American Dream cut short for young man who fled war-torn country

GRESHAM, Ore. - Each face, each hug and each tear in the grandstands at Gresham High School Friday showed how many lives Michael Muange touched.

He started life in Central Africa, but when he was 10 years old, he and his family got the chance to come here and live the American Dream. It was a dream that was coming true until he suddenly died this week.

Michael was a popular football player at Gresham High School. He graduated and made plans for college, but he died suddenly Tuesday from an undiagnosed heart condition.

"What makes me sad is like he was not sick," said his mother, Lucy Matanda. "I didn't see him dying. I found him dead."

A decade ago, Michael, his mother and his seven brothers and sisters joined his father in the United States, escaping the lawless violence of the Congo Republic in Central Africa.

"Ten years ago there was war and a lot of chaos taking place there and coming to the United States to get a better life," said his sister Yabadi Rebecca Lomboto.

"Michael was very kind of people," his father, Simon, said. "He was respectful to people."

It was why so many people came to the candlelight vigil Friday.

Michael's family doesn't have much money. So classmates and friends held the vigil to help raise funds for Michael's burial.

They finished the evening carrying candles to the front of Gresham High School, remembering in silence a young man who could light up a room with his smile and positive attitude.

Friends of Michael's family have set up an account called the "Michael Muange Memorial Fund" at Wells Fargo bank for donations to help cover his funeral expenses.

Michael's former teammates reached out to us to tell Michael's story. They emailed us at