Aung Htoo, 38, of Ithaca, died in his sleep on June 4, 2017. Aung Htoo was born to Tha Nay Paw and Bo Joe on March 1, 1979 in Ku Low Lay, Burma, a village in Southwest Karen State. He began working in rice fields when he was quite young. In 1998 he fled the violence against the Karen people by the Burmese military to join his mother and brother at Mae Kaung Kah refugee camp in Thailand, where he worked as a carpenter. There he met his wife Eh Say, and the first two of their three children were born. In 2007 the family moved to Mae La Oo refugee camp, where his youngest son was born. In June 2011, he and his family and were resettled to Ithaca through the United Nations High Commission on Refugees.
Although he had no formal education, Aung Htoo excelled as a student of English and American culture when he came to Ithaca. At the time of his death, he was studying to become a citizen of the US. Aung Htoo was excited about becoming a U.S. citizen and he was a quick learner. He knew most of the answers to the 100 civics and history questions and was well on his way to passing the test. Even when the work was hard, he always smiled and wanted to keep going. Helen Ranck, of Tompkins Learning Partners, says: âIt is hard to express what an all-around wonderful person he was. I just remember his broad grin and his positive outlook no matter what.â
Aung Htooâs first job in Ithaca was at West Haven Farm. He also worked through Challenge Industries at the Finger Lakes Fresh greenhouse and the Food Hub in Groton, where he became an assistant supervisor. In 2016, he again worked at West Haven Farm. His co-worker Jay Smith says âHe harvested produce faster than anyone else. I admired his focused, hard work and gentle demeanor.â In December 2016, he began working at Emmyâs Organics.
Aung Htoo was very affectionate and loving with his family. He liked to cook, and often cleaned the kitchen and washed the dishes for his wife when he saw she was tired. He liked to sing Karen music, âGod songsâ, while working, and enjoyedÂ American country music and rock. He had a garden at the Groundswell Incubator Farm for two years, and grew Asian vegetables for his friends and family. He also loved to go fishing with his good friend Khin Khin Paw and his brother-in-law Sea Nee Sow. People who knew Aung Htoo remember his heartful smile and eagernessÂ to help. His sponsors, Graham and Otto Ottoson say, âHe was a man who took the wheelbarrow from your hands before you even realized you were struggling.â
Aung Htoo is survived by his wife, Eh Say, 3 children, Will Mu Htoo (16), Roe May Htoo (14) and Eh Htee Kaw (8), his mother, Tha Nay Paw, sister Merry Paw, brother Bailtal Hsa Moo, all of Ithaca, a brother, Luay Si Wah, of Thailand, and sister, Paw Dee Nya of Burma. He was predeceased by his father, Bo Joe.
Aung Htoo will be buried in a pine casket made by several friends and relatives and his sponsor Otto Ottoson, who shared his love of carpentry.
Please consider donating to the educational fund set up for his children. Donations can be made at https://www.gofundme.com/foraunghtooskids.