This eulogy was read to a crowd of over 600 people at St.Patrick’s Church on January 4th, 2012. It was written by us, her family and delivered by family friend Dennis Counts.
On the day of Christina’s birth, July 20th, 1977, Theresa and Elizabeth waited anxiously at our paternal grandmother’s house for the call from Dad to let them know the new baby had been born. When the call came that it was yet another girl they exclaimed, “but we wanted a baby brother!”.
Mom and Dad took that request quite seriously, and over the next nine years the three Choi girls gained three little brothers – Teddy, Christopher, and Matthew. Together the 6 of us always have been and always will be known as the “Choi Kids”.
Christina was number 3 – just about in the middle of the 6 – which would seem a daunting spot, but she never seemed to mind. She was a silly, happy-go-lucky child from the start. Early on Christina could be found playing with her numerous dolls, singing silly songs, or running around outside with her brothers and the rest of the neighborhood kids.
She could drive her sister’s crazy, but was such a beautiful child that they would still make her pretend to be the model in their made up TV shows and commercials. She was also famous in our family for having spectacular, lengthy tantrums where she would either cry and hold her breath, or lay on the floor wailing things over and over. Thankfully, this phase didn’t last long!
In her adolescence, Christina started to show her unique style. Her clothes and accessories were an extension of her personality. As a student at Seattle Prep, she stood out from the other students by wearing her dad’s army coat, batman converse, vintage hats, and carrying her army canvas bag. Soon after high school came her orange “period” : screaming orange hair, orange shoes, orange clothes – orange whatever she could find. Her best friend Emily had complementary electric blue hair [and accessories] – they were inseparable. Together with their close-knit group of friends, they would hang out all over Seattle – in coffee shops, parks, or concert venues. Liz and Theresa remember more than once walking into a music show and finding Christina and her friends sitting on the ground, just hanging out.
Inspired by our food focused family, Christina realized she wanted to go to cooking school and entered the Seattle Central Community College culinary program. Most of the family attended her “Chef of the Day” at school when she ran the kitchen as part of her final project. We were so proud of her then, not realizing this was only the beginning of her amazing career.
From Bandoleone to Nettletown, she put her time in at many Seattle restaurants, befriending fellow food obsessed cooks and friends who remained close for the rest of her life.
Her first endeavor into the business world was opening Foraged and Found edibles with Jeremy Faber, selling mushrooms and other wild goods. For a large part of her twenties, she was either covered in mushroom dirt, or cooking, or both.
Next to food, traveling was Christina’s other passion. Europe, the Bahamas, and Thailand were a few of the places she traveled. Traveling for Christina was an opportunity for her to experience local food cultures first hand and meet new people. In 2005, Theresa, JC, Liz, and Teddy met up with Christina in Italy – in every town and city we visited, Christina had an exhausting, but unforgettable, food agenda. The highlight of all her travels was the 6 months she spent in Vietnam in 2008, visiting her friend Mike and seeing the countryside with her significant other Jason. She immersed herself in the culture, the food, and volunteered at a few different organizations.
When she finally opened Nettletown in 2010, it felt like her food was so good because of all of her life experiences – because she let herself truly explore those things that made her happy. Her food and restaurant reflected her personality and her soul: adventurous, care-free, cheerful, friendly, modest, unique, optimistic, spiritual, empathetic, compassionate, giving, funny, and inviting.
Ask anyone who knows us, and they will tell you that the Choi kids are inseparable. We’ve had Fourth of July, Halloween, and Christmas parties together at the apartment for the last 19 years. We yell at each other, we laugh with each other, and sometimes it feels like we breathe for each other. It’s like we make up a perfect shape, a perfect hexagon, that has individual sides but is a whole. The love and wisdom from Mom and Dad fill the space in the middle.
Christina was our bright orange line, standing out from the rest of us by being vibrant and loving and happy. The departure of our dear sweet Christina leaves a break in our family that will never feel normal. Our only consolation is that the memories that we hold, and that you have shared with us, will give us strength, holding her spirit in our hearts.
Here are some of those memories, in the words of people who loved her:
Christina was a lifelong best friend to our daughter Emily. In Emily’s words:
“The way it felt to have her smile at you, laugh with you, feed you, love you — that was the feeling of being the luckiest person on earth. To think of her is to see beautiful colors, to hear laughter, and to taste delicious foods. She reminded you of all the most wonderful things about being alive in this world.”
Wherever Christina went she turned friends into family. For the Counts family she felt like a part of us, like a sister and a daughter. She brought joy and laughter and delicious food to any occasion, and the best thing that any of us can do with our lives is to follow her example.
From her brother Matt:
I had brought some friends to a party at the apartment and they couldn’t keep my sisters straight. My friends asked me what each of my sisters’ names was. I listed them – Theresa, Elizabeth, and Christina – when I said Christina, they asked me if she was the one who was always laughing. I smiled and said yes. From then on she was known as my sister who was always laughing.
Her mother JoAn remembers this story from when Christina was about 10:
When Christina was in 5th grade she would catch the bus at Montlake School to go over to Seward where she had been attending since kindergarten. One day a parent called to let me know that every morning, a group of boys teased and harassed Christina as she waited for the bus. I asked Christina about it. She said she just ignores it because her teacher had told the class that if someone is bothering you to consider the source and not let it get to you. I thought at the time, what self-confidence and inner strength she had at such a young age. And it only continued on through the years.
From her friend Noah, who she met in cooking school:
“You’re so quirky. You were such a weirdo. I cherished that about you. So many people seem to lack a real sense of individuality, but not you. There are of course all the wonderful things about you that everyone is going to miss, like your hilarious guffawing laugh that stopped conversation and turned heads. Or your crazy habit of slamming your hands on the table and getting everyone’s attention only to say something like “I forgot to call my brother” or something else that didn’t merit the amount of drama you put into it. “
From Mike Klaport, longtime friend:
To my dearest dearest Christina, You have been such a brilliant force in my life. You shined yourself, your love, your creativity, in such an open, honest and non-judging way that it made everyone around you stronger. You were able to love the awkwardness in people in a way that could bring them together when otherwise… they would have not. You have inspired me and so many others to maintain our connections to make the extra effort for understanding, love, and community.
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All these memories and good thoughts are what will fill the spaces in our hearts, as we set out to live without our sweet Christina. We’d like to think she’s hanging out with gramma and grampa and Dad at a big party, cooking up a storm, foraging for wild foods…smiling and laughing the whole time.
We love you Christina.