Aung Htoo, Burmese refugee and Ithaca resident, died unexpectedly on June 4, 2017 at age 38. He is survived by his wife, Eh Say, and their three children, ages 16, 14, and 8.
Aung was well-known in the food and farming community in Tompkins County, having worked at West Haven Farm, Finger Lakes Fresh greenhouses, and Emmy’s Organics. He also participated in the Incubator Farm program at the Groundswell Center for Local Food and Farming.
Graham and Otto Ottoson, owners of Gourdlandia who have been sponsors of the Htoo family since their arrival as refugees six years ago, set up a Go Fund Me campaign to raise money to support the Htoo kids’ education.
“He loved to grow Asian vegetables — long beans, hot peppers — all the things he missed from home,” said Graham Ottoson at the family’s vigil with the large Burmese community. “He was — it’s so hard for me to say ‘was’ — just so helpful. He would come and help me spread manure and prepare the beds for my gourds. He was so happy, friendly, and cheerful. He’d sing while he watered the gourds.”
Aung was previously a rice farmer. As a member of the persecuted Karen ethnicity, he and his family escaped soldiers on foot through the jungle and spent 11 years in a refugee camp in Thailand before coming to America in 2011.