- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 1, 2001

NEW YORK (AP) The 61-year-old woman who died of inhalation anthrax had fled Vietnam 24 years ago, leaving behind her possessions and relatives and adopting her Bronx neighbors as her extended family.
Kathy T. Nguyen came to the United States with the aid of a soldier who was a New York City police officer, co-workers and neighbors said. She settled in the Bronx and found a job as a hospital stockroom clerk.
She held similar jobs throughout the past two decades, spending the last 10 years at the Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital where she was working when she was diagnosed with the city's first case of inhalation anthrax. She died yesterday at Lenox Hill Hospital.
Mrs. Nguyen lived alone. Her only son died in a car crash years ago, neighbors said, and her ex-husband, an American, is believed to live in Germany.
Mrs. Nguyen loved to cook and shop, according to neighbors. Neighbor Yvette Lebron described her as polite and quiet, "a lovable kind person" who was devoted to her Roman Catholic church.
Mrs. Lebron, who often sat on a bench outside the deceased's building, frequently greeted Mrs. Nguyen on her way to and from work. A petite woman, Mrs. Nguyen dressed neatly, with an Asian accent to her outfits.
"She wasn't a person who would go out. She was a home person," Mrs. Lebron said. Mrs. Nguyen was known for cooking Thanksgiving dinner for neighbors homemade baked salmon, won ton soup and crispy duck.
Late last week, Mrs. Nguyen complained to her neighbors about respiratory problems that she thought were merely symptoms of a cold.
Hattie O'Neil, who works in admitting at the Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital, said Mrs. Nguyen was "always very pleasant and always jovial, but I saw her on Friday, she wasn't herself. She was pale and all bundled up."
Thomas Rich, who also works in admitting, said that as part of her job, Mrs. Nguyen accepted equipment that came into the hospital and made sure it got to the right office. "Almost everyone in the hospital came in contact with her," he said.
Her neighbors said she worked afternoons and nights, going to work by subway and coming home close to midnight.
"She was working all the time, and she was planning to retire," Edith Navedo, a former neighbor, told the New York Times.
Mrs. Navedo said Mrs. Nguyen had told people she came from a well-to-do family in Vietnam, that her mother was a teacher and her uncle rented rooms to American soldiers during the war. She spoke of a beautiful house by the water in Vietnam.
Not long after the September 11 terrorist attacks in Washington and New York, Mrs. Lebron and some friends were outside discussing their fears. Mrs. Nguyen happened along and joined in.
"She said the best thing that everyone could hold onto is to go to church and pray."


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