Back in the '70s and early '80, Kevin Conner and I performed regularly at the Black Steer (later renamed the Hong Kong House) in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. There we met a delightful couple Chau Hong and her husband, Ngoc Tran. They along with their family and friends were avid fans of the Memory Brothers and supported us faithfully - seldom missing a performance.

Chau managed a restaurant, and we would regularly eat lunch there. Chau patiently taught Kevin and me both how to properly use chop sticks and eventually presented us each with our very own set of chop sticks. I still have mine, and they are among my favorite mementos.

We were frequent guests at Chau and Ngoc's home where they would treat us to authentic, oriental dinners after which their three, gifted children would play classical music on violin and piano. (Two of them are now doctors and one is an assistant to the renown music producer David Foster.)

One evening in 1981 at the end of one of our performances at the Hong Kong House, Chau approached the stage and tearfully announced that she and her family were going to be moving to California and they might not ever see us again. And indeed that was the last I ever saw of Chau and Ngoc until . . .

Fast forward 31 years. On Friday, October 5, 2012 we were playing at the VFW in Osage, Iowa. About an hour into the evening an Asian couple unassumingly walked in and sat at the first table. Conspicuous because they were, well, Asian in the distinctly non-Asian community of Osage, this handsome couple stood out. I had never seen these particular people before . . . or at least at the time I thought I'd never seen them before!

As soon as we took a break, the two of them made a beeline for the stage; and the lady said:

  "Don't you remember Chau??"

   I said, "Chau Hong??!!"

   And she said, "Yes! We come from California to see you!"

   I simply could not believe my eyes.

   I sputtered, "What are you doing in Osage, Iowa??!!"

   She said, "We decided to fly to Minneapolis, rent a car and drive here to see you!"

We had a wonderful reunion and had a chance to visit after the show. Back in California Chau was a social worker and Ngoc a supervisor at an endocrinology diagnostics company. Both were retiring that coming December.

The next day they drove back to Minneapolis and caught their flight back to California. I guess true friendship can transcend time and distance (and an expensive plane fare!)
by Doug Koempel
Doug Koempel © 2015