China Ruby’s Tina Co Remembered Fondly by Ferndale Customers

China Ruby’s Tina Co Remembered Fondly by Ferndale Customers

(Crystal A. Proxmire, March 25, 2018)

Ferndale, MI – Longtime Ferndale staple China Ruby closed unexpectedly this month, with signs in the window announcing that the 157 W Nine Mile Rd location will soon become La Feast Grill.  The owner, Tina Co, died Friday. An obituary posted on A. Desmond  & Sons Funeral Directors gives a taste of the love felt by Co’s customers, family and friends:

“Tina Co’s welcoming smile, sweet disposition and warm heart opened the door to diners at China Ruby restaurant in Ferndale as much as the food that drew rave reviews from customers and food critics alike.

The tiny eatery on West 9 Mile Road built a loyal, diverse following among those appreciative of how Tina’s gracious nature made them feel more like friends than customers.

In fact, many of China Ruby’s patrons became close friends who were saddened by the news that Tina passed away on Friday, March 23, after a long and tenacious battle with cancer.

“She was a very friendly, very warm person,” said James Kuriakose, who often visited her in the hospital during her illness. “Of course, there was good food. But her hospitality – a very kind person. Very warm. Very lovable.”

Her sparkling personality brought an extra dash of spice to the conversation while customers enjoyed the savory sauces that made China Ruby’s food popular.

Tina was 52 and lived in the Green Acres neighborhood of Northwest Detroit with her partner of 22 years, Detroit sportswriter Mike O’Hara. Tina was briefly in hospice care at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit before passing away.

Born in Qui Nhon as Bich Nguyet Co in what was then known as South Viet Nam on July 13, 1965, she relocated to the United States with her large family in 1979. She changed her name to Tina, and later became a United States citizen.

The family – father Cam, mother Mui, seven sisters and two brothers – originally settled in Ypsilanti but later migrated to Houston, where Tina lived briefly before returning to Metro Detroit.

Tina is survived by all members of her immediate family except her mother. Mui Co passes away on March 15 in Houston.

In addition to her father, Cam, Tina is survived in her immediate family by six sisters – Nga, Ha, My and Phuong of Houston, Van of Troy and Quyen of Ann Arbor, and brothers Thinh and Hong of Houston.

Tina graduated from Ypsilanti High School and eventually went into the restaurant business, taking a major step by opening China Ruby with business partner and cook Luu Cuong long before Ferndale became a popular entertainment and dining destination.

She briefly worked at K-Mart when the Co family first settled in Ypsilanti. As a teen ager, first grappling with learning to speak English, she was asked to announce the famed Blue Light Specials.

Her delivery was so sincere that it caught the attention of shoppers, causing sales to rise.

It was a sign of what was to come at China Ruby.

At China Ruby, with Tina working the front and handling the business end Luu Cuong doing the cooking, the restaurant rapidly attracted a following with its delicious food, good service, reasonable prices and Tina’s engaging personality.

The restaurant walls were lined with positive media reviews as well as certificates and awards bestowed by various organizations for the quality of the food. There also were pictures of Metro Detroit media members, Detroit Pistons great Isiah Thomas and other regular customers.

One of Tina’s proudest pictures was of a personal nature. It was taken of her with former Vice-President Al Gore in a visit during Gore’s campaign stop at Wayne State University during the 2000 presidential election.

When she wasn’t wearing casual clothes – jeans and rock band T-shirts — Tina liked high fashion, from Burberry head scarves to Prada purses to Chanel shoes. And with a Rolex and Cartier shades. It was a reflection of her favorite phrase: “Enjoy life.”

She liked high-voltage rock and roll. At the time of her death, she had plans to attend the Def Leppard concert at Comerica Park on July 13 – what would have been her 53rd birthday.

She liked playing blackjack at Detroit’s casinos for high and low stakes.

Tina’s personality helped give China Ruby the ambiance of a social club located in a restaurant. She liked the hijinks of camaraderie with customers who became friends and were known by an assortment of nicknames

For example: “Doctor Larry” was a psychologist who liked to discuss issues other than psychology – and run errands for Tina. Kuriakose, a native of India, became known as “James Bond” for no real reason. And “Chinese Bob” got his name to distinguish him from “American Bob.”

And many others were greeted by their regular order: “Beef Lo Mein,” “Garlic Chicken” or “General Tso’s Chicken.”

As Tina’s illness progressed, she lost the energy to work full time. China Ruby was sold earlier this year.

Tina never lost her charm or humor despite being weakened considerably by her illness.

While in hospice care two nights before her death, she was asked what she’d like to do.

“I want to play,” she whispered.

Play?

She nodded.

Black Jack?

Another nod.

A deck of cards was purchased at the hospital gift shop, and a game was on — only to be halted after one hand by the arrival of visitors.

Tina, as the player, was dealt an 8 and a 9 – for 17.

Yours truly, as the dealer, had 10-7. Also 17.

A push on the last hand – tied for infinity.”

Family will receive friends on Monday 3-8 p.m. at A.J. Desmond & Sons Funeral Home, 2600 Crooks Rd. (between Maple and Big Beaver), 248-362-2500. The Funeral Service will be on Tuesday at 11 a.m. at the funeral home.

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