Kent State students mourn death of Jovi Soumphonphakdy


Jovi Soumphonphakdy. Courtesy of Zoe Luh. 

Memories, the thoughts many rely on after losing a loved one, are how many Kent State students are coping after the death of freshman visual communication design major, Jovi Soumphonphakdy.

Jovi, 20, graduated in 2018 from Groveport Madison High School in Columbus. He was an aspiring animator who honed his artistic skills every day. His talent guided him to pursue a visual communication design degree in fall 2019 at Kent State University. 

“I create art, and grow my heart” is not just how he defined his Instagram profile, but how he led his life, creating art and friendships that would last a lifetime from the moment he stepped onto Kent’s campus. His friends recall him as “a jovial, artistic, passionate, kind” person. They shared a few special moments they had with him:

“I remember him knocking on my door one night and asking for my big, red Hawaiian button up for a party,” Jovi’s friend Cassie Vargo said. “He was so excited, talking about how he was gonna spill something on it so I would let him keep it. He appreciated it more than me for sure and I probably should have let him keep it. Every time I see that shirt hanging in my closet I remember how much I miss him and how much he liked it.”

“He would help others at the drop of a hat,” his roommate Anthony Cowoski said. “He was always there for anyone.”

Known for his love of chicken wings, video games and the series Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure and Naruto, Jovi was also interested in learning how to play the piano and becoming the graphic designer for his dorm, Olson Hall. Jovi’s friends Vargo and Dino Sibounheuang said he had dreams of creating a comic book and starting a non-profit organization to end hunger.

“He had a lot he wanted to accomplish in life,” Sibounheuang said.

But Jovi was battling bone cancer. 

“It was kind of amazing when we all learned that because he went about life so normally,” Sibounheuang said. “It’s just crazy to think that he lived the rest of his life knowing that he had a set date, but he still went about everyday normally.”

When Vargo found out Jovi had cancer, she remembered being extremely worried.

“On one of our walks he realized he missed a call from his doctor and we stopped so he could try and call, and I just remember wanting it to be beautiful news that somehow he was free,” she said.

Sibounheuang and Cowoski said they learned Jovi had cancer during his first semester on campus and that he was in remission.

Due to the cancer, Sibounheuang said Jovi had to get his left leg amputated below the knee and wore a prosthetic.

Jovi’s friends learned a week before the spring semester that the cancer came back and he would not be able to return for the semester. 

He died May 24, 2020. His online obituary is located here.

Jovi is survived by his parents, Loune and Sijai Soumphonphakdy and a sister, Angila; grandparents, Bounlam Soumphonphakdy, Klin and Opchuey Fowsantia; aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.

“We were growing pretty close and now I’m not going to have a roommate or someone to share the college experience with,” Cowoski said.

Sibounheuang said he will miss Jovi’s strength and resilience.

“His strength to go on everyday without breaking down is tremendously incredible,” he said.

Vargo said it was difficult losing her friend, but that it helps her to remember the good times.

“Reach out and lean on mutual friends, it helps so much to just talk about how much their life changed you,” she said. “Remember that every person you meet in life will leave an impact on you, and hopefully you are able to look back and smile at the good times.”

Contact Tramaine Burton at [email protected].