Tran Trieu Quan was not a household name but when the 57-year-old Quebec City man went missing in the wake of the earthquake that hit Haiti last month, messages of support poured in from around the world.
His remains have been identified in the rubble of a Port-au-Prince hotel, his family announced in a statement Saturday morning, the most recent confirmation of the death of a Canadian in Haiti.
An engineer and entrepreneur, Mr. Quan was also a Taekwondo grand master and president of one of the sport's ruling bodies.
His disappearance in Haiti had triggered expressions of concerns and sympathy from the Philippines to Italy to Argentina, with thousands of practitioners signing up on a Facebook support page.
"What happened is a great tragedy. He was appreciated by a lot of people," said Roy Rolstad, a Taekwondo instructor in Oslo, Norway.
"He was a very wise, wise man, with lots of knowledge, not only about Taekwondo but about life," said Norberto Taveras, an instructor in the Dominican Republic.In a sad irony, Mr. Quan was in Port-au-Prince on a World Bank contract to improve the country's building standards.
"He was looking forward to it, he felt it was a country that needed help," said former Nova Scotia premier Russell MacLellan, who became a friend of Mr. Quan through Taekwondon.
Mr. Quan was also a survivor of Vietnam's brutal penal system. In 1994, he was jailed in his native country over a commercial dispute. Following a one-day trial, he received a life sentence.
He had to fight other inmates who threatened his life. He was chained 14 hours a day. He lost 35 pounds.
However, he was released after pressure from Canada and a massive outpouring of sympathy in Quebec City, just months before Vietnam was to host the Francophonie summit.
Mr. Quan would later say that Taekwondo gave him the strength to survive his ordeal.
"It was a terrible strain, always to have to be on your guard. You needed absolute control over yourself. . . . You had to be tough to survive," he told the Globe and Mail in an in interview in 1997.
Mr. Quan first learned Taekwondo when he was a teen in wartime Vietnam. South Vietnam was one of the first countries where Taekwondo was introduced, through South Korean troops deployed there during the war.
By 17, Mr. Quan had earned a black belt and was teaching Taekwondo in his highschool, under the tutelage of one of the martial arts' pioneers, Lieutenant-Colonel Kim Bong Sik
The war exacted a heavy toll on Mr. Quan's family. His eldest brother died in a B-52 bombing in 1968. His parents and of four of his nine siblings died as boat people after their boat disappeared at sea in 1977.
Mr. Quan had been living in Quebec City since 1970 after studying mechanical engineering at Laval University.
He opened several Taekwondo schools, organized tournaments and was active in making the martial art popular in Quebec. He became close to the Korean General Choi Hong Hi, a founder of Taekwondo living in exile in Mississauga, Ont., after running in trouble with the South Korean government.
After Gen. Choi died in 2002, Mr. Quan succeeded him as president of the International Taekwondo Federation, one of the sports' two main ruling bodies.
"He was dedicated to introducing Taekwondo among the poorer communities of Quebecd and the world to give young people the hope to achieve in life and attain happiness," his family said in its statement.
Mr. Quan is survived by his wife Nguyen Thi My and two daughters and a son, Joliette, Cecilia and Nicolas, all of them Taekwondo black belts.
Mr. Quan's remains will be returned to Canada Sunday, on Lunar New Year, traditionally the most festive time for people of Vietnamese ancestry. A private funeral will be held Feb. 20, but a public service is expected in March.Report Typo/Error