Memories full of joy, passion

Julia Battishill

Featured image: Sarah Wong was a first year studying at Seattle Pacific University | Photo Courtesy of the Wong Family

Nursing professor Julie Pusztai remembers an essay by Sarah Pantip Wong for her University Colloquium class this past autumn.

The class was focused on the topic of aging, and for one project, the class was told to interview an older person about their life and the aging process. Wong wrote about an 80-year-old woman, and Pusztai was moved by her words.

“The one thing that I will take from this interview is to keep on keeping on,” wrote Wong, according to Pusztai.

“Life is a rollercoaster of emotions, and the best way to handle it is to keep on keeping on.”

Pusztai, who was also Wong’s academic advisor, is one of many now mourning her loss. Wong passed away in a crane accident on Saturday, April 27.

A memorial service has been scheduled for this evening, May 1, at 7 p.m. at First Free Methodist Church.

The service is being planned by University Ministries, Faith Bible Church and Wong’s family and friends, and is open to all students.

Wong was an intended nursing student and a beloved resident of the fourth west floor of Emerson Hall. She was involved in several campus cultural clubs such as PICCA and ‘Ohana ‘O Hawai’i, and recently performed in PICCA’s “The Heart of the Pacific” event.
Pusztai remembers Wong as a vibrant and passionate young woman.

She described her last meeting with Wong, an advising appointment in February, and said that Wong was in a season of discovering herself and her passions, and taking the time to explore.

“She was enjoying her journey here at SPU, in her classes and outside of her classes,” Pusztai said.

Wong’s family released a statement on Tuesday, expressing thanks for the support they have received.

“We want to thank the communities of Seattle, Washington, and South Pasadena and San Marino, California, and beyond for the tremendous outpouring of love and support we have received in honor of our daughter, Sarah Pantip Wong,” Wong’s family said.

“Known by many as Sarah and by her family and many others as Pantip, we acknowledge the impact she has had on the people God has placed in her life path. As we continue to celebrate her life and mourn our loss, we are comforted by our faith, the faith communities in the Seattle and the Los Angeles areas, and Sarah Pantip’s wonderful community of friends.”

In the statement, the family said that they understand the desire of others to learn more about Wong, but requested privacy and declined media interviews at this time.

A service for Sarah Wong will be held on Wednesday, May 1st, 2019 in the First Free Methodist Church. Photo Courtesy of the Wong Family

Meanwhile, love and support for Wong and her family poured out over social media, such as Wong’s Facebook account.

What a wonderful spirit you carried with you throughout your life. Fly with the angels and look out for you loved ones from Heaven. RIP,” said one Facebook comment on a post of Wong’s high school graduation photos.

Another commenter said, “You are royally beautiful. RIP, and prayers to your family,” on pictures of a smiling Wong with friends at high school prom.
Even SPU alumni have reached out with prayers and condolences.

“I am a 1971 graduate from SPC. I was SO SORRY to hear of this tragedy. No words can express my sadness. My husband and I will be praying for the comfort that only the Holy Spirit can give,” commented Susan Leckenby on another post.

Other students used platforms such as Twitter to show their love, support and grief.

“We became friends because we loved the Dodgers, now every time I watch a game I’ll be thinking of you, fly high angel,” SPU student Reyna Camarena wrote on Twitter.

Another student, Shaylynne Matayoshi, tweeted, “Although I did not know you very well, you’ve made an incredible impact on many, including the friends we shared. You were a part of the Hawai’i Ohana from the very beginning and will always be in our hearts. Rest in love, Sarah.”

The campus and family of Sarah Wong grieve after her passing. Photo Courtesy of the Wong Family

Dean of Students for Community Life Chuck Strawn said that he did not know Wong well, but can see the powerful impact of her presence on campus in his interactions with other students.

“I know that she was really loved by her friends,” Strawn said in an interview.

“She was super involved in ‘Ohana [‘O Hawai’i] and PICCA, really engaged with the girls on her floor, she had a ton of friends in Emerson and in Ashton.”

Strawn has met with some students who were close to Wong in recent days, and has learned from their stories that her impact in their lives was no small thing.

“It’s been … really powerful for the last couple days to meet with her friends and obviously grieve, but also to hear the ways that their lives have been impacted by her,” Strawn said.

“Sarah obviously was an amazing young woman, and we were lucky to have her on campus.”