As Calgary residents say their final goodbyes to the five young people killed April 15 in the worst mass murder the city has ever seen, the local gay community remembers Lawrence Hong, the 27-year-old gay man among the victims.
Hong was an active and energetic part of Calgary’s gay community. He volunteered for many of the city’s gay organizations, including the Alberta Rockies Gay Rodeo Association, Calgary Pride, Fairy Tales Film Festival and the University of Calgary’s Q Centre for Sexual and Gender Diversity.
James Demers, executive director of Fairy Tales, remembers Hong as a friend and colleague. “I don’t think I ever met him when he wasn’t smiling. His level of enthusiasm was really high. He was perpetually in a great mood.”
Hong consistently gave 100 percent, Demers says. “He was so dedicated to what he did without any effort or agenda.”
Hong loved film and he was so good with the other volunteers, Demers says. “He was one of those volunteers who signed up for his shifts and then just showed up and did more work when he wasn’t scheduled.”
Hong’s energy and commitment earned him the Gordon Sombrowski and Kevin Allen Award for Outstanding Volunteer Contribution at the festival in 2013. The award is given to the person who “puts the biggest foot forward,” Demers says.
He was also “extremely well dressed all the time,” Demers says. “He always looked great. He would bring another shirt to wear underneath our volunteer shirt that would match. He had an insanely large collection of bow ties and shorts,” he adds with a chuckle.
Hong was also a foodie. “He Instagrammed almost everything he ate [and] was constantly cooking for friends,” Demers says.
Born in the Philippines, Hong came to Calgary with his family as a teenager. He attended both junior high and high school in the city before enrolling in university. He was completing a degree in urban studies at the University of Calgary.
“He loved Calgary Transit,” Demers says. “He is the only person I know who liked [it]. He was always really a fan. He was the first to ride the new train.”
“He saw potential [and] wanted to work for the city to improve on a transit system that has a lot of potential. Most of us thought he was a little nuts for it. I think he would have made a huge impact on how we moved around the city,” Demers says.
“[Lawrence] didn’t see everyday obstacles in the way so many people do,” Demers says. “He didn’t have a secret agenda about the things he was passionate [for]. He was so completely himself. He had the opportunity when the Q Centre opened to meet people there rather than in the bar scene and connected with people that take you at face value.
“He was so involved. He never seemed to struggle with who he was. He just showed up and never apologized for it,” he says.
Matthew de Grood, 22, has been charged with five counts of murder for allegedly stabbing Hong and four other Calgary university students at an end-of-semester house party near campus.
Hong’s funeral will take place April 23 in Calgary, at Centre Street Church, 3900 2 St NE. Viewing begins at noon and the service starts at 1:30pm.