Friends and family paid their last respects to West Chester University student Martin Nguyen on Saturday, Oct. 2 in a Vietnamese- Catholic service.The Cheltenham resident died in a car accident during the night on Sept. 24. Born Aug. 30, 1982, Martin was a music major student teaching in his last semester at WCU. He was involved with the Catholic Newman Center Association (CNSA) and participated in Project Mexico.
Project Mexico is a community service project in which eight students travel to Mexico City. There, they work with the church to better the lives of the residents. According to the CNSA Web site, “It is, essentially, a pilgrimage. It is about encountering Jesus Christ in the faces and lives of people from a different culture. It is about discovering riches abounding in apparent poverty. It is about generosity and gratitude. It is about sharing joys and griefs and struggles for a short time, and gaining
a lasting perspective.”
He also sang in several choirs and enjoyed playing acoustic guitar. Martin, or Marty to those who knew him, loved music and dancing. His girlfriend, WCU student Nicole DeFeo recalled the first night they went out together. “He came with me and 13 of our friends to Egypt Night Club to go dancing on Friday, Sept. 17, and after holding hands on the ride home he hung out with me to 5:30 a.m. We just danced in my room, to no music…he even sang to me. It was crazy, something Iʼve always dreamed of.”
Close friend, 5th year Liberal Studies and Psychology major, Tressa Ferro described Marty as a “very soulful person.” She went on to say, “He always had that magnetic smile on his face…when he walked through the door everyoneʼs spirits lifted up.” Ferro listed some of Martyʼs favorite movies, including “The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Movie” and any of the “Monty Python” films.
Everyone who spoke of Marty expressed how much he cared for his friends. Ferro stated, “Marty had more friends than anyone else I know. Weʼd be walking on campus together and he stopped to talk to practically every other person that would walk by.” She also said, “whenever I needed someone to talk to, he was there, and would come over and pray with me.”
West Chester graduate Rory Gaughan reiterated Ferro ʼs sentiments. “He was a person of great humor and joy, someone who loved life and wanted to live it to the full.” Gaughen went on to tell a story about when he and Marty were on a CNSA retreat together.
They were partnered in an exercise called a trust walk, where one of them had to guide the other one while blindfolded. Gaughen proceeded
to confuse Marty and get him lost. He said of the experience: “What did I learn from this?
Well, that I should never be a guide on the Mississippi River, or even the Schuykill River for that matter. But, more importantly, I verified my belief that Martin was trustworthy and loved to laugh with his friends. We may not be able to see him now, but I know heʼs there, guiding all of us who knew him, as we face our own strange and unclear pathways. And one day, weʼll take a final path, and see him standing at the end of it, laughing and asking us how much fun the journey was.”
Friends also spoke of Marty ʼs devotion. DeFeo said, “I loved that he was always singing and praising God.” Ferro added, “He had a magnificent
faith in God and whenever there was a rough situation he always said, ʻI donʼt need to worry, God will help me deal with it.ʼ”
DeFeo ended with, “I most admire him for his determination. If he wanted to learn something he didnʼt just say it, he went out and got it. He taught himself how to play guitar after buying his first one in Mexico…my roommate, Amy Finkel, taught him to read Hebrew, and he was teaching himself sign language. These are just a few of his passions, and they were all possible because God was in him, and I pray that we can all follow Martyʼs example of love and passion. We can all follow our dreams.”
West Chester University will be establishing the Martin Minh Nguyen Scholarship for Music Majors.