Truc Huynh came to Portland in 1989 with only a few clothes and toys given to him by local charities.

He spent his life trying to give back, wanting to return the kindness and care his family received after arriving in Portland from Vietnam.

Huynh made a difference in thousands of people’s lives and was always making plans to do more.

Truc Huynh Portland Public Schools Promise webpage

He drowned June 18 while fishing on the East Outlet of Moosehead Lake. He was 40.

Huynh and his family arrived in Portland when he was 7. At Reiche Community School, he learned to speak English and play basketball. Trung “Troy” Huynh said his younger brother was a good student, who gave back even then, reading to younger kids.

“Truc was always an outgoing and giving person,” his brother said. “Whatever he could give, he did.”


Huynh went on to King Middle School and Portland High School, where he thrived in sports and academics. He was a leader on the Bulldogs’ football, basketball and baseball teams. After graduating in 2001, he was named a George Mitchell Institute Scholar. In 2005, Huynh graduated from Bowdoin College with a degree in government and legal studies. That same year, he became a U.S. citizen.


Truc Huynh, 7 or 8 years old Photo courtesy of Troy Huynh

His friend Brandon Ferrante, of Falmouth, said one of Huynh’s greatest strengths was his ability to connect with people. Ferrante said he met Huynh in the eighth grade at a time when he didn’t know anyone.

“Truc was instantly like, ‘Hey, what’s your name?’ In 10 minutes, we’re friends,” Ferrante said. “Then a few days later we are sleeping over at each other’s houses. It’s pretty wild how he could build relationships so quickly and stay grounded. He was an incredible person. He was the brightest of spirits.”

Huynh, who came to be well known in Portland, was anchored by a group of close-knit childhood friends.

He and Richard Dorney, of Lisbon, played basketball together at Portland High. They lived together in Portland for almost eight years and spent time together in the outdoors, camping, canoeing and talking by the fire. Dorney said Huynh was a rock for his friends and family.


“He was the one people went to for advice. I know I did plenty of times,” Dorney said. “He was just very excited to help somebody or do something for someone else. He always made time for his friends. He always made time for his family. He was a devout family man. I was blessed to be part of his family.”

Huynh was one of six children of Ngoc and Phu Huynh. His father was a line worker for Barber Foods and his mother was a housekeeper. Huynh was inspired by his parents to give back to the community that had helped his family so much when they first came to Portland.

In high school, he volunteered for Big Brothers Big Sisters, the United Way and American Red Cross – all while juggling honors courses, varsity sports and school leadership posts.


Truc Huynh Photo courtesy of Troy Huynh

On most of his birthdays, Huynh asked people to join him serving meals at the Preble Street soup kitchen. He was a dedicated supporter of Camp Susan Curtis, dedicated to building self-confidence and a sense of belonging in children from low-income families, and Wayside Food Programs, whose mission is hunger relief. Last year, Huynh launched a new fundraiser, Fishing Across Maine, and raised $13,000 for Wayside.

“Today our community is mourning a great loss,” said a statement on Wayside’s Facebook page. “Truc was a pillar and a force for positive change in our community. He loved his family, his friends, doing good for others, and this beautiful place that he called home. And he really loved fishing. … We will never forget his energy, positive spirit and all that he has accomplished.”


Huynh worked at Unum as a benefits consultant for about 15 years after college. In 2020, he left Unum for job at Guardian, and joined YuLife in February.

In 2013, Huynh helped his family open a restaurant, Phoever Maine Vietnamese Bar & Grill in Westbrook. He went on to help operate it. His brother said he was the face behind the restaurant and its driving force. According to the obituary prepared by his family and friends, he loved to cook and share his Vietnamese culture with others.

“The idea of having the restaurant was all about his siblings,” said his brother. “It’s all about having a place for them to work, having a place for them to gather and be connected and stick together as a family.”

In 2019, Huynh and Nate Cutting, a friend, completed a 400-mile bicycle trek across Maine to raise funds for five nonprofits that had helped him and his family: the Mitchell Institute, the Susan L. Curtis Foundation, the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center, the Community Bicycle Center and Jobs for Maine Graduates. At the time of the trek, Huynh said he raised $16,000 from business partners, friends and family. Along the way, he met many Mainers and shared his story.


“For Truc, he felt like Mainers have a lot more in common maybe than they realize,” Cutting said. “Truc wanted to hear the stories of other people and share his story because he genuinely believed we are one community.”


In 2018, the friends participated in the Trek Across Maine, a 100-mile bike ride fundraiser for the American Lung Association.

To celebrate his most recent birthday, Huynh brought a group of friends to the Apex Youth Connection, a bike shop in Biddeford run by teens.

Truc Huynh in July 2019, leaving Portland to ride his bike from Madawaska to Kittery over six days. He was collecting corporate and individual donations to give to five Maine nonprofits. Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

Cutting said Huynh was committed to doing his best in all aspects of his life.

“Truc inspired me to do what I could to create opportunities to give back in the way that the world had nurtured me,” Cutting said. “He was always pushing me to achieve more and raise my aspirations for myself.”

For about six years, Huynh had a camp in St. Albans, where he enjoyed boating and fishing. His brother said he loved having family and friends up to his camp.

On the day he died, Huynh was fishing with a friend on the East Outlet, which flows out of Moosehead Lake and into the Kennebec River. They decided to fish in another spot on the river and encountered whitewater rapids, which overturned their boat, throwing both men into the water. Huynh’s brother said he wasn’t wearing a life jacket and was wearing waders. He was swept under by the current and never resurfaced.

His brother expressed gratitude for the swift actions of Maine Game Wardens, who found and recovered Huynh’s body.

“I’m glad his last moment was doing what he loved most … being in nature,” his brother said. “Truc lived life to the utmost. He made the most of his time. He made the most of his energy. He made the most of everything he did.”

The family held a visitation with a Buddhist ceremony on Friday at A.T. Hutchins Funeral Home in Portland. His services at the funeral home will continue from 9-11 a.m. Saturday. A celebration of Huynh’s life will be held at a later date.

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