NHIA KAO VANG LIFE AND LEGACY
1958 - 2016
Nhia Kao Vang lived the Hmong-American dream; a hero’s journey from the war-torn Laos to the United States of America. Kao Vang was born in the peaceful village of Laota, Laos on November 17, 1958 to Zam Tuam Vaj and Ntxhiav Mim Tsheej. His parents had five sons, where Kao was the third son, and five daughters. When the Hmong became allies with the United States during the Vietnam War, Kao’s family of 12 dwindled down to a family of 6. He lost his father, two older brothers, two younger brothers and a younger sister. The remaining family members were able to seek asylum in the Soptuang refugee camp in Thailand.
While living in the refugee camp, Kao became a teacher at the Catholic school teaching Laotian, Thai, Hmong, Math and English. As the Vietnam War crossed borders, Kao became an interpreter for the U.S. GVA in 1979, assisting many families through the screening process for Hmong refugees immigrating to the U.S. In 1979, Kao met and married his wife Chao Xiong.
On February 25, 1980, Kao and his family were sponsored by the Catholic Church and immigrated to Lawton, Oklahoma. In the U.S., Kao changed his name to Nhia Kao. Nhia Kao’s first job was working for the Welfare office. In 1981, Nhia Kao moved his family to Richmond, California to re-unite with other families of the Vang Clan. While attending Contra Costa Community College, Nhia Kao got involved in community support for Lao Family working with the board of director.
In 1984, Nhia Kao moved to Santa Ana, California to pursue his dreams. In 1985, Nhia Kao was accepted into the engineering program at DeVry Institute of Technology in Pomona, CA. He graduated with a Bachelor in Engineering Technology in 1988. General Vang Pao recognized Nhia Kao’s efforts and contributions from 1989 – 1991 to the Hmong community and hired him as the administrator/branch consultant in the Lao Family Community Inc. headquarters in Santa Ana. He worked closely with the General and his directors providing community outreach programs offering health, education and other social services to the Hmong community. Nhia Kao assisted in writing proposals, setting up programs, and hiring new employees.
In 1991, Nhia Kao accepted a job at Hewlett-Packard in Santa Rosa, CA as a New Product Introduction Engineer. He was responsible for overseeing environmental testing and innovating emerging test and measurement technology. Shortly thereafter, Hewlett-Packard moved its operations overseas and Nhia Kao lost his job; however, he seized the opportunity to venture into new investments.
In May 2005, Nhia Kao and his family moved to Rancho Cordova, CA. He became a franchisee for the popular smoothie company called Robeks located in Roseville, in which he poured his heart and soul into. Nhia Kao extended his achievements by becoming a co-owner of Express Teriyaki with Wa Chue Vang.
On June 4, 2007 Nhia Kao alongside General Vang Pao and 10 others were arrested by the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) in what seemed to be a conspiracy plot to violate the Neutrality Act and to obtain military weapons to overthrow the Laos government. Nhia Kao was imprisoned for one month and nine days. During the trials, the Hmong community united and rallied to support the 12 defendants. The trial lasted for 3 years, 7 months, and 6 days. The case was finally dismissed by U.S. Attorney Brown on January 10, 2011; after General Vang Pao had already passed away. The Federal Courts and FBI had no factual evidence and falsely accused the 12 defendants.
Nhia Kao was innocent. Nhia Kao dedicated most of his time to developing and improving the Hmong community. He was a pioneer who became the bridge for hundreds of Hmong families transitioning from a third world country and resettling into a modern one. He always believed it was his humanitarian right to help others. Nhia Kao Vang was a great leader, great role model, motivational speaker, loving husband, father and grandfather. He loved his friends, his family, his people and his community.
He is survived by his wife Chao Xiong; mother Ntxhiav Mim Tsheej; four sisters Hua, Chia, Xia, and Jer; five sons Channing, Xia, Sher, Kou and Meng; daughter Kathy; four grandsons Darien, Jordan, Mason and Adam; three granddaughters Kylee, Kiera and Genevieve.