Nguyen Van Thoi was one of those boat people you may have heard of. In Mr. Nguyen’s case, he had been in ARVN and had directly helped our forces during the Vietnam war. After our disgraceful abandonment of the South to Communist dictatorship, he was sent to a “re-education” camp, in good Stalinist fashion. After two years, he bribed his way out, showing, if it needed showing, what the Communist ideologues were really about.
Nguyn Van Thoi escaped, via boat, taking his family to Thailand. The fuller story of how he wound up in Arlington, Virginia, where I had met him, may be found in his obituary. This man worked hard, at first at menial jobs, until he started what became his life’s work here: a successful entrepreneur, opening a small chain of excellent restaurants. The best of them is the Nam Viet on North Hudson Street in Arlington, where we used to go weekly before we moved out of Arlington not too long ago.
Mr. Nguyen’s life, now cut sadly short, is a reminder of how precious each life is. And how we should ever welcome newcomers to our shore who are willing and able to work. Especially those who are fleeing tyranny in their homelands. This man surely enriched our community, in more ways than one.
In closing, this about Nguyen Van Thoi’s outlook (from the obituary):
Loyalty was a principle Mr. Nguyen often reiterated as a cherished quality for a good life, his son said.
“Never lie, cheat or steal from anyone to get ahead in life,” Nguyen [John, Van Thoi’s son]said his father wrote in a memo to his children shortly before his death. “Never let anyone look down on you.”
Well, he’s surely looking down on us, in a manner of speaking. No one who met the man in life could possibly have looked down on him. R.I.P.