When Don Ly didn't show up with his popular fruit stand in University City today, Mary Constulais had no idea she'd just lost a long-time friend.
"He kept telling me he gets up at 3 a.m. every morning. I thought he probably overslept when I didn't see him this morning."
Constulais has worked alongside Ly for years. They both made a living as food vendors. Her specialty is hotdogs and hoagies. Ly ran a fruit stand. He was a quiet, peaceful man who moved here from Vietnam years ago to start a new life. That life ended violently near his home in South Philadelphia this morning when someone stabbed Ly, 68, repeatedly as he was loading up his truck to head out for the day.
"They were very nice people," Constulais said of Ly and his wife, who often ran the stand together. She tried to say more, but her words competed with her tears. "I saw them everyday."
Suzanne, who asked that her last name not be used, works at Penn. She, like many other people who were in line for food during the lunch hour, were finding out for the first time what had happened to Ly.
"It makes you sick. He just always smiled. He was a special person. You know that from just seeing him over the years. He was my age," Suzanne said.
Other customers, like Kristi Argeros, were also shaken by the news.
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"It's always the good ones. . .I just seen him yesterday and said, 'hi.' It's just awful."
Linda Duvall works nearby. Like other people who shared time and conversation with Ly, his gentle manner left an impression. "He was kind and friendly. They were here every day." Duvall said it felt like she'd lost a member of her family.
"Every single day the good Lord woke me up, I would see him. I's been seven years, every day," she said. "Why?"
Lyles Swift can't answer that question.
"Oh my God, it's so sad."
The 20-year-old Penn student studies the biological basis of behavior. She came to Ly's truck, habitually.
"I come to the fruit truck Tuesdays and Thursdays before my 10:30 a.m. class. Makes me think I wish I had more personal contact with him. . .There are so many tragedies. It really doesn't end.