Burned again: Duo attempts to dismantle house, accidentally sets it on fire

An unoccupied mobile home caught fire in Newark Tuesday morning as two men were attempting to dismantle the structure.

Smoldering Heap

SMOLDERING HEAP – Firefighters check the rubble of a mobile home for hot spots Tuesday morning. Three fire departments were called to County Road 4845 to battle a blaze at the unoccupied trailer. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Newark, Rhome and Haslet fire departments were called to the 100 block of County Road 4845 to battle a blaze that was reported shortly after 7:30 a.m.

Wise County Deputy Fire Marshal J.C. Travis said Mickey Murphrey and his nephew, Brett Kennan, were attempting to tear apart the empty house, which was already extensively damaged from a previous fire. In a bizarre turn of events, the house caught fire again, this time burning to the ground.

Murphrey’s mother and Kennan’s grandmother, Bonnie Garrett, had lived in the trailer until June 21 when a kitchen fire severely damaged the structure.

Travis said that fire started when Garrett was attempting to boil eggs. She turned on the wrong burner, accidentally heating a pot holding leftover grease instead of the pan with water and eggs. She left the room after turning on the burner and became aware of the fire only when the smoke alarm went off.

She escaped uninjured, but the house was ruined with extensive smoke and water damage.

Travis said the insurance company paid a claim for the burned home.

Last weekend a new double-wide mobile home was moved to the property. The burned house was pulled to the front of the site, next to a third mobile home occupied by Brett Kennan and his father, Tommy Kennan Jr, who is also Garrett’s son.

Travis said the family planned to dismantle the burned home, salvage what they could and then dispose of what remained. Their plan of action included placing a burn barrel on either end of the home. They worked inside Monday, tearing things apart and throwing pieces from the house into the barrels.

They lit the contents of the barrels early Tuesday morning, continuing to work inside and throw debris into the flames.

At some point, Travis said they decided to just pull the house apart. They ran a cable through the house and attached it to a pickup truck.

“Somehow, when they were pulling on it with the truck, something caught fire,” Travis said. “There was no electricity to it, but as best I can tell, while they were playing with the cable, something in the burn barrel got the underside of the trailer to burn.

“As they were trying to pull it, they noticed smoke,” he said. “That’s when they panicked. They tried to fight it with a garden hose while the sister called 911.”

Lisa Bryson, sister to Murphrey and Kennan Jr., was visiting and helping their mother get moved into the double-wide.

The family could only watch as firefighters attempted to put the fire out and keep it from spreading to the other homes on the property.

The windows of the mobile home occupied by the Kennans broke due to radiant heat, and the underpinning on that home also melted. Travis said the electrical meter was damaged, as was the wire that runs from the house to the utility pole. Wise Electric Cooperative was called to the scene to repair those items.

Garrett’s house was not damaged and neither was an A-frame home also on the property. The A-frame is occupied by Tommy Kennan Sr., Garrett’s ex-husband and Tommy Jr.’s father.

Travis said no charges will be filed. The family will be responsible for removing the debris from the property.

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John L. Neely Jr.

John L. Neely Jr.

John L. Neely Jr., 88, of Newark, died Friday, July 25, 2014.

Funeral is 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, July 30, at Mount Olivet Chapel in Fort Worth with burial to follow at Springtown Cemetery.

John was born Oct. 13, 1925, in Colgate, Okla. He served in the U.S. Navy where he was in Standard Landing Craft Unit No. 32 in GroPac No. 10, serving in the Pacific during World War II.

He was loved by his family.

John was preceded in death by his first wife of 52 years, Vernell Neely, and second wife of 14 years, Sybil Neely; daughters Sheila Faith Neely and Dorothy Shouse; and son Roy Neely.

Survivors include daughter Katrina Jones; sons Lloyd Neely and wife, Tolea, Floyd Neely and wife, Katherine, and Perry Neely and wife, Kathy; sister Wanetta Vess; brother Jerry Neely and wife, Phyllis; seven grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews.

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Sharon Muck

Sharon Muck

Sharon Muck, 67, formerly of Newark, died Monday, July 21, 2014, in Broken Arrow, Okla.

Funeral is 10:30 a.m. Thursday, July 24, at Christian-Hawkins Funeral Home in Boyd with the Rev. Gary Sessions officiating. Burial will follow at Aurora Cemetery. Visitation is 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the funeral home.

Sharon was born April 28, 1947, in Davenport, Iowa, to Dewayne and Dora (Cassman) Tucker. She married Billy Bryan Jr. March 13, 1992, in Fort Worth. She was a wiring harness assembler for General Dynamics.

Sharon was preceded in death by her parents and her brothers, Kenneth and Roger Tucker.

Survivors include her husband, Billy Bryan Jr. of Broken Arrow; son Bill Muck and wife, Shannan, of Fort Worth; grandson Carsen Muck; sisters Carol Steele of Indianola, Iowa, and Sharlene Squire and husband, Vernon, of State Center, Iowa; and many other relatives and friends.

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Dora May Cairns

Dora May Cairns

Dora May Cairns, 82, of Newark died Monday, June 16, 2014, in Newark.

Funeral was June 20 at Renewal Fellowship Church in Boyd with the Rev. Jerry Hood officiating. Burial followed at Aurora Cemetery.

Pallbearers were Richard Alarcon, Paul Bukak, Thomas Cairns, Ed Benoy, Lee Draper and Thomas Tidwell.

Dora was born June 11, 1932, in Sidon, Miss., to Wheeler and Ellie Mae (Pennington) Lindsey. She married Darin Thomas Cairns Sept. 27, 1961, in Yuba City, Calif., and she was a retired lab technician, having worked for StyroChem. She was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Darin; son Wayne Morris; and grandson Daniel.

She is survived by son Roger Cairns and wife, Shari, of Newark; grandchildren Cassy, Rachel, Thomas, Richard, Kaitlin, Jonathan, Michael and Christopher; great-grandchildren Jazmyne, Alex, Gabby, Noah, Gabriel, Gauge, Levi, Preston and Payton; brother Peck Lindsey; and numerous other relatives and friends.

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Missing elderly woman found dead

A missing person search turned into a grim discovery Monday afternoon when an elderly woman was found dead near her home in Newark.

Wise County Sheriff David Walker said there are no indications of foul play at this time, but the death will be listed as “questionable” until more information is gathered.

Sheriff’s officers, the Newark Fire Department and Wise County EMS began searching the area near the home of Dora Cairns, 82, in the 600 block of Rogers Road, at around 3:30 p.m. Monday after family members reported they had not seen Cairns since around 9 a.m. Email and text alerts with a description of Cairns were also sent by the Sheriff’s Office to residents in the area.

A Department of Public Safety helicopter was brought in to assist with the search from the air, and Cairns’ body was spotted in a grassy area about 500 to 600 yards south of her home around 5:45 p.m.

“It looks like she had gone on a walk south of her residence into a grassy, woody area, like she had apparently done many times before,” Walker said.

It was not immediately clear how she died. Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Mandy Hays was called to the scene to pronounce Cairns dead. She ordered her body be sent to the Dallas County Medical Examiners office for an autopsy.

Funeral for Cairns is pending at Christian-Hawkins Funeral Home in Boyd.

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Freddie Jack Shannon

Freddie Jack Shannon

Freddie Jack Shannon, 81, of Newark, died Friday, June 6, 2014, in Decatur.

Memorial service is 4 p.m. Saturday, June 14, at Christian-Hawkins Funeral Home in Boyd.

Freddie was born Feb. 25, 1933, in Cisco to Fred and Lucille (Kyle) Shannon. He was a proud veteran of the U.S. Air Force and retired after 20 years of dedicated service, which included the Vietnam War.

After his retirement, he received his pilot’s license and flew small engine aircraft. Freddie played the steel guitar in several bands, and although he could not read sheet music, he taught several people how to play music by using numbers. He made several steel and electric guitars and liked to work with leather.

Freddie was preceded in death by his parents; his son, Byron Keene Shannon; and two great-granddaughters.

He is survived by his sons, Ike Shannon and wife, Kim, of Lake Worth and Chad Shannon and wife, Wanda, of Newark; grandchildren William, Gary, Raychel and husband, Adam, Sunnie and husband, D.J., Kimberlee and husband, Andrew, and Anthony; seven great-grandchildren; brother Terry Brown and wife, Ann, of Florida; one niece; one nephew; and other family members and friends.

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More Clark speculation

I am amazed at the way you pick your news stories. I have been a resident of Wise County for many years, and I realize you have your favorites to write about – but how is it you just happen to write about the same person, with lots of pictures, covering most of two pages? Is it because he is running for office?

Or he is one of the local or not-so-local teachers?

Teachers resign every year, for one reason or another. I wonder if you are pushing this candidate over another. Most papers give equal time to candidates and keep track of time given to each so one won’t be in the limelight more than the other one.

Please explain if you are endorsing this candidate over another fine Wise County candidate. I would like to see you give time to the other candidate as well.

You have an advantage over us out here in your county, as you reach the voters. We all know pictures put in front of people are lasting.

Name recognition is very important in an election. Equal time for the other candidates please…

Donald Drain

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Lilly Marie Martinez

Eddie and Rachel Martinez of Newark announce the birth of a daughter, Lilly Marie, on May 17, 2014, at Wise Regional Health System in Decatur.

She weighed 6 pounds, 2 ounces and was 18 inches long.

She has one brother: John, 1.

Grandparents are David and Michelle Dahl of Newark and Ameila Martinez of Westminster, Colo.

Great-grandparent is Claudette Ferguson of Newark.

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Louie L. Draper

Louie L. Draper, 76, of Newark, died Tuesday, May 6, 2014, in Fort Worth.

Funeral is 10 a.m. Monday, May 12, at Biggers Funeral Chapel in Lake Worth with burial to follow at Aurora Cemetery. Visitation is 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday at Biggers Funeral Home.

Louie was born Sept. 9, 1937, in Fort Worth to William and Mildred Draper. He had been a resident of Newark for more than 40 years and was a retired delivery driver for Coca Cola Bottling Co.

He was preceded in death by his wife of 50 years, Martha I. Draper on Jan. 29, 2012.

Survivors include his children, Ricky Draper and wife, Tinna, Lee Draper and wife, Cinda Ann, Teresa Youngblood, Kelly Griffin and husband, David, and Kimberly Smith and husband, Richard; brothers Dale Draper and Billy Draper; 17 grandchildren; and 24 great-grandchildren.

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Billy H. Godbey

Billy H. “Frog” Godbey, 71, died Saturday, April 26, 2014, at his home in Newark.

Funeral was April 29 at Biggers Funeral Chapel in Lake Worth. Burial followed at Aurora Cemetery.

Billy was born Jan. 30, 1943, in Fort Worth to Glen and Thelma Godbey. He was raised in Haslet and attended Northwest High School. Before his retirement, he was a shop foreman for J&L Tanks for more than 20 years.

Survivors include his wife, Charlotte Chapman; daughters Cindy Pockrus, Kim Hulsey and husband, David, and Lisa Durham and husband, Tiger; mother of his children, Leona Crain; stepchildren Curtis Hooks, Chris Hooks and Daniel Chapman and wife, Mary; mother Thelma Godbey; brothers Woody Godbey and wife, Regina, and Gabe Godbey and wife, Sandra; sisters Glenna Waggoner and husband, Kenneth, and Pam Warren and husband, Gerald; nine grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

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Hazel Augustine Sloas

Hazel Augustine Sloas

Hazel Augustine Sloas, 88, died Tuesday, April 22, 2014.

Graveside service is 3 p.m. Saturday, April 26, at Saginaw Cemetery with burial under the direction of Calvario Funeral Home (formerly Shannon North) in Fort Worth.

Hazel was born Jan. 15, 1926, in Winfield, Ala. to William and Mary Henderson.

She was preceded in death by her husband, T.H. Sloas, and two sons.

She is survived by a son, William “Bill” Sloas of Newark; daughters Deborah Morton and Renah Sloas, both of Newark; and numerous grandchildren.

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Gabriel Asher Miguel

Jesus and Jennifer Miguel of Newark announce the birth of a son, Gabriel Asher, on April 20, 2014, at Wise Regional Health System in Decatur.

He weighed 7 pounds, 12 ounces and was 19 inches long.

He has one brother: Benjamin, 20 months.

Grandparents are Aurelio and Maria Miguel and Elizabeth and Michael Crooks.

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Wesley Kelvin Wolfe

Wesley Kelvin Wolfe

Wesley Kelvin Wolfe, 59, a senior plumbing designer, died Tuesday, April 1, 2014, in Newark.

Funeral is 10:30 a.m. Saturday, April 5, at Christian-Hawkins Funeral Home in Boyd with Mike Boaldin officiating. Burial will follow at 2 p.m. at the Harris Family Cemetery in Hamilton.

Pallbearers are Tony Wolfe, Troy Wolfe, Roger Wolfe, John Wolfe, Lonnie VanSchuyver, J.B. Nesbitt, Roddy Nesbitt and Damon Mason.

Wesley was born Nov. 28, 1954, in Fort Worth to James and Nina (Thackerson) Wolfe. He married Arlene Ashmore Sept. 20, 1975, in Newark.

Wesley was a loving father and loved his children and grandchildren. He was a member of the First Baptist Church in Newark.

He is survived by his wife of 38 years, Arlene Wolfe of Newark; son John Caleb Wolfe and wife, Laura Marie, of Dublin; daughter Debra Nicole Nesbitt and husband, Jacob Daniel, of Saginaw; grandchildren Alayna, Theron and Lucas; his parents, James and Nina Wolfe of Newark; brothers Tony Wolfe and wife, Carolyn, of Keller, Troy Wolfe and wife, Michelle, of Decatur and Roger Wolfe and wife, Donna, of Newark; and other family members and friends.

Memorials may be made to the American Cancer Society, 1-800-227-2345; P.O. Box 22718, Oklahoma City, OK 73123-1718 or online at www.cancer.org.

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Peytyn Chasity Bothwell

Tommy and Lauren Bothwell of Newark announce the birth of a daughter, Peytyn Chasity, on March 12, 2014, at Wise Regional Health System in Decatur.

She weighed 7 pounds, 9 ounces and was 19 inches long.

She has two brothers: Brennon and Landyn; and one sister: Hayden.

Grandparents are Kim and Freddie Ballard of Newark and Thomas and Robbie Bothwell of Fort Worth.

Great-grandparents are Connie and Bill McPherson of Runaway Bay.

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Ramona R. Jennings

Ramona Royal Jennings, 84, of Newark, died Wednesday, March 5, 2014, in Saginaw.

Funeral is 9:30 a.m. Saturday, March 8, at Mount Olivet Chapel in Fort Worth. Burial will follow at Dido Cemetery.

Ramona was born May 30, 1929, in Ponder to Dillard and Delora Doughty Royal. She lived most of her life in Newark and was a member of the Newark Church of Christ.

She was preceded in death by her parents, two brothers; and two grandsons.

Survivors include her husband of 67 years, George Jennings Jr.; son Billy M. Jennings and wife, Martha, of Newark; daughter Debbie Ellis and husband, Max, of Arlington; four grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; two great-great-grandchildren and many other loving family members and friends.

Memorials may be made to Newark Volunteer Fire Department, P.O. Box 478, Newark, TX 76071.

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Ezell Singleton Jr.

Ezell Singleton Jr.

Ezell Singleton Jr., 50, of Newark, died Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014, in Decatur.

Funeral is 11 a.m. Saturday, March 1, at Coker-Hawkins Funeral Home in Decatur with Darren Embree officiating. Burial will follow at Oaklawn Cemetery.

Pallbearers are Joe Driver, Joe Driver Jr., Ray Russell II, Darryl Russell, Chris Greene and Dale Beaver. Honorary pallbearers are George Sutton, Ray Russell Sr. and Johnny Moore.

Ezell was born Sept. 12, 1963, in Decatur to Ezell Sr. and Rosa (Gil) Singleton in Decatur.

He is survived by his parents, Ezell and Rosa Singleton of Decatur; the mother of his children, Tammy Singleton; son Michael Singleton and fianc , Kirsten Holt, of Runaway Bay; daughters Kasi Singleton of Newark and Brynna Teague of Chico; grandchildren Vondrick, Donovan, Nathon, Blaze, Riggin and Aliyah; sisters Ester Rivera and husband, Alberto, of Bridgeport, Dolores Beaver and husband, Dale, of Alvord, Elaine Norris and husband, Ricky, of Fort Worth and Lisa Greene and husband, Chris, of Decatur; brother Carlos Singleton and wife, Brenda, of Fort Worth; and numerous nieces, nephews and friends.

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Harlyn Hannah Hill Jr.

Harlyn Hannah Hill Jr., 41, of Newark, died Friday, Feb. 14, 2014.

A memorial will be 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, March 1, at the Celebration Community Church Social Hall, 908 Pennsylvania Ave., in Fort Worth. The come-and-go celebration will offer friends a time to gather and share stories about Harlyn with a videographer on hand to record these for the family.

Harlyn was born Feb. 13, 1973, in Wichita Falls to Rhonda Kaye Loven and Harlyn Hannah Hill Sr. He was married to Jenna Renee Hill.

He is survived by his wife, Jenna; daughter Laurel Kaye Hill; and son Harlyn Hannah Hill III.

Memorials may be made to a fund for his children at any Wells Fargo Bank.

Shannon Rufe Snow Funeral Home in Fort Worth is handling arrangements.

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51 from Wise on Weatherford College dean’s list

More than 450 students – including 51 from Wise County – were named to the Weatherford College Dean’s List for the fall 2013 semester.

To be eligible for the Dean’s List, a student must be enrolled for 12 or more semester hours, have no grade lower than a C and meet the minimum grade- point average. The GPA system is based on a one-to-four rating.

Earning the honor from Wise County were:

Alvord: Trevor Hardee; Shelbi Harmon and Alexandria Talamantes.

Aurora: Victor Ramirez and Bertie Sellers.

Boyd: Derek Martin and Carolina McDowell.

Bridgeport: Ana Caldera; Torie Carter; Sharlyn Fagan; Taylor Hulsey; Danielle Mindieta and Autumn Pickett.

Chico: Hannah Avants; Karla Deamicis; Damian Delgado; Callie Fuller; Luke Plummer; James Redwine; Vanessa Saxon; Molli Umphress; Tiffany Vislosky and Kaylee Wriston.

Decatur: Rosaura Aldape; Victoria Aldape; Monica Bernard; Carissa Byrd; Steven Cao; Araceli Cruz; Sarrah Ennis; Elda Garcia; Brittany Hargrave; Sara Harris; Kasidi Heiens; Victoria Myers; Christina Overton; Brandon Pelton; Venancio Rodriguez; Liliana Torres and Omar Torres.

Sunset: Austin Gaskins and Brittani Martin.

Newark: Savannah Brooks.

Paradise: Lacy Jackson; Sara Kelly; Amber Kirkland; Carol McCutchen and William Ngetich.

Rhome: Haley McGuire, Bethlyn Prentice and Lisa Shearer.

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Avery Michael Nash

Heather Nash and Bill Nickell of Newark announce the birth of a son, Avery Michael Nash, on Feb. 16, 2014, at Wise Regional Health System in Decatur.

He weighed 7 pounds, 3 ounces and was 18 1/2 inches long.

Grandparents are Dennis and Tammie Nash and George and Rainey Nickell.

Great-grandparents are Mary Cartwright, Homer and Beulah Nash and Bill and Betty Nickell.

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The American dream through Buddhist eyes

The American dream through Buddhist eyes

“However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do you if you do not act upon them?”
- Gautama Buddha

Eyes pale blue as summer sky peer up at a golden statue rising on a rustic patch of land between the town of Newark and the waters of Eagle Mountain Lake. Hands weathered and worn as the bark on the old pecan trees in the yard grip the scaffolding that surrounds a 20-foot high handmade sculpture of Gautama Buddha.

The statue is the focal point of a Buddhist temple being constructed in Newark. The temple is the latest chapter in the life of a man whose journey harkens back to those seeking political and religious freedom through the American gateway of Ellis Island.

Bounhot Souimaniphanh, 84, was forced to flee his homeland of Laos in the late 1970s.

A landlocked country in southeast Asia, Laos borders Vietnam and Cambodia, China and Thailand. It’s a mountainous country – the mighty Mekong River snakes through its forest and jungles – and it was caught in the middle of the Cold War.

Once a longtime French protectorate, its people gained independence in 1953. But much like its neighbor Vietnam, it was taken over by the Communist Party in 1975 after a bloody civil war.

Before the Communists took over, many in Laos had helped the United States and its allies in the war in Southeast Asia. Bounhot was one of them.

The new Marxist government started rounding up people who’d helped the Americans. They killed hundreds of thousands.

“We had to flee or we would have been one of the families drug out into a field and shot,” said Seng, one of Bounhot’s seven children. “My dad helped the U.S. during the Vietnam War. Anyone who worked with the U.S. was killed.”

The family fled Laos and made it to a refugee camp in Thailand. From 1975 to 1996, the United States resettled some 250,000 Laotian refugees from Thailand. Bounhot, his wife Thongdam, and their seven children were among the first to move from the refugee camp to the United States. They just happened to land in the Metroplex.

“We were probably the third or fourth family,” Seng said. “We were political refugees.”

Blessed by Elders

BLESSED BY ELDERS – Thongdam Souimaniphanh, 72, gives her granddaughter a Buddhist blessing while her husband, 84-year-old Bounhot, watches. The couple and their seven children fled Laos in late 1970s as political refugees and wound up in the Metroplex. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“We were the first generation,” said Sam, another son. “The first generation is always the hardest. We all arrived at a strange, new world. We couldn’t speak the language. All we had was the clothes on our backs.

“But we were fortunate to come here. We took advantage of the opportunity. We went to school day and night to learn the language. We worked hard to better ourselves … Our parents told us we were in the land of opportunity. We can’t be looking for government handouts.”

Take advantage of the opportunity they did, as all seven of the children, five boys and two girls, grew up to become successful. They became doctors, engineers and even high-ranking officers in the military.

But along the way, their father wanted to make sure his children took advantage of another opportunity found in America – the chance to express religious freedom.


“There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.” – Buddha

BUILDING HERITAGE – Bounhot Souimaniphanh, 84, climbs to the top of a large Buddha sculpture being built in the middle of a temple currently under construction in Newark. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

While Bounhot Souimaniphanh and his family were among the first refugees to move from Southeast Asia to North Texas, they weren’t the last.

“There were a lot that were relocated here,” Sam said, “but they were scattered all over North Texas.”

So in the early 1980s, Bounhot purchased 10 acres of undeveloped land in Keller to build a Buddhist temple.

They broke ground quickly on what is now a sprawling and beautiful temple grounds in Keller. But some locals weren’t sure what to think of the ornate, Oriental architecture rising from what was then only pasture and dirt roads.

“When we first moved here people didn’t understand our culture,” Sam said. “It was all country back then. We started with nothing but a trailer. But my dad built it as a way to create a community for all the immigrants from Southeast Asia.”

“People from every nation and every culture that have come here have brought something new to America,” Seng said. “This is what we’ve brought here. This is important to us to pass down our heritage and beliefs to our children and grandchildren.”

Bounhot founded a second temple in Saginaw in the 1990s, and last year they broke ground on the third temple, located in Newark.

“We wanted to build it in a peaceful place in the country and near the water,” Seng said.


“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” – Buddha

PEACE OF MIND – Bounhot Souimaniphanh, 84, a political refugee originally from Laos, is helping construct a Buddhist temple in Newark. He’s already founded temples in Keller and Saginaw. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Pohn Sengsuvanreta, a 51-year-old Buddhist monk, lives a life of extraordinary austerity.

He started training as a monk at an early age in Laos.

Now he lives in a small, simple building at the temple in Newark. His head is shaved, revealing a faded green tattoo of an ancient alphabet, meant to help him gain wisdom. He wears only a faded orange robe and sandals. His days are spent meditating.

The goal of the Buddhist is to eliminate all cravings and therefore eliminate all suffering. The monk is governed by 250 rules that keep him from engaging in the normal day-to-day life most people lead.

“I can’t even touch money,” Pohn said. “If I did, I might as well dress like you do and go find a woman.”

“The monks shave their heads and eyebrows,” Seng said. “They wear orange or yellow. They give up everything on the living earth that us normal people have. They can’t even be touched by a woman. The path they travel is very narrow.”

“Meditation helps me,” Pohn said. “It slows everything down.”

“They sit for hours in meditation and see things that we cannot see,” Seng said.

And the temple is not just for Buddhists.

“It is a place for everybody,” Pohn said. “If someone is suffering or hungry or addicted to drugs they can come here for help. If they just want to come here and meditate and quiet their lives for a little bit that is fine. We believe in love and happiness. We want peace.”

“At the end of the day it’s about becoming as peaceful of a person as you can,” Seng said. “Having health and wealth is what we strive for.”


“To be idle is a short road to death and to be diligent is a way of life; foolish people are idle, wise people are diligent.” – Buddha

Bounhot is not a monk. He wanted a family. But he’s lived his life as close as he can to the teachings of Gautama Buddha.

Buddha was a prince from who lived in India about 400 B.C. At the age of 29 he left the royal life behind to live the life of an ascetic. Eventually, through much meditation he achieved Nirvana – the perfect peace of a mind that’s free from ignorance, greed, hatred and other afflictive states. It is this state that monks such as Pohn hope to come close to.

Bounhot has devoted his life to keeping that part of his culture alive in America for his children and the community.

Another aspect of the Laotian culture is honoring elders and their wisdom.

“All our success comes from our parents,” Sam said. “Our parents have helped us so much. When they get older we want to help them.”

“It’s a beautiful thing,” Seng said. “We keep our kids around them. Once you get old, having grandchildren around keeps you happy and helps you feel young.

“They raised us … why would we put them away in a home? In our culture, it is an honor to care for our elders.”

At the seven acres in Newark, two rows of ancient pecan trees lead up to the large golden sculpture of Buddha. It can be seen from all directions. Several other small buildings have already been erected as housing for monks and for meditation. A pavilion has also been constructed, and there is room to keep building and adding to the ornate, Oriental architecture for years.

And almost every day Bounhot – who seems much too spry to be 84 – can be found working on the land or one of the buildings.

“You never finish,” Bounhot said. “You always keep working. Keep building.”

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