THE FINAL TRAGEDY IN A GIRL'S TRAGIC LIFE

Date: 1986-01-13

Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Author: Gil Bailey P-I Reporter

For Tenaya Phan Le Lan Chapman, 16, the journey from a Vietnam orphanage more than 10 years ago to an American home became an unbearable nightmare.

''She had never been in a house before,'' her mother, Linda Chapman- Artiz, said yesterday of the little girl's arrival as part of the Holt Vietnamese orphanage airlift. ''She had never even been alone in a room before.''

The girl seemed to adapt to the United States and a Seattle area home quickly, but the changes and growth into a teenager proved to be too much.

Tenaya died Friday. Her death has been listed as a suicide by hanging, according to the Snohomish County coroner's office. She was found in a girls' restroom in the Sno-King Lutheran School in Edmonds.

A memorial service will be held for Tenaya at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Seattle's University Unitarian Church. Graveside services will be private.

''I loved her a lot and did all I could, but it didn't seem to be enough,'' Chapman said as she tried to find a reason for her daughter's death. ''She (Tenaya) didn't seem to be emotionally attached to anyone.''

Tenaya's biological parents are unknown. She was taken to a Vietnamese orphanage as an infant.

Her birth certificate only guesses at her age.

In Vietnam she was crippled by polio.

In America she may have been crippled by conflicting heritages.

''She had major, major adjustment problems,'' said Chapman.

Tenaya felt apart because of her leg damaged by polio.

She felt apart because of her Vietnamese heritage.

And she felt apart from the Vietnamese community because she could no longer speak fluent Vietnamese.

The problems intensified months ago.

Tenaya was placed in counseling.

She was placed in a new school.

''There still were problems. She ran away,'' Chapman said.

A good student previously, her grades deteriorated.

Life had always been a struggle for Tenaya.

She arrived in the United States at the time the South Vietnamese government was falling to the North Vietnamese invasion.

The date of her arrival was April 7, 1975, at a time Vietnam was in chaos. On April 30, 1975, Saigon fell.

Chapman had to struggle with several agencies to adopt her.

At first Tenaya insisted on sleeping on the floor with her new mother and brother beside her, but then she seemed to adapt quickly.

She learned English. She watched television, becoming a fan of the Fonz.

She like school and the other schoolchildren liked her.

But the bright smile and the happy laugh died.

''She felt she was different,'' said Chapman.

Tenaya talked of suicide.

''We tried our best,'' said Chapman.

Tenaya Chapman is survived by her mother and a brother, Brett.

Caption:
Tenaya Chapman was a little girl with a big smile in 1976, but life became increasingly difficult as time went on.




THE SEATTLE TIMES
January 11, 1986

STUDENT COMMITS SUICIDE AT SCHOOL VIETNAM REFUGEE FELT ALIENATED

Author: JERRY E. CARSON
CONSTANTINE ANGELOS

A young Vietnamese refugee, besieged by depression and feeling alienated from her peers, took her life at a school yesterday.

Tenaya Phan Le Lan Chapman, 16, of Everett, hanged herself in a girl's restroom at Sno-King Lutheran School in Edmonds.

The Snohomish County coronor's office listed the death as ``a self-inflicted hanging.'' She was found about 11:30 a.m.

Her adoptive mother, Linda Chapman-Artz, an insurance agent for Equitable of Iowa, said, ``I felt I had done all I could do, but it wasn't enough,'' she said.

Chapman-Artz said Tenaya, who had a history of depression, had been in counseling for the past several months. Tenaya felt she was not being accepted by those around her, Chapman-Artz said.

``She felt the Vietnamese kids didn't like her because she had an American for a mother, and she felt the American kids didn't like her because she was handicapped,'' she said. Tenaya was crippled by polio in Vietnam and wore a leg brace.

``She was an A student at Explorer Junior High School in the Mukilteo School District,'' Chapman-Artz said. This year, however, her grades plummeted with the onset of personal problems, she said.

Chapman-Artz said she learned some time ago that Tenaya had talked of taking her own life. ``She never told me that, just others,'' Chapman-Artz said.

Chapman-Artz, a single parent who also has a son, Brett, a senior at Washington State University, said she was able to adopt Tenaya only after a long battle with social-services agencies.

``She arrived in the United States on April 6, 1975,'' Chapman-Artz said.

Tenaya started out her sophomore year as a student at Mariner High School. She only began classes Monday at Sno-King Lutheran. ``I enrolled her in the school because she needed some structure in her life. The school came highly recommended,'' she said. ``Mariner was a large school with lots of new people.''

Students and staff of Sno-King Lutheran Junior-Senior High School were stunned by the news of Tenaya's death.

The 36 boys and girls at the 2-year-old school were kept in their classrooms as Snohomish County Sheriff's deputies and coroner's deputies investigated the tragedy.

Later, Principal Stephen Dinger and teachers counseled the youngsters at the private, Christian school.

``We're talking to the students, working with them,'' said Dinger.

The school, which is supported by 24 Lutheran churches in King and Snohomish counties, has seventh- through 10th-grade classes. It leases the former Madrona Middle School building from the Edmonds School Distric

Caption:
TENAYA PHAN LE LAN CHAPMAN ARRIVED IN U.S. IN 1975

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