Bunthoeun Chea of Norfolk, Massachusetts , originally of Siem Reap- Cambodia has passed away unexpectedly at the age of 87 on June 14th, 2021 at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
She is survived by her two daughters Sontheary Sou ,husband Joe Ng of Needham, Sampheasiny Sou Fitzgerald,husband Brendan Fitzgerald of Norfolk , granddaughter Saraneh Fitzgerald of Boston, her grandsons: Paddy San of Abington, Matthew Ng of Needham, Sean Paul Fitzgerald ,wife Sokheang Heng of Arizona and former US Air Force Technical Sergeant Thomas Fitzgerald of Florida.
Bunthoeun was born and raised in a middle class family of rice merchants in Srok Chi Kreng, Siem Reap province of Cambodia ,she is the youngest of three daughters. As a young girl when not in school, she enjoyed traveling with her parents caravans all over the country when they went trading for other commodities such as cloth, silk , sugar, medecine etc.. Hence she had learned to cook different dishes and became quite a good cook. A good swimmer as she recounted her athleticism to me :during wet monsoon season the whole country was engulfed with water and only way to go to school is to swim across the big river with one arm raised up in the air holding her school uniform a book and 1 pencil so they woud not get wet...and she did that everyday until monsoon season is over... What a good sport and dedication to educate herself! She was literate in her native Khmer language , and French as it was the "official language of the country".. Bunthoeun later joined the Khmer Military as a Morse Code Operator after WWII and the Japanese occupation in Southeast Asia. There she met and married our father Sao Hoeun Sou, a young lieutenant officer in the Royal Khmer Army, Signal Corps Division.. As young wife she followed her husband and relocated to Phnom Penh where he worked at the command center and to start a family . She has five children. Bunthoeun is the best mother but strict , she believed in best education , and made sure that her 5 children received the best that she and her husband could afford .Life was peaceful and prosperous as Cambodia gained its independence from France . Sadly, this peaceful life did not last long.. Cambodia fell into another horrifyingly wicked brutal, barbaric war with the the Khmer Rouge , known to the Western World as the" Killing Fields". The Khmer Rouge had executed her husband, and three of her five children died of starvation in the concentration camps. . Only she and 2 daughters Sontheary and Sampheasiny survived the killings and starvation, they risked their lives and escaped the concentration labor camp and sought refuge at Khmer Thai border under the care of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.. Bunthoeun, her 2 daughters and her 2 grand children became refugees and were accepted and emigrated to the U.S. in 1981 , where the next chapter in their lives began.
In the U.S. life was hard to start out for Bunthoeun, she needed to learn a new language, assimilate and acculturate as much as she could. As daughters worked hard to create a life and career in the United States, Buntheoun selflessly helped care of her five grandchildren and created a stable life at home. For many years to come, she continued to care for everyone, never missing a meal, birthdays or Christmas cards. Each Khmer New Year, Bunthoeun prepared her special dishes and shared her never ending love with her children and grand children . She had the strongest spirit and the purest soul and taught our family the true meaning of love. Even to her last breath she continued to tell us that she loved us. This feeling will live on for the rest of us and give us strength when we need it.
From Sontheary: "Mom, when i look at you , i see the purest Loves in your eyes that i can find on earth, Your precious loving words resonate in every fiber and veins of my body. Your memory and never ending love will be mine to keep, God has you in his arms but I carry your memory in my heart. Please be my mother and travel companion again in our next life. Until then, may your soul rise to Nirvana and I will look up at you in the next full moon while you shine over my garden.
From Sampheasiny: " No amount of words I say or tears I shed can describe my gratitude for your love, support and guidance throughout the years. From going to hell and back during the Khmer Rouge and struggling to stay alive. We have made a decent, happy and successful life here. None of this would be possible without your dedication and love for me and our family. I'll be forever in debt and grateful for letting me be with you. I'll do my best to care for our family well and be worthy of your love. You'll be forever in my heart.
Until we meet again,"
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