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Who's Working on Your Street?

Apr 24, 2013

Too often, we forget to appreciate the diverse and talented people who make our South Dakota business and professional communities. Oh, sure, we know those who run for mayor and school board or chair the United Way. But many others labor quietly in the background. We assume they will be here for a long time. And so we take them for granted.

Such was the case with Camtu Thi Tran. She and her husband Robert operated King Dragon Restaurant on Fourth Street in Yankton for many years. They have been successful restauranteurs but we often thought, over egg drop soup or wonton chicken, that with Camtu as hostess they might have been millionaires in downtown Chicago or Los Angeles. She was a great ambassador for Yankton.

She was 39 years old when she died April 3. Two Buddhist monks came from Rochester, Minn., to conduct a funeral service. They wore robes of gold and orange. A kindly fellow in a blue jacket translated at times.

Robert and the children, Roland and Calida, spoke of their lives in Yankton. The restaurant will continue, but it will be different without Camtu. They need and deserve the continued support of the community that has supported them so many years.

This young lady's untimely death is also a wake-up call for all of us to search out and show appreciation to other unsung heroes and heroines who make our cities work on a daily basis — whether they are serving in businesses, hospitals, prisons, hardware stores, insurance offices or all the other nooks and crannies that make a community. We look for them when we travel to explore cities for features in South Dakota Magazine. But like everyone else, we take them for granted here at home. Camtu worked just a block from our publishing offices, yet we saw her perhaps once a month.

The mourners at her funeral did not understand much of what the Buddhist monks said, but at one point the translator in blue noted that they were speaking of the five precepts of Buddhism — respect for all life, do not steal, avoid sexual misconduct, do not lie and abstain from drug and alcohol abuse.

All good principles. We mean no disrespect when we suggest that a sixth might be to do good and honest labor that makes other people happy.

Camtu was hardly known outside the King Dragon. But she was immensely popular with anyone and everyone who came to her family's restaurant for nourishment and fellowship. She set a standard.

And our loss makes us wonder how many other quiet treasures are working down the street today.


11:56 am - Wed, April 24 2013
Francie said:
Thank you.
Thank you for sharing this observation, that becomes a thought, that begets an action, that is then a reality of lives - better lived. Camtu's legacy lives on and continues to inspire.
And beyond Yankton, thanks to you.
06:18 pm - Wed, April 24 2013
Gigi said:
I always appreciated the interest that Camtu had in each and every person that came into her life. She truly cared about the people she met.
06:48 am - Thu, April 25 2013
Rebecca said:
I never met her and I feel sad that I didn't.
10:03 am - Sun, April 28 2013
Jim said:
Camtu was a genuinely nice person. Not just at their business. She all ways had a smile and a friendly conversation, usually about family. Your day was a little more pleasant any time we happened to see her. We should all do so well.

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