Since its initial development in the 1950’s, people have relocated to Alvarado Estates from near and far. They’ve helped to shape the neighborhood and the shared experience of living here. One resident’s remarkable life journey started in Vietnam and, eventually, brought her to Alvarado Estates in 1998.
Born in Ben Tre, Vietnam, in 1944, Nhung (Velvet) Lu Booth was one of 10 children raised by parents who were “self-made” business owners. The importance of hard work and education were ingrained in Velvet at an early age.
In Vietnam, women pursuing a college degree during the early ‘60s was very rare. Universities were limited, which made competition great. She scored and qualified for the very top tier and was accepted into a prestigious law school, the equivalent of Harvard and Stanford University.
However, because of the collapse of the Republic of South Vietnam on April 30, 1975, the family's wealth and businesses in tea, ice, and coconut oil production were taken by the ruling communist government. The majority of the family members were put in jail and falsely accused of aiding the opposition, so the communist government could steal everything. Velvet managed to escape prison on her first day, due to the initial disorder.
During the mid-70s she managed to conduct black-market tea wholesale and coconut oil production businesses. It was all government controlled and restricted, but she managed to create her fortune a second time. Realizing there was no future living under communist rule, she and her family decided to escape from Vietnam in 1978.
Her family was one of the few to be known as “boat people” who escaped the country and death at sea. Velvet recollected that the overloaded boat almost sunk because it had taken in water twice, remarking, "I thought we would not make it."
The family barely managed to get to Malaysia and were refugees for over a year, before being accepted to emigrate to the USA in late 1979. Her journey led her to San Diego where she would continue her educational aspirations.
She graduated with honors from SDSU with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and worked for the Navy. She also pursued various business ventures which included, opening a Vietnamese restaurant named Velvet Inn, a travel agency, and in wholesale home furnishings. She eventually found success in immigration services, named Far East Service Center, and Real Estate Investment.
In 1994, she met the true love of her life, Theodore (Ted) W. Booth, whom she adored and respected. In 2001, the couple gave a substantial contribution to the Astronomy Department at SDSU, her alma mater, and to give back to the community due to Ted’s field of interest in aviation, as a Naval Lieutenant-Commander and Captain of PSA, and his fascination in astronomy.
Nhung (Velvet) Lu Booth passed away on March 30, 2020, of lung cancer. Her husband, Ted, predeceased her in February of this year. Their presence in the community will be missed!