Son, grandson, brother, classmate, ukulele whiz. Born July 8, 1995, in Victoria, died Aug. 1, 2012, in Victoria of a brain tumour, aged 17.
Victor was born to Korean immigrant parents. As their first-born and only boy, he was the light of their lives. His younger sister clearly adored him and attempted to emulate him in many ways.
Victor was a quiet and gentle soul, but also had a keen sense of humour and marched to the tune of his own drummer. In the company of his family and godparents, he would become a trickster and the focus of celebrations.
In Grade 4, a window opened for him when he was introduced to the ukulele. Playing the instrument became a passion.
He joined a community group and spent hours honing his skills. His parents soundproofed a music room for him in their modest home.
His mother learned the folly of this when she was no longer able to call him for dinner.
Victor took to composing and recording his music. He also studied piano, sang in both the mixed voices and men’s choirs at high school and played the French horn in the concert band.
He travelled to Hawaii with his band, Island Ukuleles. He loved to follow the greats of the ukulele world and was a huge fan of Hawaii’s Aldrine Guerrero.
In May, 2011, his group was again travelling, this time to California.
During the trip, Victor felt unwell and was taken to emergency. Tests revealed he had a brain tumour. He was flown to Stanford University Medical Center for surgery and his parents flew in to meet him.
Surgeons were unable to remove all of the tumour. Next there was a brief stay at B.C. Children’s Hospital, followed by weeks of rehabilitation. Finally the family were able to go home to Victoria.
Victor’s parents worked every day to help him reach his potential. They asked their son to face his illness with a bright and positive mind to overcome it.
Despite chemotherapy, transfusions, physiotherapy and trips to see specialists, life for Victor moved forward. He was academically advanced and attended a class for gifted and creative students.
In March this year, Victor’s parents invited Guerrero to Victoria to headline a string of ukulele concerts with Victor.
In April, the family was given the news that Victor’s tumour was continuing to grow and that treatment would be discontinued.
They put their trust in the Lord, and carried on living each day to the fullest.
The Make-a-Wish Foundation helped Victor and his family fly to Hawaii again, where Victor played with Guerrero and walked on his beloved Kailua Beach.
He celebrated his 17th birthday in the backyard with friends, eating, talking, laughing and listening to music. He’d lost most of his speech and his sight, but his buddies, who’d stuck with him throughout his journey, seemed oblivious to these deficits.
That evening, Victor retired to bed and within days had lost all his mobility. His friends visited daily, and painted a lasting mural on the cement steps of his home. Lucky is the wide circle of friends who knew him.