Passion for dance drew many of those slain to ballroom

Jan 25, 2023, 2:32 AM | Updated: 4:58 pm
Eric Sham visits a makeshift memorial on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023 for those killed in a mass shooting...

Eric Sham visits a makeshift memorial on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023 for those killed in a mass shooting at The Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park. (Sarah Reingewirtz/The Orange County Register via AP)

(Sarah Reingewirtz/The Orange County Register via AP)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Among the 11 people killed when a gunman opened fire during a Lunar New Year celebration at a Los Angeles-area dance hall popular with older Asian Americans were a family’s beloved aunt, a retired man who decided to return to school and the venue’s always-smiling manager.

For many, a passion for dance and a desire to gather with friends had drawn them to the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park on Saturday night for what was set to be a joyous celebration.

“I recognize the faces of these people who created friendships, connections and a community around their passion — dancing,” said Kristina Hayes, who has organized tango events at the dance hall. “I’m still in shock.”

Following the attack, the gunman went to another nearby ballroom but was disarmed before anyone was shot. He fled — and on Sunday shot and killed himself.

As of Wednesday, a GoFundMe organized by the Asian Americans Advancing Justice Southern California had raised over $700,000 for the families of the victims.

Here are profiles of some of the 11 people killed:

MING WEI MA

Ming Wei Ma, 72, was the manager of the Star Ballroom and a talented dancer himself. He was described by those who knew him as always smiling, helping out and making people feel welcome.

“He was a genuine, special person who was loved by all,” Walter Calderon, a dance instructor who held events there, told The Associated Press.

Calderon said that while Ma didn’t speak much English, he conveyed a lot with his facial expressions.

Siu Fong told the AP she would sometimes lead karaoke outings for older people there, where Ma would always say hello to everyone. “He would go into my session, and talk to the singers and greet them.”

MYMY NHAN

Mymy Nhan, 65, was a regular at Star Ballroom. She had been the main caretaker for her mother, who recently died, and was looking forward to the dance hall’s Lunar New Year celebrations as a way to “start the year fresh,” her niece Fonda Quan said.

“It is comforting to know that she enjoyed her last dance, even though it was her last dance,” she continued.

Tiffany Liou, a reporter with WFAA television station in Dallas, wrote for the station’s website that for Nhan, her husband’s aunt, “her family was her passion.” Liou said that Nhan had no children but “loved her nieces and nephews like her own.”

“She was kind to all strangers. Her warm smile was contagious. She was everyone’s biggest cheerleader,” Liou wrote.

Nhan, who was of Chinese descent, was raised in Vietnam and immigrated to the U.S. in 1985, Liou wrote.

VALENTINO ALVERO

Valentino Alvero, 68, was remembered as a dedicated family man who loved ballroom dancing and was “the life of any party,” his family said in statement.

Alvero was “a loving father, a dedicated son and brother, a grandfather who loved his three granddaughters fiercely, an uncle who loved his nieces and nephews like his own,” his family said in a statement.

“He loved people and hearing about their lives and in return, he shared his own stories with so much enthusiasm that you couldn’t help but listen and laugh along with him,” the family said.

The statement said Alvero, a devout Catholic, loved ballroom dancing.

“We hope that he danced to his heart’s content until the very end and hope that he is now dancing in heaven,” the family said.

WEN TAU YU

Wen Tau Yu, 64, was retired, but he’d recently returned to school to study to be a pharmacist, his son said.

“He was 64 years old and retired, but he was exploring his second career,” Szu Fa Yu told The New York Times. “I really admire him for that.”

Wen Tau Yu had immigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan, where he was a manager at an agricultural company, his son said.

On Saturday, the family had gathered to celebrate the Lunar New Year before his father went out to celebrate with friends. When his father’s friends said he’d never made it to lunch the next day, the family reported to police that he was missing.

Szu Fa Yu said that if his father was a dancer, he didn’t know about it. He said the family wasn’t sure if he was killed inside the dance hall or while passing by it.

YU LUN KAO

Yu Lun Kao, 72, was a longtime member of the dance community in Monterey Park, and he was known to practice for hours.

“All day long, that’s how much he loved dancing,” Alex Satrin, an instructor who teaches at Star Ballroom, told The New York Times.

Satrin said that Kao, who also went by Andy, had participated in his group classes and also frequently practiced on his own.

Kao’s brother, Alan Kao, told the newspaper that his brother worked in the construction business after coming to California from Taiwan two decades ago.

MUOI DAI UNG

Muoi Dai Ung, 67, who came to the U.S. from Vietnam over a decade ago to be with family members who fled the country in the 1970s and 1980s, was an extrovert who loved to dance, her family said.

Her niece, Juily Phun, told the Washington Post that her aunt came to the U.S. in hopes of building a life here “different from the sorrows she had experienced.”

On Saturday, Ung, who worked multiple jobs, including as a seamstress, had gone to the Star Ballroom to celebrate the Lunar New Year with her best friend.

A statement from Ung’s family described her as “complicated, messy, easy to love and sometimes hard to understand from the outside.”

This month, Ung’s daughter was visiting her from overseas. “She came to see her mother, and now she has to bury her,” Phun said.

DIANA TOM

Diana Tom, 70, was a “hard-working mother, wife and grandmother who loved to dance,” her family said in a statement provided to The Associated Press.

Her family said that she went to the ballroom to celebrate the Lunar New Year by dancing with her friends.

“To those who knew her, she was someone who always went out of her way to give to others,” her family said.

NANCY LIU

Hongying Jian, 62, who was known as Nancy Liu, and her husband Jeff were regulars at the Star Ballroom, their daughter said.

“They know everyone,” Juno Blees told The New York Times.

The couple emigrated from China more than 25 years ago and did everything together, Blees said. They liked to socialize at the dance hall because the clientele were about their age, and many were also Asian immigrants.

A neighbor, Serena Liu, described Nancy Liu as “a very nice, cute, kind person” who liked to sing, play piano and go out dancing.

“She used to say she can make friends with anyone if she wants,” Liu told the Los Angeles Times.

On Saturday night, Jeff Liu was near the entrance when he witnessed the gunman storm in and open fire. He saw his wife collapse, Blees said.

They got separated and he never saw her again.

Jeff Liu’s shoulder was grazed by two bullets. He was discharged from the hospital on Sunday.

CHIA LING YAU

Chia Ling Yau, 76, had a passion for music, dance and travel, his family said in a statement, the Washington Post reported.

Yau’s family said he was a caring father, uncle, brother and friend who was a happy, fun-loving person. His family said that he was the kind of friend who was generous with his time, and to his children “he was generous with words of love and affirmation.”

___

Stengle contributed to this report from Dallas. Also contributing to this report were reporters Terry Tang and Amy Taxin in Monterey Park, Calif., and researchers Jennifer Farrar and Rhonda Shafner in New York.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

The logo for OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT, appears on a mobile phone, in New York, Tuesday, Jan. 31...
Associated Press

Cheaters beware: ChatGPT maker releases AI detection tool

ChatGPT is trying to curb its reputation as a freewheeling cheating machine with a new tool that can help detect if artificial intelligence wrote it
19 hours ago
This undated photo provided by the Grants Pass Police Department shows Benjamin Obadiah Foster. Fos...
Rio Yamat and Andrew Selsky, Associated Press

Oregon kidnap suspect previously released the day he arrived at prison

A man at the center of an intense police search in Oregon after a violent kidnapping last week was released from custody in October 2021 by Nevada prison officials on the same day he was transferred to the state's custody to serve a kidnapping sentence, authorities said Monday.
19 hours ago
The final Boeing 747 sits on the tarmac outside of the factory at a ceremony for delivery, Tuesday,...
Associated Press

Boeing bids farewell to an icon, delivers last 747 jumbo jet

SEATTLE (AP) — Boeing bid farewell to an icon on Tuesday, delivering its final 747 jumbo jet as thousands of workers who helped build the planes over the past 55 years looked on. Since its first flight in 1969, the giant yet graceful 747 has served as a cargo plane, a commercial aircraft capable of […]
19 hours ago
seattle police...
Associated Press

Name of Seattle officer in crash that killed woman released

Police have released the name of a Seattle police officer who was responding to a medical call when his patrol SUV hit and killed a 23-year-old Jaahnavi Kandula last week in a city crosswalk.
19 hours ago
Las Vegas police work near the home of former actor Nathan Lee Chasing His Horse, who goes by Natha...
Associated Press

‘Dances With Wolves’ actor arrested in Nevada sex abuse case

NORTH LAS VEGAS (AP) — Las Vegas police on Tuesday arrested and raided the home of a former “Dances With Wolves” actor turned alleged cult leader accused of sexually assaulting young indigenous girls during a period spanning two decades, according to police records obtained by The Associated Press. Nathan Lee Chasing His Horse, who goes […]
19 hours ago
FILE - Bamm Gibson and the New Orleans Hot Jazz perform on the first day of the annual French Quart...
Associated Press

French Quarter Festival unveils lineup for 40th anniversary

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Organizers on Tuesday announced a lineup of more than 270 acts for New Orleans’ 40th annual French Quarter Festival, billed as Louisiana’s largest free showcase of music, food and culture. Artists scheduled to perform at the April 13-16 event include Irma Thomas, Ani DiFranco, Tank and the Bangas, blues guitarist Samantha […]
19 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Passion for dance drew many of those slain to ballroom