By Michael Corcoran | Thursday, June 11, 2009, 02:08 PM
Musician Ian McLagan tries to schedule his flights back into town so he’ll arrive during the hours that the Little Thailand restaurant, about seven miles east of the airport, would be open. He didn’t just go there for the great Thai food, but to hang out with jovial owner Dick Simcoe, who had a bar in the back of the restaurant.
“It always felt like you were guests at his home,” McLagan said. “If Dick was in England he’d own the pub that everyone wanted to go to.”
Simcoe passed away Thursday morning from the effects of stomach cancer. His 75th birthday was to be tomorrow.
“I have no regrets,” Simcoe said last week, after doctors told him he didn’t have long to live. “I had a vision and I followed through on it.” The restaurant he owned with wife Surin was the first Thai restaurant in Central Texas, opened in 1981 in a trailer outside the back gate of Bergstrom AFB.
After Bergstrom closed, the Simcoes moved Little Thailand in 1995 to its current location under the Garfield water tank in Del Valle.
“I just love to be around people,” Simcoe said last week of his natural hosting ability. “I feel blessed to have seen the smiles of so many good, good people. That’s what I’ll remember most.”
“He was a remarkable chap,” said McLagan, “with a great family.” McLagan and his late wife Kim were regulars since moving to Manor in 1995. “I wrote a song about coming here with Kim on the drive from my house. The lyrics were all finished by the time I got to Little Thailand.”
That song “Date With An Angel” is on McLagan’s 2004 album “Rise and Shine.”
Besides being a great host, Simcoe was known for his vintage jukebox and his recipe for Thai bloody marys. “I brought a friend there once and Dick made her a bloody mary,” said McLagan. “After she’d had a couple sips I asked her how she liked the drink. Meanwhile, Dick was scribbling something on a piece of paper. She said, ‘It’s the best bloody mary I’ve ever had’ and Dick gave me the piece of paper that said the exact same words. He was such a character.”
Simcoe was surrounded by family in his last few weeks, including daughter Luanne of San Francisco, who had barely left her father’s side in the four months since he had his cancer diagnosis. “He meant the world to me and I will cherish the time I spent with him for the rest of my life,” Luanne Simcoe said.
Simcoe is survived by wife Surin, who will keep Little Thailand open with her sister Malee, and eight children.