Truc T. Huynh ’05 died on June 18, 2022, in East Outlet, Kennebec River, Maine.
(The following was provided by the A.T. Hutchins Funeral Home on June 18, 2022)
On Saturday, June 18, 2022, the life of Truc Huynh came to an unexpected and tragic end. In his forty years, Truc impacted thousands of people and created a legacy that will live on for generations. He will be remembered as a loving friend, a family man, and a leader in his community. The origins of his personal strength and resolve were the product of his early childhood experiences. In 1989, Truc and his family arrived from Vietnam as refugees and settled in Portland, Maine. Truc began cultivating friendships that would last a lifetime soon after he began attending Reiche Elementary School. Truc believed that the volunteers and mentors who taught him the English language were the “unsung heroes” who changed the course of his life. Truc continued his education at King Middle School, Portland High School, and Bowdoin College, graduating with the class of 2005. For the remainder of his life, Truc was an advocate for Portland Public Schools and was eternally grateful for the education that served as the foundation for his success.
In particular, Truc was fond of his physical education teacher and rugby coach, Rocco Frenzilli. Before a tournament game at UMass Amherst, Coach Fran rallied his team around him and shared an anecdote that Truc would remember for the rest of his life. “The next time you have bacon and eggs for breakfast,” Coach Fran remarked, “just remember that the chicken is involved because it laid a couple of eggs, but the pig is committed. The pig can’t lay bacon!” From that day on, whenever Truc faced a challenge, he asked himself, “Am I the bacon or the egg?” In his heart he believed, “When you do something, when you commit to something, you’re the bacon. You give one hundred percent. You don’t just give the egg.” As a wing on the Portland U-19 rugby team, Truc is remembered for always being out of position. Coach Fran recalls that Truc “was a pitbull around the ball, always running into the ruck.” In all arenas of his life, Truc applied this same philosophy to inspire others and make a difference.
In addition to being an incredible athlete, Truc was also an exceptional student. When he graduated from Portland High School in 2001, he was recognized as a Mitchell Scholar. In the words of George Mitchell, “Truc was the epitome of a Mitchell Scholar, a first-generation college graduate who never forgot his roots, worked hard to achieve his dreams, and dedicated his life to giving back to his community.” While at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, he majored in Government and Legal Studies, minored in Gender Studies, and was a Sarah James Bowdoin Scholar. Much the same way he mentored younger students at Portland High, Truc volunteered to be an orientation trip leader and enjoyed sharing his love for the outdoors.
Although his courses kept him busy, he found the time to be the chairperson for multiple blood drives organized by the American Red Cross. He was also the captain of the men’s rugby team, he started a culinary club, and was also a member at the Ladd House. At the Bowdoin College graduation ceremony in 2005, Truc received the Goodwin Commencement Prize. In his remarks, Truc honored the sacrifices of his parents and urged others to express gratitude by repaying small acts of kindness. Truc implored the audience to remember “for it is in giving that we receive.”
He fulfilled that mission throughout his life by creatively turning hobbies and passions into opportunities to serve others. Instead of going out to celebrate his birthday every year, Truc would gather a group of his friends to volunteer at the Preble Street Food Pantry. He was a dedicated supporter of Camp Susan Curtis, an organization that gives underprivileged children a chance to sleep in a log cabin and gain skills for lifelong achievement. In his heart, Truc believed that so much was given to his family and supporting these causes was his way of saying thanks.
Although many people in the greater Portland community can recall a time when Truc gave them a word of encouragement, supported their cause, or made them laugh, Truc was also a dedicated son to his parents and their family. He loved spending time with his nieces and nephews and attending their sporting events. To his family, he was a pillar of strength. He helped them open and operate their restaurant, PHOever Maine, and he was a celebrity behind the bar. On Monday nights, he was always the main attraction at his family’s house for supper. Truc’s strength was in his heart. He loved to build relationships and he was happiest when he was hosting.
In recent years, Truc organized “Trucking Across Maine” events, living by his motto “to pay it forward.” In 2019, he and a life-long friend bicycled from Madawaska to Kittery. Before completing their ride, Truc raised over $16,000 for local charities. During the pandemic, he raised funds to purchase personal protective equipment for local hospitals, non-profits, and first responders. In 2021, he leveraged his passion for the outdoors and launched “Fishing Across Maine.” Ultimately, he raised over $13,000 to help end food insecurity and strengthen communities. To celebrate his most recent birthday, he brought a group of volunteers to the Apex Youth Connection, a bike shop in Biddeford run by teens.
Those who were fortunate enough to know him, were in awe of his charisma and his zest for life. He loved to cook, and he loved to share his Vietnamese culture. He was an avid outdoorsman who loved boating, camping, and fishing. He was warm and engaging, relentlessly upbeat and always, always finding ways to help and encourage others. He held dreams of one day becoming a father. Recently, he returned from a romantic trip to Paris with his girlfriend and soulmate, Lesley, with whom he planned to marry and raise a family. Truc was loved by thousands of people, and he will be dearly missed. In his own words, Truc would probably say “Thanks for the memories.”
When we can finally see beyond the tragedy of this moment, Truc would want us to draw from his unfailing spirit and find a way to “pay it forward.” His joyful heart and generous spirit are a model for us all.
Truc is survived by his mother, Ngoc Huynh; his father, Phu Huynh; brother Tam Nguyen wife Lieu Tran (niece Kayla Nguyen, niece Kelly Nguyen, nephew Kendrick Nguyen); sister Kim Diep Huynh (nephew David Pham, niece Camilla Vy Pham); brother Duc Huynh wife Mai Huynh (niece Casey Huynh, niece Caitlin Huynh); brother Nghia Huynh; brother Trung Troy Huynh wife Thuy Nguyen (nephew James Huynh, nephew Dominic Huynh); sister Loan Huynh (nephew Matthew Hau Nguyen Huynh).
Truc did more living in his 40 years than most of us can hope to do in 80 or more. He quietly did things for others, big and small, without ever calling attention to it. He lived honestly and was never anyone but himself.
He was my friend. Truc had the gift of making many people feel seen and valued. This is a truly rare thing.
As freshman I nearly transferred away from Bowdoin because I could not find a group of friends where I felt I belonged. I happened upon the Bowdoin Rugby Club toward the end of my first year and everything turned around. Truc was one of the people who most made me feel welcome and part of something bigger than myself the next three years. His generous spirit and natural inclusivity represented to me everything great about Bowdoin College and the Bowdoin Rugby Club and something to aspire toward.
The world is a bit darker without his brightness in it. But, luckily we can all do our part to be a bit more like Truc and help him continue to, as he would often say, “pay if forward.”
Thank you very much for your kind words and special remarks of Truc, Evan!