Hmong leader reacts to Vang Pao's death

A leader in Minnesota's Hmong community said Friday that Vang Pao's death represents a great loss to the community.

Ilean Her, executive director of the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans, said Vang Pao was a "father figure" to the Hmong community.

"He was highly revered, highly respected within the older generation," she told MPR's Morning Edition.

The younger generations don't know Vang Pao as well, but Her said those who do know about him have come to respect him as well.

Her has met Vang Pao on various occasions. He often visited Minnesota.

"He was very smart, very alert. I think he kept his intellect all the way up to the end," she said.

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Her said Vang Pao's two main goals were to make sure the Hmong American community was successful and help and protect the Hmong that were still in Laos and Thailand. Sometimes it was difficult for him to work on both of those goals, she said.

Her said she expects many members of the Hmong community in Minnesota would want to attend his funeral in California. It wasn't yet clear if there will be a Minnesota memorial service.

"He is so much loved," she said.

(MPR's Cathy Wurzer contributed to this report.)