Please share your memories of Chai via the comments on this page.
Mr. Chai was one of the nicest men I have ever met he was so kind and positive and greeted everyone one that came into CDC South with a big smile and hello he will truly be missed by all!!!
Mr. Chai was one of the nicest men I have ever met. From the first day I met him at CDC South, I knew he was a kindred spirit. He always had a nice thing to say and listened to you like you were the only one important to him at the moment. My husband work with Mr. Chai in the kitchen and he always told me how nice Mr. Chai was, and how funny. He would smile as he told me something Mr. Chai would say. I can honestly say my husband had a bro crush. Lol! I am going to miss the smile and sparkle in Mr. Chai’s eyes as he said hi. It is going to be so hard going back to work knowing that he is not going to be there.
I am so sorry for your loss, but know that he will never be forgotten!
Mr. Chai’s family,
I was both shocked and saddened upon hearing the news of Mr. Chai’s passing. He was a good man and a good friend. He will be greatly missed. It was truly a pleasure to know and work with Mr. Chai at the CDC South.
A short story about Mr. Chai. I was I was helping in the kitchen one day and told Mr. Chai about Mrs Raco complaining to me about the coffee maker in the break room not working. He replied, just tell her it was made in Japan LOL. I loved his humor, Mr. Jon.
I am at a loss with this one….Chai was like a 2nd father growing up…..he would leave for work and then come back, walk in from Sweet Basil and be like “AGAIN!!!” but obviously never in a bad way….he was always welcoming to all of Vic, Craig and Keith’s friends that would come by. I still have a Sweet Basil TShirt that i may or may not have swiped from the house back in the day. Those times were a lot more simpler and just fun. he was always there for his family thru good times and bad….he was a friend to all but a father figure first and foremost and i always respected that. It has been ages but still can picture some moments at 124 Sherman Place like it were yesterday. And that tea pot was defective! I am sorry I missed the virtual memorials but I have plenty of memories to look over virtually in my head of times there. Ive made a donation in Chai’s honor to one of the places mentioned. I applaud his visionary type view in science and it should not be forgotten! I love you guys even with the time and distance apart….deep down I believe you guys still know that
I only knew Mr. Chai for a short period of time, but was always greeted with a pleasant smile whenever I saw him. My thoughts and prayers are with the family.
It’s so hard to find the words to describe the perfect man. I met Mr. Chai in the kitchen at CDC SOUTH, (I was being replaced by Mr. Chai) . I knew from the very first time I looked into his eyes he was the perfect fit for this kitchen family. He wasted no time introducing himself and wanted to know instantly, what needed to done. Just like that Chai began his CDC Legacy. He had an infectious smile one could never forget. The jokes he tried to tell, and could hardly finish because he “had cracked himself up!” The way he would just come join you in what ever task you were doing, and offer good conversations. Your love for ALL MUSIC, your attempts at singing. How you would walk pass and tap my shoulder and say “you do a good job”, will greatly be missed. I wish time could allow me to tell you aloud how much I love and appreciate you. I pray everyday that your family finds comfort, you were truly an angel here on earth. My emotions seems selfish right now because I would give it all to have you here with us. You inspired me to be the best me and to “take care of those babies. I thank God for the season we got to experience you, until we meet again.
Cornelia Scott: Mr. Chai when I would visit CDC South you would come to the front desk and talk with me. You had a beautiful smile and personality. You always made me feel welcome in a space that felt so big. You will be missed. To the family my prayers are with you.
Mr. Chai You will truly be missed you were such a kind and loving person always greeted every one with a smile.
Chai and I were neighbors and our sons attended the same school. After walking them to school, Chai and I used to talk on the way back to our homes almost every day. We became good friends and usually kept a good conversation going over a cup of coffee or a pot of tea. If I had a do-it-yourself project going and needed help, Chai was always ready to lend me a hand. He was a great friend. I will always remember Chai, our conversations, and our family barbecues together.
Mr. Chai was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. We worked together at the cdc and he spoke to everyone and always had such a pleasant demeanor. He was so sweet and always cracking jokes. He will truly be missed and the CDC will not be the same without him. RIP to a great man and my condolences to his family. ❤️
You were like a powerful engine heading to its next destination; You chugged along all through the day completing your mission.
You were built strong and tough with extra care to share; We never worried because we knew you would be there.
You continued your journey on to each stop; You did your job with a big smile and never stopped.
It’s hard to understand that you are gone; But, God needed you more and he wanted you home.
You left a lasting image in everybody’s heart; Its hard to say goodbye since you have depart.
Neither you nor I expected that one day your engine would stop and you would be gone; So rest well little engine for a job well done.
Mr Chi, you will always be in our hearts, as our number one.
Love Mrs. Anita Exford Carnell (former co- worker and friend)
As a musician who worked reasonably regularly at Sweet Basil I can’t even remember the year I first met Chai, but I do know that we had an immediate rapport. His talents serving a bustling bar, on his own, had me mesmerized but he always had time for a chat. Even after I moved to Australia we stayed in touch. Not always regularly, but always enjoyable and like nothing had changed since the last conversation. My wife, Sheila and I loved Chai and he will be sorely missed.
Chai has touched my family and our hearts in so many ways. I will always remember him for his smile, kind heart, laughter and willingness to help. Even as I write this, I can hear his voice and the accent which was distinctively Chai, It still makes me smile.
Whenever he and my husband got together you were sure to laugh until you almost wet your pants. George was terrible at plumbing and Chai was always glad to come over and teach him, for the 15th time, the proper way to sweat a pipe. Chai had a knack for showing up at the house just after I spent the whole day cleaning. He would remark about how clean the house always looked and I was glad he never visited on a weekday.
Chai never came to the house empty handed. Once we invited him and the kids over for a BBQ, just burgers and dogs. Well not only did Chai show up with a large filet mignon, he took over the grilling. I guess he was well aware of George’s barbequing skills which shall we say were limited.
While sometimes there were long periods where we didn’t see or talk to each other, when we’d finally found the time it was like nothing changed. Except maybe a few extra gray hairs (luckily, I was able to hide mine) or a few extra pounds (which i wasn’t able to hide). There was always a warm welcome, a big smile and a hug. I will miss his calls on my birthday and my return call for his birthday two days later.
My heart aches for our families and particularly for Christie. For I know what it’s like to have a husband taken from you at a fairly young age. I wish there was some wisdom I could pass on to make things easier. All I can say is one day the memories will bring you joy instead of pain. He will always hold a special place in our hearts and we will never forget this truly special person we all loved.
I have not had the pleasure of knowing Chai. These heartfelt memories and tributes left in his honor are beautiful. I do have a memory to share, albeit small in the passage of time, however huge in the indelible mark it had cemented in my heart for Chai and his Family. As I learned of Chai’s passing, the day I recalled was Marisa and Keith’s wedding day. My memory is thinking about how happy, loving and proud Chai looked as he, his Wife, Father, Keith and all his Family enjoyed themselves on this joyous day. It was on that day I had thought to myself, he must be an amazing man and Father to have raised his Sons in a beautiful culture of family, love, trust, and confidence in each other that would enable Keith, and his Brothers, to attain and embrace the love, growth, and belonging of their own families. This was something special to witness.
Mr. Chai and I worked together at the CDC. He was an incredible person. Thoughtful, happy, funny and so hardworking. My office is directly across the kitchen where I listen to the dream team laughing, joking and helping each other. To say that he will be missed is an understatement. We will never find another “Mr. Chai”. He greeted everyone with a smile and a warm hello as he walked through the halls. It did not matter how busy he was he would stop in a second to help anyone who needed it. I am going to miss him. My heart goes out to his family. I can speak for the South Child Development Center in saying Mr Chai was respected, well liked by everyone And will be greatly missed
I worked with Mr. Chai at the CDC South. My heart crumbled the day I heard about the passing of such a great man. He was one that was easy to get along with, his bright smile and humble spirit will forever be missed. He had a heart of gold, and spread kindness throughout the building. He will be missed, especially by the kitchen stuff whom was like family. I will keep his family lifted up in prayer as they say farewell to a mighty good man.
CHAI WAS A GREAT GUY AT ALL TIMES! I WOULD HANG AT SWEET BASIL WITH LESLIE HARRISON AND DALE FITZGERALD. WE HAD A BALL. REST IN JAZZ HEAVEN AND KNOW YOU BROUGHT JOY TO PEOPLES LIVES!
Chai always made me laugh when he would tease Alex. Once Chai saw my daughter in her ripped jeans, he’d tell him, with a wink at me, “Lek, don’t you have enough money to buy your daughter decent clothes?”. Chai is a great family man and I’m forever thankful for his warm welcome. I will always treasure the family dinners we had together.
I worked with Mr . Chai at the CDC south and he was the most humble, nice, pleasant person you would ever want to work with. Mr. Chai loved to joke with Ms.Martha and Rekio and you could hear them laughing from a mile away !!! Chai will truly be missed at the CDC south! I love you Chai🥰 RIP
I worked with Mr. Chai at the Child Development Center. He was such a kind and gentle soul. He was always cracking jokes from the minute he walked into the building and he always had a kind word to say to everyone he came in contact with. He will be dearly missed.
I worked with Mr. Chai at the Child Development Center. He was such a kind and gentle soul. He always had a kind word to say to everyone he came in contact with. He will be dearly missed.
Chai was the most kindness, caring, generous, humorous, and loving person anyone would be honored to call friend. I remember on time when he came to my home in Lincoln Park to prepare a meal for us. I was so excited because one of the dishes he was going to make was shrimp soup which I had never had before and was looking so forward to trying since I enjoy eating shrimp. When the meal was ready, we all sat down to enjoy one of Chai’s scrumptious meals. I could not wait to try the shrimp soup. As the bowl was put down before me, I looked down at my bowl – looked up – and said, “I can’t eat this” the shrimp were looking back at me. I’ve never had shrimp staring at me before. But I did enjoy the rest of the meal. He was a great cook besides all his other traits. I will miss you greatly and your warm loving hugs.
I remember Chai from the very early days of my New York life. He was the bar tender at Sweet Basils and then Sweet Rhythm. He was one of the sweetest cats you ever came across in the jazz community back then. Everyone loved Chai. I knew nothing about his life, his family, his children and grandchildren. All I know is that I never forgot him. I never forgot his kindness, his humanity. His smile. His cheerfulness. I just saw the post on FB and didn’t compute who it was until I clicked on the link and started reading. New York is a big city and people live complicated lives… so much has changed since those early days….for all of us…. but the thing that sticks in the memory, in the mud, is the way a person makes you feel. It’s often a person’s kindness. I barely knew Chai but I sat at that bar many nights over the years listening to great music. I also played in that club with my band many times as well. Chai was always there. He was a rock, a sturdy, steady place….where you always felt welcome, liked…even loved. In a way he made that place for me. If he hadn’t been so kind and welcoming I’m to sure I’d never have come by there as often. My heart is shattered. Thoughts are with this very kind, sweet man’s family. I will never forget you Chai.
I was the day bartender at Basil. Part of my job was going down those rickety broken wooden steps to re stock. Golden rule behind that bar- BE CAREFUL!! First step was broken. Everyone knew this. One day I slipped, my right thigh went all the way through the step. Chai runs over and pulls me up, puts ice on it, sits me down in the alcove with me leg up, then he starts cracking jokes. NICOLE!! SHIT!! What I tell you??? Where you taking pictures, talking on the phone?? I went from crying to laughing in about 5 minutes. Chai took care of us all. I learned so much from him that I took to every job I had after Basil. The world will be less brighter without him in it. Sending all my love to his whole wonderful family. Till we meet again ❤❤❤
I worked as a hostess at Sweet Basil & Lush Life in the ‘80’s with Chai & Cho. We became like a big, extended family that included partners, children and other relatives; owners, musicians and other artists mingled fluidly personally & professionally. Life was so much simpler, more equitable and full of promise then. The culture at Sweet Basil was truly a magical moment in time, and Chai was a steadying influence in it. Grateful to have been in Chai’s orbit. A truly beautiful human, brother and friend.
I work at CDC South and often would fill in in the kitchen when someone was out. Mr. Chai was a hard working, caring man. He always had a kind word for people. He would go out of his way even during “go time” to help me if needed. He always remembered where our conversations left off and would ask about how things were going. Mr. Chai genuinely took time to know people and say a kind word. I don’t think I ever saw him mad. He will truly be missed by many. My condolences and prayers to his family 💜
To the family of Mr. Chai I am sorry for your loss, you have my sincere condolences. Mr Chai will truly be miss by many he was a kind person always show respect and kindness to everyone. I worked with him and each day would be a great day listening to Mr. Chai talk about NY and his music he would smile and tell a few jokes. I am going to miss him so very much he was a great man and a true friend RIP. Mr. Chai🙏⚘.
I met Chai while we both were working at Sweet Basil, we quickly became inseparable friends. We would hang out at the club long after closing, talking, drinking, talking some more — some times until the sun came up. After about four to five months, we started dating. One night, we locked up the club and realized he was still holding a scotch in his hand. He just shrugged and said he’d take it to my apartment, which was around the corner. We were laughing about something and he said, “gimme a piggy back ride” and I said, “okay, sure, hop on.” The. man. hopped. on. my back. My knees buckled and we fell to the sidewalk — scotch fully in tact. We thought that was the funniest thing ever and there we lied, laughing and laughing on a NYC sidewalk with a subway grate under us, scotch fully in tact.
Just heard this news from Steve Epstein, on the street, a few blocks down Seventh Avenue South from what used to be Sweet Basil.
Very sorry to hear this. Chai and Cho were the best, ALWAYS, never to be forgotten. Sweet Basil was part of the greatest years of my life in NYC.
I look forward to meeting again, in the next realm.
Thank you for putting together this tribute. I am a musician my name is Vincent Herring. I first met Chai in the 1980’s (1987-88) when he worked at Sweet Basils! What a kind soul and thoughtful man. I am so happy to so he was so loved in his life.God bless him…..
I really wished I got to meet Mr. Chai. I’ve talked on the phone with him a couple times. He really loved telling me how great my mom, Martha, is. My mom enjoyed telling me about Mr. Chai. I’ve heard so many great things about him. He will be truly missed. Prayers to your love ones❤️
Chai was a great friend, a gentle soul, and a very kind man. During our meeting in Chesapeake two years ago, I felt that a real friendship evolved between us. During my visit to his house last year, I saw a very generous man, international spirit, and a very kind friend. I will truly miss him.
I never saw Chai when he didn’t have a hearty smile and a warm hello. He made your day better, every time. May he rest in peace.
I worked with Mr. Chai at CDC South, he would always make me laugh. Mr. Chai knew my work schedule better than I did..lol..lol.. He was always so helpful and thoughtful. He will truly be miss. R.I.H
I was lucky to meet and become friends with Chai at Sweet Basil in the early 1980s. I remember his calm demeanor and subtle sense of humor. When Keith was born he told me with a grin, Rose keeps coming up with names I can’t pronounce. Sadly he was unable to make my 50th birthday party because Rose got a flat tire in a he Holland Tunnel and she passed not long after that. Sweet Basil closed and we moved out of the city so I did not have much contact with Chai in the last 20 years but I will always remember him as a special person that I was fortunate to know.
Hey, Errol!! Is this Paula & Errol, Errol??
This is Nicole, your happy bartender!! How are you?? Hope all is well with you. To this day, when I have a vodka Martini and someone makes it for me, I say do not put any salad in my vodka!!! Lol
meant to say Happy hour bartender…lol
Over the past few years, I’ve heard so many hilarious stories about Mr. Chai from my sister Martha. When she talked about him, she often used the words “good man” and “hard worker.” I never got the pleasure to meet such a wonderful man, but felt like I knew him personally. I know he will be truly missed by all that knew him. I’m praying for strength and comfort for Mr. Chai’s family, friends and co-workers.
I meet Chai way back In The early 70,s . We lived next door to each other then in a studio apartment. One year we were going to a Halloween party, and Chai had convinced Uncle Tom to dress as a girl, I was a hobo and he was the clown. We had a great day, all coming home drunk. I have so many memories of Chai over the years, Chai is a one of a kind man. He was always a gentlemen, polite happy and funny person. He could make anyone smile. He knew I loved his cooking and every time we got together he would cook my favorite which was chicken broccoli and rice. Even if he can to our house. It breaks my heart to know that he is gone. Chai was a family man and loved people he loved everyone, no one could bring him down. He loved all his family and children, as you can see from his beautiful tribute. He loved to have family get togethers. Remembering all the years we all got together at my house for Thanksgiving day. I missed those days. Chai you were loved by many, and may you Rest In Peace, memories shall never leave any of us and we all have plenty of them . Chai you were a wonderful kind heart loving man, to me he was my friend,my brother . I will greatly miss you. Love Marion ( your sister in law ) .
One of my favorite habits of Dad’s was how he’d come home when I was growing up and ask me if I wanted to go run errands (mostly to the grocery store). The times I did, we’d talk in the car, do whatever we needed, then drive home. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME, he would miss the exit or turn we needed to get back home, say how he can’t talk and drive then blame me, saying it was my fault distracting him.
Dad was a lighthearted man with an indomitable personality. He was forgiving (which wasn’t easy when raising four sons) and did whatever he could to support his family. Dad, you were one of a kind and will be remembered forever.
It’s going to be so weird and hard not see Mr Chai in the morning. I am a caregiver at the CDC South. Seeing Mr Chai in the morning was truly a breath of fresh air …we shared a joke and laugh every morning. This whole thing going on in the world has been hard but I never thought it was going to hit so close to home and to my heart. To the family you all are so lucky to have Mr Chai in your family. The moments that he and I shared were brief so can not even imagine of ALL THE BEAUTIFUL MOMENTS that you all have of him. Blessings on blessings to the family.
I knew Chai from working at the Child Development Center. He was always such a kind, hardworking, man. There were moments, in the kitchen, that you could tell it was crunch time and he was working hard as can be. But with all that going on he always would crack a smile or joke. I don’t think there was ever a time that we passed each other without quickly catching up or at least saying hello. He was a wonderful man and friend of mine that I genuinely respect. To me, Chai will never be forgotten and truly missed.
I cherish my memories of Uncle Chai, especially the family parties at Aunt Joyce’s house with all the Thornley cousins together. He was always so full of life, gave the best hugs and was an amazing cook. When I was in college, my boyfriend and I went into the city to visit him at Sweet Basil’s. He treated us to a wonderful lunch and we felt like VIPs. I’ve often joked with my family that my love of Thai food was instilled in my youth by Uncle Chai. Rest In Peace dear Uncle, you have touched so many lives and were loved by all who knew you.
I worked with Mr. Chai, and he was one of my best friends. Since day one, he always found a way to make me laugh and continually would check to make sure that I was okay whenever I would be out of the kitchen for an extended period of time. He would constantly remind me to take my medication and just made working in the kitchen an easier and enjoyable experience. I remember that we would always joke about retiring from the CDC and open up our own restaurant together. I am older that Mr. Chai, but that never stopped him from treating me like his baby sister. At work in the kitchen, Mr. Chai, Mrs. Reiko and myself were know as the “Dream Team” and my kitchen will never be the same without him.
Once, when I was about 11 or 12, my dad brought me and my friend Mike to Hop Lee in Chinatown after an evening at Sweet Basil. When the waiter brought us our tea, Mike tried to pour himself some and the tea spilled out of the pot and onto the table.
“I think the teapot is defective,” Mike explained as he wiped the table.
“No it’s not,” said my dad, “you just don’t know how to pour.”
I grabbed the teapot and tried to pour a cup. Again, the tea spilled out of the pot and onto the table.
My dad glared at me. “Y’oh, what your guy doing?!”
“It’s defective!” I said.
“No it’s not,” he shook his head dismissively. “Your guy defective.”
He snatched the teapot, placed one hand over the lid to hold it in place, and began pouring.
Tea leaked down the side of the pot and onto the table.
“Oh shit. Y’oh, this thing defective.”
My late wife Phyllis and I owned Sweet Basil from 1980 – 1990 and I have only fond memories of Chai, his brother Cho and all the family members I had the pleasure to meet during my tenure. Chai was the first staff member I met following the closing of sale. I appeared at the restaurant as green as anyone could possibly be. We were opening for business in a couple of hours and I knew nothing. Chai greeted me warmly, wished me luck and then asked how I wanted to handle the bank. I was clueless and answered I guess I’ll open an account. No his said that he meant the $350 change bank for the Bar. I told him that I left my last dime at the closing and he said not to worry he would take care of it. He then spent the next 10 years taking care of me. Without his patient, honest, caring presence the success we built would not have been possible. I will always remember him with admiration and love. Damn this terrible pandemic that took him from his family and friends.
I’m a teacher at Cdc South Mr. Chai just was a loving and caring man. The pre toddlers knew when he came to our classroom it was time for them to eat. I will miss him very much, especially his Jokes and smile, also his laughter and calm spirit. ❤🙏
I worked and was his trainer at the CDC South on Quantico. He was such a joy to be around. He always was willing to help even when it took him away from his busy time in the kitchen. He was loved not only by the children in the center but also by the staff. Mr Chai always had a smile even when things were crazy and he always had an encouraging word. He alwsys had a way of knowing when I needed a cheerful smile and would always stop to say hi as he passed my office. He will be deeply missed.To the family I am so sorry for your loss and you all are in my prayers.
I worked with Mr Chai at the CDC south in Quantico. This man was a kind and gentle man. The kids were always happy to see him come in our room as he was to see them. He always took time to talk with them and listen to their stories or accomplishments. For me personally, he always had a way of knowing when I needed an encouraging word. He had a spirit that uplifted those around him. He will be sorely missed. To the family I wanted you to know he touched many more lives than you may know. I send you prayers and my condolences
I worked with Mr.Chai in the kitchen at CDC at MCB Marine Corps. He was my partner, he made my job easier everyday and he always helps others. He was kind and good man. I will miss him very much.
Dear Chai, I have many good memories of you basically adopting many friends of Vic, Craig, and Keith. We ate you out of house and home, but there was always more and we were welcome to share. My funny memory of Chai…was one weekend when 7 of us were having a D&D session at Vic’s and Chai wakes up at the crack of dawn to go to work at Sweet Basil…he sees us awake and says,”You guys are still playing?! You didn’t go to sleep, it’s been 12hours straight! Victor then says we took breaks to eat. We all laugh and Chai says You guys are crazy! 😂 Always felt very welcome and I appreciate all he did for us. Good Man.
I remember the first time I met Chai — Vic took me to Sweet Basil one night when his dad was there. Sweet Basil was a great little club, and Chai was very accommodating even though it was busy. Chai had what I think of as a quiet and cool, but completely in-control, demeanor. He was very nice and just wanted us to have a nice time there, and even though he was at work, Chai clearly wanted to give a little bit of special attention to his son, but not in a helicopter way. He treated Vic like a great friend. It seemed like a huge sign of respect.
Every time I saw Chai after that, I always got this “cool and calm” vibe from him, even at times when there might be a lot of chaos going on around us. And it was clear, as the years went on and I saw Vic’s family more, how much he loved and trusted his family. There was this constant sense of quiet happiness that I always got from him, even when it was only underlying. To me, Chai seemed to have a confidence that things would be OK, and that his family would be OK, always. And now I realize that was because he was confident in himself and his love for his family, and as long as a person has those two things and shares them openly…yeah, life can actually be pretty nice.
I have so many memories of my Uncle Chai, I could make this a book. I loved every second of my life with him & my cousins. He was very uplifting, and enjoyed being with family and friends. Pretty sure the last time I saw him was at my baby shower, in 2009
One day (in July 2018) I was texting with my father as he rode a bus from DC to NY. He was on his way to visit his father. He told me that he couldn’t talk on the bus because he was watching Green Day videos on YouTube. Until that moment, I didn’t know my dad had heard of Green Day, much less spent time watching their videos on bus rides.
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