Tribute to Louis Tuệ Hovanky (1940 – 2019)

“Anh Tư, as I call my brother Louis Hovanky Tuệ – was, among other things, a student of philosophy – do you agree with Aristotle or with Plato?” and I can see my brother smile as he explained to me.

Aristotle would say that you are a whole, the essence that makes up you as a person, as a total person, and when that person dies, everything is gone.

Plato would say that there are two parts of a human being, the body and the soul. When the person dies, the body is gone but the soul remains. Knowing your Buddhist belief, I figure you would agree with Plato.

More than that, I feel that your soul is still around us. I am still feeling your presence as if we can continue to discuss our mother’s biography. Yet, part of me must acknowledge that you’re no longer around to discuss philosophy with me and to explain to me what exactly that Voltaire wrote because you had read Voltaire extensively.

You might have agreed with Plato more in terms of the body and the soul but it’s also obvious that you followed Aristotle in living your virtue and happiness. Throughout your life, from your values of learning, honesty, righteousness to the daily physical exercises, you believed that if you could pursue your goal in forming habits little by little with daily efforts, you would achieve excellence as Aristotle had taught us.

The next generations also appreciate you. I am taking the liberty to read a few lines that some of your nieces and nephews wrote about you:

From Hồng-Trang in San José: Uncle Louis worked hard all his life and he never complained. He set good examples by being content with his life.

From Thuy in Canada: Uncle Louis was such a good and warm human being. We will miss him very much. My mom is very sad; she was telling me how much she wished Uncle Louis had the chance to enjoy life more and that she wished that she could spend time with him. I know that even though the distance seems far, the love and caring are always there and these are the most precious things our family has. Thank you Louis for helping us remember our family’s history by your work on Grandma’s biography which is the greatest presents that Uncle had given to all of us and to the next generation. Thank you so much.

From Quang in Baltimore: Uncle Louis was such a great man with the warmest of all personalities. I would recall childhood stories from my mom about his generosity and always had a caring attitude. It was not too long ago after reading the Nobility of our Hearts: From Bến Súc to Sài Gòn to Austin that I sent him an email congratulating him.

From Thiện in Seattle: I didn’t get to speak to Uncle Louis often, but I always looked forward to his insight and always appreciated his kindness. It is a great loss to the family, but we have all gained far more from his being part of it.

My dear brother, seven years ago, you called me about our other brother, Anh Ba’s death. And now you leave us. At Anh Ba’s funeral, I read this and now I am reading it again to you: When one of Confucius’s dear persons died, in weeping for him, the Master showed excessive sorrow. His followers said, “You are showing too much sorrow.” “Am I? Yet, if not for him, for whom should I show this much sorrow?” If not for my siblings, for whom should I express this much pain?

I am crying for my loss but I am also thinking of your smile and the life that you have lived. I must copy what you’ve told me: As long as you had lived proudly with honor and respect, with love and compassion according to your moral principles, and now when it is time for you to leave this world, you can depart proudly as you have lived.

Rest in peace, my idealistic, honest, and beloved brother.
Kim Thinh Hovanky
October 6, 2019