Marshall loses ‘an absolute gem’

Residents express shock over the death of local artist/restaurant worker

Submitted photo Vit Rojawat was well-known in Marshall for his artwork and his customer service at the Hunan Lion.

MARSHALL — The news is reverberating around Marshall and beyond. A much-loved Marshall presence is gone.

Pravit “Vit” Rojawat died suddenly Thursday at his home in Marshall at the age of 58.

He was known for his smile and welcoming presence at Hunan Lion, which is owned by his sister and brother-in-law, Sarah and Joe Ektanitphong. Hunan Lion has been a fixture on Main Street in Marshall since 1992.

Vit had a gift for remembering customers’ names and favorite orders. He was equally famous for his bright and vibrant paintings, many of which adorn the walls at Hunan Lion.

A native of Bangkok, Thailand, he moved to Marshall in 1991.

On the website, fineartamerica.com, he wrote: “In 1991 I had an opportunity to move to a small town in the middle of America. Of course, I had to work many hours a day to support myself. My artistic side demanded equal time.

“I found that I liked acrylics on canvas because it allowed me a vast array of colors from vivid and intense to warm to cool. I could use a free form and could produce depth and very precise detail. It was not long before I was painting the tropical forests, wildlife and seascapes I remembered from childhood in Thailand.”

His loss is felt by many. As of press time, there were 327 comments on Hunan Lion’s Facebook page including Emily Baumgarn’s. “Vit was an absolute gem. Best customer service in town and a smile that would make everyone’s day brighter. So very sorry for your loss. The entire town of Marshall mourns with you. We all adored Vit.”

Some proudly posted photos of his paintings that they had in their home such as Jamie Juhl. “The Juhl family will always have fond memories of our interactions with Vit. We are blessed to have this painting of his in our home. We will always remember him as a kind and generous man.”

Marianne and Jim Zarzana are fans of his work.

“Jim and I have had a couple of beautiful paintings by Vit Rojawat displayed in our home for many years now, one a tropical scene with dolphins swimming beneath the surface and one a vibrant abstract painting … His artistic sense of color, composition, and detail was brilliant.”

Marianne wrote of Vit: “you were an exceptional human in every way, especially your kindness, intelligence, humility, and creativity. You lived full-on every day, and now you’ve left us all heartbroken. Holding your family and friends in my prayers. We will all greatly miss your amazing presence at the Hunan Lion. Deep peace, dear, soulful friend.”

Dan DeBates has been a Hunan Lion customer since childhood.

“Vit you will be dearly missed! I’ll never forget the first time meeting you, I couldn’t have been more than 10-11 years old. You sat there being extremely patient with me as I was a little demon child getting mad because you didn’t have some type of food that I wanted but you convinced me to try sweet and sour chicken. That’s where my sense of adventure for food tasting went off! I owe you a lot for that! Ever since then I haven’t been afraid to try almost anything. From that day forward you remembered me every time I came in. You even gave my wife and I a painting for a wedding present since I told you she loved dolphins. I’m proud to call you a friend and may you Rest In Peace…”

Johnette Rutledge wrote: “This is heartbreaking news … my husband and I live is San Jose CA and always made it a point to see Vit when visiting family in town. He was incredibly gifted as an artist, and such a warm and kind man. We are devastated to hear of his loss. Marshall won’t be the same without him.”

Lucille Deslauriers of Tracy wrote: “We were there for my Granddaughter’s birthday in December. He surprised us with a pic of my Granddaughter he etched in frosting on a plate with a delicious chocolate dessert.” She included a picture of her granddaughter with the frosting painting.

A celebration of life gathering will take place for Rojawat, from 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 23, at Rehkamp-Horvath Funeral Home in Marshall.