Yong Jin `Nambda' Cha, 10, Calvert School fifth-grader

November 23, 2003|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Yong Jin "Nambda" Cha, a Calvert School pupil who enjoyed playing lacrosse, died of a brain tumor Wednesday at his home in the Linkwood Apartments in North Baltimore. He was 10.

Yong Jin Cha, who was known as Nambda, was born in College Park and spent the first year and a half of his life in South Korea. He moved to Baltimore in 1994 with his parents, Dr. Boyoung Cha, a researcher at the Johns Hopkins University, and his mother, Jonghee Cha, a physicist.

Nambda, who was in the fifth grade at Calvert School and also played lacrosse for the Lutherville-Timonium Recreation Council, was found in early August to have an inoperable brain stem tumor.

"The prognosis was that he'd have a year or two at the most, and his parents tried to keep things as normal as possible," said Frank Kelly III, who coached him in lacrosse at Calvert and in the Lutherville Recreation Council.

Despite being quite sick, Nambda continued attending school in a wheelchair until two weeks ago.

Patrick J. Slattery, middle school head at Calvert, remembered Nambda as a "very personable" pupil. The boy's courage and strong determination to survive his illness also moved Mr. Slattery.

"I had known about the tumor since the summer, yet he had the utmost confidence and a very positive attitude. He was a tenacious athlete who loved Calvert and his classmates. He was the epitome of the all-around kid," Mr. Slattery said. "And he had no doubt that he'd be out there next spring playing lacrosse."

"Nambda was very gifted and, for his age, was big and strong. He played midfield and face-off. He was very coachable and would do anything the coaches asked. He was a total team player," Mr. Kelly said.

"His goal was one day to play for the U.S.A. National Lacrosse Team or the Korean National Lacrosse Team," he said.

This autumn, Nambda had the opportunity to meet one of his idols, Mark Million, the two-time NCAA All-American lacrosse player, at the Lacrosse Hall of Fame at Homewood Field.

The news of Nambda's death cast a pall over Calvert School.

"The students didn't find out until Thursday night when they got home that Nambda had died. It was a very somber and tough day at school Friday," Mr. Slattery said.

Pupils were given the option of attending services, which were held Friday, he said.

"I think 85 percent of the students went to Nambda's services. Many of them were crying," he said.

"Next to his casket was his lacrosse stick and helmet. He was in the casket wearing the red-white-and-blue U.S.A. National Lacrosse Team jersey," Mr. Kelly said.

When contacted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Nambda requested that a lacrosse fund be established at Calvert School. And in accordance with his wishes, school officials instituted the Nambda Cha Calvert Lacrosse Fund. In addition to his parents, Nambda is survived by a brother, Yong Geun "Beda" Cha, also a Calvert School pupil; paternal grandparents, Chong Seuk and Po-ok Uyu of Soowon, South Korea; and maternal grandparents, Heung Chol Park and Jung Ja Chung of Seoul.

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