By Chris Stone
What might you imagine is the daily routine of a 109-year-old man?
For Mira Mesa’s Khen Ngo, “Everything is pretty much prayer, TV, eat,” said Khanh Le, one of his many grandchildren.
He views news, Korean dramas and international soccer games, she said Sunday ahead of National Centenarian’s Day on Tuesday. “He loves watching soccer.”
Ngo became the center of attention as San Diego Councilman Chris Cate presented him a District 6 proclamation in a late birthday celebration.
The Mira Mesa Town Council gathered stacks of cards and well wishes.
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Ngo considers his biggest accomplishment moving his family from Vietnam to the United States, said his 40-year-old granddaughter from Irvine.
This was not an easy task for him and his wife, seven children and two grandparents, who quietly escaped the Communists in his home country in a boat in 1975.
“A lot of [boat] people didn’t make it,” Le said of the dangers, including pirates, that threatened those making such harrowing escapes at the time. “My mom was pregnant on the way over here.”
After stays in the Philippines and Guam, they landed in California, where he has been grandfather to 20 grandchildren and 20 great grandchildren. He and has family have lived in the San Diego region for 35 years.
In Mira Mesa, he lives with his two daughters and son-in-law, and is a longtime member of Good Shepherd Catholic Church parish. Ngo and his late wife, Sam, were married for 67 years.
By the time he fled Vietnam after the fall of Saigon, he had been a businessman. He ran a sewing shop in the center of the country and a hardware store in the south.
Ngo is the last surviving sibling of his family in which all of his seven siblings reached their 90s or 100s before their passings, Le said.
Despite his apparent hereditary advantage, Ngo credits his physical activity and tea — green and jasmine to be precise — for his longevity.
“He was very active when he was younger, (playing) soccer. If you asked him, he would say prayer,” Le said. “He walks whenever he can. Up until now, he was walking a lot. He would go to church a lot.”
“He can do everything,” Le said. “His memory has been all there.”
Ngo uses a hearing aid, is ambulatory with the help of a walker, has his vision, and carries on conversations in Vietnamese with his family.
Ngo was born on the 4th of July and has become a citizen. His family celebrated his birthday with fireworks until this year.
On Sunday, Councilman Cate said, “Any time we can celebrate one of our own, we want to take part in that — the life that he’s lived and seen and experienced. We want to be a part of that celebration.”
He laughed and said: “I’m going to start drinking a lot more green tea right now.”
In an earlier statement, Cate said: “Mira Mesa, San Diego, and our nation are better because of the contributions from individuals like Khen.”
The oldest American lived to 119.
While Ngo has faced few health issues in his life, he began to feel pain in July. A scan revealed stage-four lung cancer.
Pain medication keep him comfortable, Le said. “He’s not suffering right now.”
Even with his cancer diagnosis, her grandfather still is in high spirits, Le said.
“We believe he’s ready to reunite with his wife, my grandma,” she said. “She passed in 2007.
“They had the best marriage, a loving marriage. He misses her dearly.”
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