By Claire, Amy, Vicky, Fred
On March 16, eight people were killed at three different massage business locations in Atlanta and the nearby Cherokee County, six of whom were women of Asian descent. The victims have been identified as Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Yong Ae Yue, Delaina Ashley Yaun, Xiaojie Tan, Dayou Feng, and Paul Andre Michels.
Top row: Yong Ae Yue, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim and Xiaojie Tan. Bottom row: Soon Chung Park, Delaina Ashley Yaun and Paul Andre Michels. (Pictures from The New York Times)
Soon Chung Park
Soon Chung Park was an employee at Gold Spa. She was born in South Korea and settled in the United States in the 1980s as a widow and mother of five. At the time, Park had to juggle various jobs while raising her children in the New York City area.
Park moved to Atlanta about ten years ago and started working at Gold Spa in 2018. She worked long hours cleaning the facility and cooking meals for other employees, twelve hours per day for seven days a week. Park’s family and friends remembered her as a kind and hardworking person who always put others before herself.
Hyun Jung Grant
Hyun Jung Grant was an employee at Gold Spa. Before she immigrated to the US 13 years ago, she was an elementary school teacher in South Korea. She chose to stay in Atlanta for its prominent Korean presence and acceptance. Grant, who was 51 when she died, was a single mother of two sons. She “dedicated her whole life to providing for my brother and I,” her elder son Randy Park wrote in his GoFundMe post in memory of his mother. Park said that his mother did not come home often and slept every night at her job instead of driving 30 miles home to her kids.
To donate to Park’s GoFundMe, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/in-memory-of-hyunjungkim-to-support-my-brother-i.
Suncha Kim was an employee at Gold Spa. She had immigrated to the United States from South Korea in search of a better life for her family. She spoke little English and worked two to three jobs. Kim, who was 69 at the time of her death, was married for over 50 years and had two children and three grandchildren.
Kim’s granddaughter, Regina Song, described her grandmother as “pure hearted and the most selfless woman [she] knew.” Kim acted as a rock and a role model for her family.
To donate to Kim’s family, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/in-loving-memory-of-sun-cha-kim.
Yong Ae Yue
Ms Yue's sons told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper that she was laid off last year because of the pandemic. A licensed massage therapist, she had been happy to return to work at the Aromatherapy Spa.
A South Korean native, Ms Yue came to the US in the 1970s with her husband, Mac Peterson, the New York Times reported. Mr Peterson told the Times they met while he was with the army. They had since divorced but had two sons together. He described his ex-wife as "a good mother'' who was "always there for her kids".
Delaina Ashley Yaun
Ms Yaun and her husband had gone to Young's Asian Massage for a couples massage, according to an online fundraiser set up for the family's funeral costs. Her husband, Mario Gonzalez, was in another room during the attack and hid from the gunman. The couple had been married less than a year. They have two children - a teenage son and an 8-month-old baby girl.
"What am I going to do?" Mr Gonzalez told Spanish-language news site MundoHispanico. "That murderer only left me pain." A friend of Ms Yaun's said that she was a friendly person "who seemed to have a light around her that just drew you in".
Xiaojie Tan was the owner of Young Asian’s Massage, where four people were killed, as well as a business owner of the Wang’s Feet and Body Massage. She died just two days before her 50th birthday. Tan, born in Nanning on the border between China and Vietnam, moved to Georgia with her family in 2010. She was called Emily by her friends and had a daughter she was extremely proud of.
According to Tan’s customers, she always made everyone feel at home and treated them like family. Tan’s friends felt that she was full of smiles and laughter, and a pleasure to be around.
Daoyou Feng, 44, of Kennesaw, was a Chinese citizen and had been working in the spa only weeks before the shooting.
With no family able to come to Georgia to arrange her funeral, local Chinese American community leaders organized a service for Feng this Sunday in Norcross, according to Lee's Funeral Home.
Paul Andre Michels
Kikiana Whidby told CBS News that Mr Michels was godfather to her son. She said that Mr Michels had been out of work for some time, and had been doing maintenance work for Young's Asian Spa when the shooting occurred. Mr Michels grew up in Detroit with nine siblings. He moved to Atlanta with his wife, Bonnie, 26 years ago.
One brother, John Michels, told the Daily Beast that Mr Michels had been considering getting into the massage business himself and was looking at opening a business of his own. He added that his brother had served in the military from 1985 to 1989, and was a gun owner, a Catholic and "staunch Republican".