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Community Mourning Loss of Orchid Thai Restaurant Owner

Greenbrae's “Tommy” Thongnopneua, who opened the downtown San Anselmo restaurant Orchid Thai 27 years ago, died this month of complications from Leukemia.

Jeiranan “Tommy” Thongnopneua, who opened San Anselmo’s Orchid Thai restaurant 27 years ago, died Jan. 15 of complications from Leukemia. He was 63. 

The downtown San Anselmo restaurant had been closed since Thongnopneua, a Greenbrae resident, was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML) at the end of October 2012. 

His passing is especially heartbreaking because Tommy had plans to retire this year, his 35-year-old son, Clay Thongnopneua, told Patch.

Opening Orchid Thai with his wife, Somporn “Peggy” Thongnopneua, was Tommy’s dream, according to Clay.

Clay, who lives in San Anselmo, said his father opened the restaurant in San Anselmo because it was his favorite town. “He fell in love with the people and the environment in general. He could have easily opened his restaurant in bigger cities,” Clay said.

And Tommy’s love for San Anselmo appeared to be well reciprocated. Clay said hundreds of people came to Tommy’s Jan. 19 funeral. “He was loved by many,” he said.

More than 45 people “liked” and nearly 40 people commented on the notice of Tommy’s passing the family posted on the Orchid Thai Facebook page on Jan. 15.

“We will never forget his generosity, compassion, perfectionism, philanthropy, charisma, amazing energy, passion for cooking, and love of taking care of all those around him,” said the post, which also announced the closing of Orchid Thai’s doors.

But at this point, it’s not entirely clear what will happen to the restaurant, Clay said.

Tommy started his culinary career at the San Francisco French bistro Le Central, where he worked for 15 years.

The program from Tommy's funeral highlighted some of his passions:

“He enjoyed to work and was an avid golfer. Most of his days off were spent with family, running with his dog, golfing, and traveling. Tommy had an appreciation for great wine, food, and the outdoors. He lived life to the fullest, put his best foot forward with everything he did, and always put others people’s needs before his own.”

Tommy was born in Chon Buri, Thailand and he was the youngest of six children. He ventured to America in 1971 and married Peggy in 1974. 

Clay said Tommy was an extremely dedicated father.

Tommy is survived by his wife, Peggy, children Clay and Nida, three grandsons, Mason, Keaton, and Colby, his sisters and brother, nieces and nephews and many others.

Ross Valley communities have rallied around two young residents diagnosed with Leukemia last year, including Fairfax’s 14-year-old Ryder Morford. 

Do you have any special memories of Tommy or Orchid Thai? Share them in the comments below.

The family is asking friends and family to make a donation to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society via their website and dedicate it in memory of “Tommy Thongnopneua.”

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