out of the country. However, the construction of the boat was not yet completed. The family needed to live on the streets waiting for its completion as they had to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice under the cover of a moonless night.
They spent two weeks on the ocean with very little food and water. The trip proved too taxing for Anh Hue and she died shortly after their departure. Pirates, who raided the boat to steal from the refugees, disposed of Anh Hue’s deceased body by throwing it overboard. Chung had the foresight to keep his gold ring in a matchbox and to have his daughter sew hundred-dollar bills into the collars of the children’s shirts before they left in order to keep it hidden from thieves and pirates.
The boat landed first in Malaysia but the refugees were refused entry. Because the boat was so packed with people, Malaysian officials divided the passengers into smaller groups for safer passage. Chung’s family was told to move to a smaller boat which then was forced to leave Malaysia and later landed on an uninhabited Indonesian Island. Chung again had the foresight to bring the basic necessities to get them by. In order to keep out of the elements, the family built themselves a stick shelter with a simple tarp serving as a roof. After several months on the island, Chung and his family were discovered by a United Nations crew. They were relocated to a refugee camp on Galang Island where they waited for a sponsor which took 2 years. The family was grateful just to have food and a place to live.
Finally, after being sponsored by the Westwood Christian Reformed Church, the family landed in Kalamazoo on the evening of July 3, 1980. Symbolically they awoke to their first full day in the United States on Independence Day. Chung’s family made their home in Kalamazoo, never forgetting what the church did for them.
Life was not easy living in a new country. Neither Chung nor his family spoke any English. This proved especially challenging for the children as they began attending Kalamazoo schools and had to learn American ways. “Don’t rock the boat. Watch others and follow. Blend in.”, Chung would often share. Heeding his words surely helped make a difficult situation a little more bearable for his children.
The language barrier also made it difficult for Chung to seek employment, but thankfully the church was able to step in again and help him find work as a bagger at a grocery store. Every day, even in the dead of winter, Chung rode his bicycle to work. In addition to the grocery store, he also worked other jobs at local restaurants. In order to provide for his family, many times Chung worked a 12-hour day. Though his family saw very little of him during this time, they knew he had their best interests at heart.
In the rare instances that he found some downtime, Chung loved the hubbub of Chicago, the beauty of Niagara Falls and the camaraderie he discovered in the large Asian population of Toronto where he could find items from his homeland that weren’t available in Kalamazoo. After he retired, Chung visited China with his son, 40 years after he left his first home. He was happy to be able to see his remaining family and visit his home town.
Chung was a true survivor. He escaped World War II to start a new life with nothing but the shirt on his back. He later escaped the results of another war, the Vietnam War, this time as a widowed parent with 7 children on a 2-year journey to the United States. He learned to make friends and to surround himself with good people he could depend on. He urged his children to always look ahead, but watch behind you and to be vigilant. Chung taught them to be survivors as well, through his example. His sacrifices and tremendous courage serve as inspiration to many. The true solid gold in Chung’s life are his children who proudly step forward in his footsteps.
Chung died peacefully on November 19, 2019 at Rose Arbor Hospice at the age of 89. Chung was preceded in death by his wife, Anh Hue Nhang, and his brother. Surviving are his children: Mandy (Tony) Phan, Julie (Caihua Pan) Trinh, Dan (Olivia) Trinh, Vanessa Trinh, Tim (Thuc Anh) Trinh, Tony (Brenda) Trinh, and Allison (Jack) Jensen; 17 grandchildren; and 5 great-grandchildren. Visit with family and friends while sharing food and refreshments from 11-1 PM on Saturday (NOV 23) at Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Dr., Kalamazoo, 269-375-2900. Visit Chung’s personal webpage at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com where you may read his Life Story, archive a favorite memory or photo, and sign his online guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to Samaritas for their refugee resettlement program.