Hmong community mourns General Vang Pao

FRESNO, Calif.

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For an hour or so, the funeral director allowed more than a hundred people to file inside and view his body.

Thursday was a very emotional night for the Hmong community as word of the general's death spread quickly.

General Vang Pao died inside Clovis Community Hospital around 4:45 Thursday afternoon. By 7:00, hundreds of mourners had already gathered outside. Many of them cried, and knelt on the ground as the general's body was rolled out.

Mourners followed the general to the Boice Funeral Home in Old Town Clovis. Per Hmong tradition, the 81-year-old's body lay on a stretcher inside the home, where people had the opportunity to say good bye to their beloved leader.

Daniel Her of Fresno said, "It's a great loss. He was like a lot of people, especially in the Hmong community viewed him as the father, the leader."

Speaking on behalf of the family, the general's distant grandson explained what he means to the Hmong people.

Bobby Vang said, "The population here has cared and loved him for so long. Not only that, he is like I said, the apex, or the pinnacle leader of our community."

General Vang Pao made his last public appearance at the Fresno fairgrounds on December 26th, during a Hmong New Year Celebration.

That same day, he was admitted into Clovis Community Hospital, where doctors later diagnosed him with pneumonia.

Maya Xiong hosts a news program for KBIF, the Fresno based Hmong radio station. She says, during the general's hospital stay -- she fielded calls from all over the world regarding his health.

During Thursday's show, people called in to mourn his death. "On air, everyone's been crying, saying he's like a father to us and without him, we don't know what to do," said Xiong.

Funeral arrangements for the general are pending. The service will likely be held at the Fresno fairgrounds within the next seven to ten days.

They expect 30 - 40,000 people will attend.

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