A small memorial grew outside of the restaurant Tuesday as word spread about the Uyemaruko's sudden death. Maria Miranda said she came by to say goodbye to a longtime friend. "I came to be at peace with myself and with him. Because I knew this is where his heart is," said Miranda. A sign on the door told customers the restaurant would be closed for a couple of days.
Tommy Uyemaruko opened the business more than 30 years ago. Ron Long knew him even before that - when Uyemaruko worked at another restaurant on the Fulton Mall. Throughout the years, Long said Uyemaruko did whatever it took to please customers. "He was always very personable to everybody that came in there. Anything they wanted. He wanted to find what they wanted and make sure they got what they liked," said Long.
Uyemaruko died Monday after a fishing trip to Hensley Lake. While exactly what happened is still unknown, the Madera County Sheriff's Department said emergency crews first responded to a boat ramp when people reported hearing screaming and then saw a boat near the dock floating away. Uyemaruko's body was discovered a few hours later.
Friends say Uyemaruko loved to fish and went as often as he could. Just a month ago, he took employee Leticia Perez with him. She grew up at the restaurant when her mother worked there. "Ever since I was born, he was there. He would always come to family parties. He would always be there, so it really hurts," said Perez.
Uyemaruko's death is also being felt across the Fulton Mall. While some brought balloons to pay tribute, his longtime neighbor on the Fulton Mall placed two donuts at the door... his regular order.