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85-year-old Redmond Heights employee to retire after almost three decades
In January 1986, Khanh Cung started his job at Evergreen Vista as a server, setting tables before meals and bringing people their food.
Almost 30 years later, the senior living community has gone through a few name changes — first Cascade Plaza and now Redmond Heights Senior Living — and Cung still bustles about the dining room, going from table to table, checking on residents and making sure they have everything they need as they sit down for their meals.
But not for long as the Bothell resident will be leaving Redmond Heights and retiring on Monday.
"You know, I'm too old," he said. "I'd like to enjoy the last few years of my life."
And at 85, it has been a long — and full — life so far.
A HISTORY OF HARD WORK
Cung grew up in Vietnam, initially working as a schoolteacher for about five years before joining the Vietnamese military. He served for 21 years, and when the communists took over the country, he was sent to a labor camp, where he stayed for three years from 1975-78. He then spent about a year performing more labor in one of the country's "New Economic Zones." Cung escaped in 1980, and on March 5 of that year, he fled Vietnam by boat. This was followed by seven months in a refugee camp in Malaysia. He arrived in the United States on Oct. 8, 1980.
Once he arrived in Washington — the only state he has lived in — Cung attended Lake Washington Institute of Technology for two years and Bellevue Community College (now Bellevue College) for one year. He took classes to learn English as well as bookkeeping. Although his English skills needed work, he said he had some experience with the language before coming to the states.
"When I was in the military, I worked with American advisers," he explained.
All of the hard work Cung has done throughout his life has transferred to his duties at Redmond Heights.
"He's a machine. I wish I could clone him," said Dawna Talman, Redmond Heights' executive chef and Cung's supervisor. "I know that the job's going to get done. I don't have to tell him what to do. He just knows."
TO MISS AND BE MISSED
When Talman learned of Cung's retirement, she said she was sad.
"He's a very, very hard worker — very courteous, very polite," she said. "The residents love him. He's one of the nicest gentlemen you'll ever meet."
Larry Marsh, a resident of five years, agreed, adding that Cung is "twice anyone else."
"He's going to be missed a lot," Marsh said.
Talman said Cung is also able to "relate to (the) residents better than the younger (employees)" as he is similar in age to them.
Doris Thompson, who has been living at Redmond Heights for 11 years, said Cung is an amazing man. The 95-year-old said his nickname is "Speedy" because he will know in advance what people want to eat and is always quick and on top of things.
"Your oatmeal would be in front of you before you'd hardly gotten seated," she said.
Mary Jane Brooke, an 81-year-old Redmond Heights resident of about a year, added that Cung "just runs," which is impressive as not many people their age can move like that. She said she is always happy on Sundays and Mondays because those are the days Cung works.
"We'll just miss his activity," Brooke said. "He always greets you, asks if you have everything you need…I just know he's going to be missed even though he only works two days a week."
She added that because Cung still speaks with a Vietnamese accent, it may be difficult for people to understand him from time to time — especially for those using hearing aids. However, Cung never gets impatient and will repeat himself until people can understand, Brooke said.
And while everyone at Redmond Heights will miss Cung, he said he will miss them, as well.
"I'll miss my friends, my co-workers, my boss," he said. "They're so nice to me."
PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
Cung currently lives in Bothell with one of his sons. He has three sons who all live in Washington. His two daughters are living in California, and he visits them every year. From his five children, he has 13 grandchildren, as well.
Cung said once he retires he plans to relax.
"Just stay home and enjoy family," he said about his future beyond Redmond Heights.