Tommy Wong always had a kind word for everyone.
Wong was found dead late Friday, the victim of what police say was an armed robbery of his Arlington jewelry store earlier that day.
But his words — and actions — continue to resonate and touch the lives of people far beyond the Columbia Pike neighborhood where he worked.
More than 200 people gathered in front of Capital Jewelers, 3219A Columbia Pike, on Wednesday night for a candlelight vigil in remembrance of Wong.
One after another, family members, friends, customers and people who just work in the neighborhood took turns memorializing Wong, 52, of Herndon.
They spoke of his generosity, his kindness and his professionalism. They told stories of the hard-working family man who lived the American dream and always talked about his wife and two children. He was a perfectionist, but one who didn't fuss — a very gentle man who was always smiling.
"It's inconceivable that his life has been cut so short, so suddenly," said Lindsey Nguonly, who owns Princess Jewelers in Rockville, Md.
'A Friendship for Life'
Wong worked at Princess Jewelers for more than 20 years before buying his shop on Columbia Pike.
Roula Tsapalou worked with Wong at the Maryland shop for many of those years. Today, she sits at what was once his desk. The two developed "a friendship for life," she said.
"There was nothing the man couldn't fix," she said. "There's too much to Tommy to remember. And I want everyone to remember him in a good light. Because he always gave his best."
Tsapalou said Wong gave her much-needed advice after she went through a divorce. He taught her how to use email and helped her set her password. Once, he accidentally walked in on her in the bathroom — he was so embarrassed, he apologized over and over. The two never spoke of it again, but now it's something that can be looked back on with a laugh.
Tsapalou also talked about Wong's good heart and his integrity.
"This is what he has passed along to his family and to all of us," she said.
'A Loss to All of Us'
Wong's effect on his community was perhaps most evidenced by the testimony of his customers — many of whom didn't know the family, but felt compelled to participate in the vigil.
Robert Beverly, who lives in the Skyline area of Fairfax County, told a story of a watch given to him 40 years ago by his father upon graduation. Thanks to Wong, it still works.
Not only has the family suffered a loss, but so has the community, Beverly said.
"They do not stand alone. We feel your pain. And we stand with you," he said.
Arlington resident Elaine Barker last saw Wong last Thursday afternoon, just shy of 24 hours before police say his was killed.
She went to pick up a watch she had dropped off. It's still in the store, which has been shuttered while investigators canvass the area.
"He explained to me why I couldn't have it. He hadn't got it fixed just right. And that describes him," Barker said. "I know I can only feel a small part of (the family's) loss, but he was a wonderful man and he was a loss to all of us."
Wong's son, Desmond, called his father "a wonderful role model."
Lola Reinsch, a McLean woman who owns several pieces of property along Columbia Pike, said Tommy Wong loved to help people feel good: "You feel better if you have a nice piece of jewelry on."
Wong was willing to fix not only fine jewelry, but costume jewelry — something many in his trade aren't willing to do, she said.
Reinsch said it was "a wonderful breath of fresh air for Columbia Pike" when Wong bought Capital Jewelers and became a part of the surrounding community.
'A Great Show of Support'
The family expressed deep appreciation for the outpouring of support.
Nearly everyone made a point to personally offer their condolences to Wong's wife, Elizabeth, and family.
"It's very touching," said Wong's daughter, Vivian. "It makes it a lot easier to know we have so much support. And I know if my father were here, he'd be touched, also."
Wong's brother, Jimmy, said he hopes police catch the killer soon. He said Wednesday night's vigil was a "great show of support."
"Apparently, a lot of people loved Tommy," he said.
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