Louie as a Seabee

" Where's Louie?"

by Charles Burgess

Once in a while, a customer is still apt to enter the Wah Kue Cafe' at 13434 First Avenue South, look around, and ask, "Where's Louie? Haven't seen him here for awhile." Proprietor "Louie," whose given name was Wing Doo Wong, usually could be easily spotted as he moved along his route between the kitchen, the dining area, and the bar or handled the take-out orders and tended the cash register. He had long been a firm and familiar fixture in his popular eatery. When not at work, Wing might have been seen almost daily at a local athletic club where swimming kept him fit for the relentless demands of his restaurant.

Actually, Wing Doo Wong died nearly three years ago, with his family at his side. At his request, there was no public note made of his passing. Wing made it clear to his family that he wanted no fanfare upon his death, no notices posted, no obituaries, no memorial services. Period. What he did want was to have his Navy dog tags buried with him.

Those tags held intensely vivid memories for Wing and he happily showed them to any diner who doubted his age. While he was certainly a successful businessman, he was above all else a notable veteran of World War II. Serving as a Navy Seabee in the Pacific Theater, Wing and his construction battalion, on one island after another, contributed to the critical tasks of building major airstrips, bridges fuel storage tanks, piers, ammunition magazines, and the like.

A proud American, he also watched China's reemergence on the world stage and drew special enjoyment from chatting with regulars who knew China first-hand. Like so many newcomers to America from the world over, Wing had left his homeland in an era of harsh local living conditions.

In later years he returned several times, especially to Hong Kong, to bring back such items as authentic artwork to adorn his restaurant. In 1950, Wing first opened the doors of his popular eatery. It ran continuously under his hand until his death in August of 2011, at the age of ninety-three. His son Ron took up the reins, other family members pitched in, and without missing a beat, Wing's Wah Kue Cafe' continued to extend its record as the oldest restaurant in Burien under the ownership of a single family.

This year marks the establishment's sixty-fourth anniversary. Wing is survived by his widow Nellie, his son Ron, and daughters Paula, Victoria, Elizabeth, and Barbara.

Charles Burgess (2014)

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