Funeral services prepared for Hmong leader

August 22, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Friday morning begins a four-day funeral service for May Song Vang, the widow of the late General Vang Pao - a Hmong hero. The service will draw thousands of mourners from around the country.

May Song Vang died August 5th after a lengthy battle with cancer. She was 62.

In the traditionally male-dominated Hmong culture, May Song Vang stood out and spoke out to make sure women played a bigger role in the community.

Preparations are underway at the Fresno fairgrounds to honor May Song Vang. She became the face of the Hmong community after the death of her husband in 2011.

May Song Vang lifted the spirits of Hmong women. She was among the first women to attend school in her native Laos and became a nurse. Service organizer Maiyer Vang said, "For the Hmong community they see her as a mother. She spoke very well and was very passionate about education."

May Song Vang worked hard to see a Fresno Unified elementary school was named after her late husband. The general led US trained forces in Vietnam.

Fresno City Council President Blong Xiong called the four-day service an important teaching moment for Hmong families. Xiong explained, "The general and general's wife here is the last connected tie-in to the Vietnam War - why the community is here."

Xiong said May Song Vang stepped into a leadership role after the general's death. "Positively encouraging us but also at times we needed to be lectured a little bit. Hey, we need you guys to step in as leaders and to do work for our community so she was that calming voice."

People will honor her memory at the Lao Family Community, where May Song Vang's picture is displayed. Many have already paid their respects.

Lao Family Community executive director Pao Fang said, "She's really become first Hmong woman out there and people pay attention respect and honor her."

Blong Xiong added, "To see her being recognized like this is a huge step for our community."

May Song Vang is survived by three sons and seven grandchildren. Friday morning's funeral procession at the fairgrounds begins at nine.


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