HOUSTON — Family, friends, colleagues and students are remembering a Cypress-Fairbanks ISD teacher's aid who recently passed away, a reported “victim of the coronavirus pandemic,” according to her online obituary.
“She was the pillar of our family,” Christine Truong said of her mother, 69-year-old Linh Phuong Le. Truong said her mother was also her best friend.
"She was just everything to us,” Truong said.
The school district did not comment specifically on the death of Linh, who also went by the name Marie, but they sent a letter to the community regarding the loss of the “beloved Kirk Elementary School staff member.” She worked at the school for five years, according to the district.
According to her obituary, Linh was born in Hải Phòng, Vietnam. She was a young child when she and her family escaped communism and fled into South Vietnam. Her family survived the Vietnam War and Fall of Saigon — they made multiple attempts to escape, finally getting out of the country in the early ’80s.
“I mean, she’s a tough lady," Truong said. "She survived, you know, traveling here to escape communism. I can’t believe COVID ended up getting her.”
She and her family came to the United States. Linh met and married her husband, Nguyễn Dang Linh, and moved with him to Houston in 1982. They had two children.
Truong said she dies after a brief, but rapidly worsening, case of COVID-19.
"They gave us the opportunity to do like a Zoom feed for our family and friends to see her before she flatlined,” Truong said.
She passed away on Sunday, Jan. 3 at Methodist West Hospital.
“A victim of the coronavirus pandemic, she was not allowed to have her family members in attendance, however, an online group viewing was provided for the family before her death,” the funeral home noted.
“Linh was the most loving and caring wife and mother to her family. A bright light and loved by all, most knew Linh for her sweet smile, kind words, and thoughtful gifts.”
Linh spent the last few years working as a paraprofessional at Cy-Fair ISD’s Kirk Elementary School which called her beloved and dedicated in a letter to families.
"A far as I know, this was the first campus-based death in Cy-Fair ISD,” said CFISD American Federation of Teachers president Nikki Cowart.
The union protested in-person learning plans at the beginning of the year and even filed a lawsuit. Cowart said illness and death due to COVID-19 are constant reminders of the importance of staying safe.
"We’ve started some safety committees in different feeder patterns to share best practices best ideas,” Cowart said.
Linh's family didn't know where she may have gotten COVID. They only wished, like many school employees, that a vaccine was readily available.
“I don’t think she contracted from the school, but who knows?" Truong said. "I mean, it’s just so hard to trace it.”
This is the letter released by the school district:
Dear Tiger Family,
It is with deep regret that we inform you that one of the beloved members of the Kirk family, Ms. Linh Le, died Sunday, January 3rd. Ms. Le has been a dedicated paraprofessional at Kirk elementary for five years. She worked to support many students across all grade levels; your child may been directly helped by her throughout the year or may have known her as the smiling face in class. Our entire school community is suffering the loss of our friend and colleague. Her love of students and enthusiasm for learning will be deeply missed.
As adults, we are well aware of the substantial emotional impact that follows the death of a loved one or friend. Due to the age of your child, this may be the first time he or she has experienced the death of someone close. Because of this, we wanted to provide you with the opportunity to talk with him or her about it this evening. Children experiencing this type of event for the first time might be frightened or overwhelmed. They will most likely be looking to you for emotional strength and guidance. We encourage you to listen to your child and to be prepared to answer his or her questions simply and honestly. We are working together with our Crisis Response Team to offer support to the students and staff at school. Included with this email is some information that may be helpful for you to use at home. Please feel free to contact us if you need additional assistance.
Counselors and other support staff will be available at the campus tomorrow (Jan. 06) and will continue to be available to students, teachers, and parents as needed. If you should have further questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us at the Kirk Elementary School main number (713-849-8250). I know you will join us in keeping this family in your thoughts.
We appreciate your support during this difficult time.