During one of his visits to Vietnam, Ohio State Buckeyes football coach Woody Hayes met a young mother in Saigon. Their lives would intersect again in Columbus.
Editor's Note: This is original coverage of an event in the life of legendary Ohio State coach Woody Hayes, taken from the archives of The Columbus Dispatch newspaper. These stories, photos and clippings in the Woody Hayes Archive predate the Internet era and are being presented in digital form for the first time.
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(Originally published on June 8, 1975)Hayes 'Recruits' Vietnamese Trio
By Paul Hornung
Dispatch Sports Editor
Ohio State has acquired three new rooters, unexpectedly, and they're likely to be among the most enthusiastic, once they learn what football is all about.
Paulette Kim Ngan and her two sons, Huy and Thy, know someone who can tell them something about football. Their American sponsors are Mr. and Mrs. Woody Hayes.
Paulette and her young men arrived in Columbus last week and are living for the time being with the Hayes in Upper Arlington. She considers herself most fortunate of all Vietnamese refugees.
"The good fortune I have," she says, a mistiness showing in her dark eyes. "I am so lucky. They (the Hayes) are so good. I am afraid I do not deserve."
Paulette, who is divorced, has worked for Americans in Saigon for almost 20 years and it was during her days with the USO Recreation office that she met Coach Hayes.
She scheduled itineraries for entertainers, athletes, coaches and others visiting Vietnam.
"She was extremely competent," recalls Hayes, who made four trips to Vietnam during the undeclared war to talk football with U.S. servicemen in camps and hospitals. "she was an expediter. If my schedule needed to be changed, if I needed a helicopter, if I had to get to a fire base, she could always get the job done. She did the same for the other people who went over there."
When Saigon was under siege by the North Vietnamese, Hayes received word through a friend of Paulette's in New York that she was in need of a sponsor. Woody and Anne quickly agreed and called Congressman Sam Devine to set the official wheels in motion.
"Sam Devine did a heck of a job," Hayes attests. "He went right to work on it. He interceded on her behalf and I'll say this about Sam: I called him twice at 11 o'clock at night and his office in Washington and he was still there working. I know because he answered the phone himself both times."
Paulette had been working for the personnel office, after the Paris peace accord cancelled out further need for entertainment office.
"I get out because I have a sponsor," she realizes. "Maybe I still be in Saigon, if I do not have a sponsor. About 100 work in the (personnel) office and I am only the second one to get out."
She knows the tragedy of war and a country in turmoil.
"My father was killed in 1945, when I was eight," she recalls, "and my mother and sister were kidnapped in 1951. Sister returned several years later, but we never heard anything of mother."
They were victims of the Viet Minh, who Paulette notes became the Viet Cong "after the 1954 Geneva accord."
Her mother was "half-French," she says, and her father Vietnamese. She attended a French school and spoke French before she spoke Vietnamese. She now speaks quite good English and can understand Chinese.
Mrs. Hayes is having fun entertaining Huy and Thy. "I'm teaching them English and they're teaching me Vietnamese," she confided. The boys are Americanizing quickly. Huy, who's 10, did the right thing when he attempted a printing session.
"The first thing he wrote (in crayon) was this," reported Mrs. Hayes, exhibiting a large sheet of paper. The word: O-H-I-O. Thy, who's seven, also knows the word now.
Paulette insists she "likes sports" and that she's seen football. But it's a different style of football, much closer to soccer of the European variety. But she'll learn and so will the boys. Neighbors have been contributing toys and books and inevitably there's a football among their new possessions.
The Hayes are seeking employment for Paulette, which will permit her to establish a home here.
What is Paulette's impression of American, now that she's spent a month at Camp Pendleton in California and a week in Columbus?
She tilts her head and rolls her eyes back and assures, "it is like heaven."
* * *The Woody Hayes Archive:
>> Ohio State hires a new coach (1951)
>> Rose Bowl win caps perfect season for Ohio State (1955)
>> Another national title, another Rose Bowl victory for Ohio State (1958)
>> Ohio State students protest as faculty bans Rose Bowl trip (1961)
>> Thrilling comeback win at Michigan makes Ohio State's season (1965)
>> Ohio State coach visits troops in Vietnam (1966)
>> Wearing short sleeves in the snow on the Ohio State sideline (1967)
>> Ohio State's Woody Hayes joins rally with Richard Nixon (1968)
>> O.J. visits Ohio State locker room after Rose Bowl win (1969)
>> Ohio State win over Michigan called 'our greatest victory' (1970)
>> No. 1 Ohio State loses at Michigan State in controversial finish (1974)
>> Hayes starts his 25th season as Ohio State coach (1975)
>> Ohio State comeback against Michigan is 'greatest game' (1975)
>> Ohio State coach sponsors a Vietnamese refugee family (1975)
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