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Widower of Cargill worker shares his loss after losing wife to COVID-19

Click to play video: '‘I want to find a way to join my wife’: emotional widower of Cargill worker shares his loss after losing wife to COVID-19' ‘I want to find a way to join my wife’: emotional widower of Cargill worker shares his loss after losing wife to COVID-19
WATCH: On the same day a Cargill meat-processing plant reopened in High River, Alta., a grieving widower was at a memorial for his wife. There was an intimate and emotional gathering for the woman who worked at Cargill, and died after testing positive for COVID-19. Jill Croteau reports – May 4, 2020

Speaking through a Vietnamese translator, a grieving widower shared his pain and grief after losing his wife of 27 years.

Nga Nguyen spoke Monday near their home in Calgary.

“I am so sad and I am speechless. I know I will not see my wife anymore,” Nguyen said.

Nga Nguyen speaks to media with the help of translator Anthony Chim. Jill Croteau/Global Calgary

“She was a wonderful wife. She spoiled me, she never argued with me and whatever I wanted to buy, she would buy it at all costs,” Nguyen said.

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Hiep Bui, 67, died on April 19, 2020. She was COVID-19 positive.

She worked her final shift at the Cargill meat plant in High River on April 16. Her husband and coworkers said she loved working there and rarely called in sick over the span of her employment.

“She was working 18-hour days for 23 years and there [were] no symptoms prior to that first day when she didn’t feel well,” Nguyen said.
Hiep Bui. Courtesy: Nga Nguyen

Coworker Leslie Robb said some of them affectionately called her the “candy mama.” She was always smiling and bringing treats.

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“She was very funny and liked to joke around and was happy,” Robb said. “I miss her so much. She was like a partner to me.”

Numb and lost

Bui and Nguyen met on a boat while escaping the Vietnam war. They spent time together at the same refugee camp. The two never had children and were inseparable.

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“We had so many great memories and I would embrace all the moments we were together,” Nguyen said.

But they couldn’t be together the day she died. Nguyen said she died alone.

“I am still numb, very lost,” Nguyen said.

Most people, including other colleagues, couldn’t be at the tribute in person and watched as it was streamed on Facebook.

The tribute was planned by members of Action Dignity. Executive director Marichu Antonio said it was important to organize the event.

“The workers from Cargill are listening on Facebook live and as we remember Bui, they don’t want this to happen to their own families — just like Mr. Nga didn’t want this to happen to his wife,” Antonio said.

“They put their lives at risk just for us to have food and these are people we need to value.

UFCW Local 401 president Thomas Hesse attended the intimate tribute. He came to pay his respects and offered cash gifts to Nguyen.

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“It’s very sad for me. This shouldn’t have happened and it’s a human tragedy,” Hesse said.

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