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January 22, 1950 - November 10, 2020
On Tuesday, November 10, 2020, Phommachanh Phrakonkham, age 70, of Winnipeg, MB, passed peacefully with his wife and daughter by his side at St-Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg, MB. He was a beloved grandfather, husband, uncle, brother and friend.
Phommachanh was born on January 22nd, 1950 in Sam Nuea in Huaphanh Province in Laos to Phommee and Pheng Phrakonkham. As a young man, he enjoyed sports and fishing but was very studious. He was very dedicated to his studies and worked hard to earn a scholarship to study in France, however, returned home to Laos after the Vietnam War ended in 1975 with a change in political power.
Phommachanh and Pome were married in 1971 and welcomed their first child, Souvigna, a year later. They then had 2 other children, Patty and Saysana, all spaced 3 years apart. Due to the change in political powers in Laos, the family was forced to escape their home country and seek refuge in Thailand. After spending 6 months in a refugee camp, the family was sponsored by Precious Blood Parish in St Boniface Winnipeg and arrived in Winnipeg on November 23, 1979. With the support and guidance of their sponsors, Mary, Antoine and Dennis Grand, they were welcomed and introduced to their new country’s tradition and culture.
Phommachanh worked tirelessly to support his young family and later advocated for other extended family members to immigrate to Canada. In his early years living in Canada, he led the Lao Association in an effort to help new Lao immigrants assimilate to their new country. He supported them in many ways, including helping them bring their own extended family members into the country and aiding in connecting them with programs such as ESL to help with language barriers. He also worked to preserve the Lao language and culture by setting up Lao school and regular participating in Folklorama to highlight the Laotian culture and heritage.
Phommachanh was an avid scholar and fluent in 4 languages- Laotian, Thai, French and English. He completing secondary schooling in Laos and was accepted to attend Post-Secondary Schooling in France. He returned to teach high school in Laos for 4 years before becoming the Superintendent of the high school in Phon Hong. He held that position for 3 years until the family was forced to flee the country. After arriving in Winnipeg, Phommachanh worked as a custodian at the St Boniface College, and later attended the University to obtain his Bachelor of Education in 1989. Phommachanh turned down a teaching position in British Colombia, but instead chose to remain in Winnipeg due to his close family and community connection. He accepted the position of the Laotian Community Liaison Worker with the Winnipeg School Division #1 and was based out of Daniel McIntyre Collegiate. In this position, he worked tirelessly to support new immigrant students, and their families, with transitioning into the school system and culture.
Phommachanh retired early from his work in the school system due to his declining health. In the years following his retirement, he lost his sight and spent most of his time between home and dialysis. He still enjoyed keeping up to date on current events by listening to Lao and world news. He loved regular visits from his grandchildren and passing on stories from his life. He had a particular fondness for making history interesting and humorous. Phomachanh strongly believed in academics but also enjoyed life, passing down his love of traveling to his children and grandchildren.
He was a faithful follower of the Buddhist teachings but respected all faith and followings. He lived by the rule of think twice, speak once and always respect others. Although he had a quiet demeanor, he had a strong presence that made him a leader in his family and community.
Phommachanh is survived by his wife, Pome, 3 children, Souvigna(wife-Nattharin), Patty Phrakonkham-Ali (husband-Gamal), and Saysana Phrakonkham (wife Amanda); 7 grandchildren; siblings Phommy Jr, Oth and Khamphay and many nieces, nephews and cousins. He was preceded in death by his parents, Phommee and Pheng and his sister, One.
The family would like to thank all the medical professionals who supported and cared for Phommachanh during his many years on dialysis at the Sherbrook Dialysis Centre, and more recently at St Boniface Dialysis Unit. The family is also grateful and appreciative of the staff at Place des Meurons, who have, and continue to do more than expected of them.
Due to the current Covid restrictions, a small private service was held on November 17, 2020. A larger celebration of life will be arranged when we can all gather and honor Phommachanh in the manner he is worthy of.
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