October 3, 2017 - 4:51 pm
Updated October 11, 2017 - 1:23 pm
No one who really knew Michelle Vo was surprised to find out that she went to the last day of the Route 91 Harvest festival by herself.
The 32-year-old Eagle Rock, California, woman was fearless like that, and she never had trouble making new friends, her family said.
A few years before Vo was shot and killed at the Las Vegas country music festival she traveled alone to Europe and spent three months meeting people and crashing on their couches.
“She was so brave,” said her sister, Cathy Vo, and so outgoing.
“It was effortless,” added Paul Warren, Cathy’s husband. “If somebody was a good person, they had an instant friend in her.”
Michelle was born Jan. 10, 1985, in Fullerton, California — the first American-born child of Vietnamese parents. She grew up in San Jose with her mother, two older sisters and her younger brother.
“She was a very independent kid,” Cathy said. “You really couldn’t tell her no.”
After high school, Michelle earned a degree in communications from the University of California, Davis. No surprise there, Cathy said: “She was a natural at communications. She was an expert at building relationships.”
She began her professional career at a Silicon Valley tech company, then jumped ship to join a start-up, only to find herself laid off in her late 20s. That’s when she went to Europe.
“Travel was a big thing for her,” Warren said.
Michelle also believed in helping people, and one of the easiest ways she found to do that was as a blood donor. Warren said his sister-in-law donated like clockwork, every eight weeks
A few years ago, Michelle moved to Southern California to work as an agent in the Pasadena branch of New York Life Insurance Co.
Cathy said her sister also loved music and sports, especially teams from the Bay Area. She took up golf about five years ago and quickly developed a beautiful swing.
In recent years, she developed an interest contemporary country music, and that’s what brought her to the Route 91 festival. “It was a new love for her,” Warren said.
She didn’t have children, but “Auntie Michelle was the favorite” among her oldest sister’s three kids, Warren said.
It’s almost a cliche, he said, “but she really did light up a room. She really did that. She’s burst into a room, and there’d just be all this energy.”
“If you knew she was coming, you couldn’t wait for her to show. You felt lucky if she was giving you her time,” he said.
Michelle is survived by her husband, Tomo Swendson; mother, Hana Bui; brother, Alex Nguyen; sister, Cathy Vo, and her husband, Paul Warren; sister, Diane Hawkins, and her husband, Jeremiah; two nieces and a nephew.
She was preceded in death by her father, Son Vo.
Hundreds of people turned out for a candlelight vigil held in her honor on Oct. 6 in front of City Hall in San Jose.
Eventually, Warren said, Michelle’s ashes will be scattered on various beaches around the world in a nod to her deep love of such places.
In the meantime, the family is planning a private service and a public memorial so everyone who knew her can come say goodbye, Warren said.
They expect a big crowd.