Community gathers for memorial for ISU alumnus

Pastor Joel Vint speaks about Xiangyi “Sonny” Wang’s life at his memorial service. Wang died in a house fire on March 22.

Jordan Reding

Many members of the Iowa State and Cornerstone Church community gathered Friday to celebrate the life of Xiangyi “Sonny” Wang, a former Iowa State student who died in a house fire on March 22.

Wang, born in Beijing, China, was 25 years old when he died in a house fire at his home in west Ames. A memorial was held for Wang at Cornerstone Church of Ames on Friday. 

Wang graduated from Iowa State with a degree in criminal justice in 2012. He was working as a realtor at Keller Williams Greater Des Moines Real Estate and was an active member of Cornerstone Church and the Iowa State community.

Friends remembered him as someone who loved to cook, play sports and listen to music, but most of all help wherever he could by using his faith.

Joel Vint, who was a youth pastor at the Cornerstone Church for seven years and is now a pastor in Des Moines, said he was a close friend of Wang’s. Ving, also Wang’s boss, explained how loving and passionate he felt Wang was.

“Sonny had a way of putting life in perspective for us,” Vint said. “He was full of joy and life. Sonny was an up-for-anything type of guy. He had a to-do list, and it was to love and invest in people. “

Vint said Wang was active with the youth members of Cornerstone Church. Wang also greatly influenced two members of the Cornerstone Church youth group:  Ryan Carson and Austin Allaire. Carson a sophomore, and Allaire, a senior, both attend Ballard High School.

“It’s crazy to see all of the amazing things and the legacy that he is leaving behind here,” Carson said.

Carson said Wang was one of his best friends, and that Wang had a way of making others feel important.

“Sonny was always trying to help and challenge me,” Carson said.

Allaire said he will also remember Wang as a leader and a mentor.

“We are going to remember Sonny as being someone who gave his time, resources, talents, and energy to loving other people and to love God,” Allaire said.

Sam Houser, a 23-year-old ISU alumnus who attended the memorial, was also good friend of Wang’s. Houser met Wang at the Cornerstone Church, and they worked together at an apartment cleaning job. Houser thought Wang was a very enthusiastic and passionate person.

“Sonny’s main focus was Christ. He knew his purpose in life and wanted others to experience that joy,” Houser said. “The dedication and perseverance to his beliefs and what he stood for was really incredible.”

Wang’s brother, Cheney Wang, and father, John Wang also spoke at the memorial service honoring Wang.

“Sonny was my teacher and mentor,”Cheney said.  “He was a loving brother, and he was always there for me.”

“We will always remember Sonny’s smiling face,” John agreed.

Vint said Wang will be missed by more than just those attending the memorial.

“If you want to know what a successful life looks like, just look at Sonny’s. He influenced and touched so many people,” Vint said.