[This was read at Anousone's funeral]
When I was 18, I spent six of the worst years of my life in Southeast Asia. I was a Hospital Corpsman in the U.S. Navy. That was long before Anousone Phanthavong was born, but the bitter aftermath of the war I was in was still being settled in Laos when Anousone was growing up. Seeing what I saw when I was only 18 has haunted me all my life. Sometimes, after talking to Ped, I would realize that he saw many of those same things when he was barely able to walk, and that the violence of war was part of his life growing up in Laos.
War makes people hard, and it is easy to lose your compassion. Ped was not a hard man. He was compassionate and filled with empathy for others. But, again, war makes people hard, and Ped ran with a hard crowd for a while. Usually, that's the end of the story but those stories don't end in a crowded funeral chapel filled with over 300 family and friends.
Ped turned around his life, overcame the obstacles fate placed in his path, and became all that he could be. Yes, he cooked a meal for Bono, but he also cooked meals for many famous people (Brad Pitt, the Coen Brothers, Sade, etc.). Mostly he cooked for people who loved the way he cooked, and came back night after night to try new dishes made special by Ped's unique talents.
The measure of Anousone Phanthavong is not just what he accomplished, as significant as those things were. The true measure of Anousone Phanthavong is that he overcame so much, and yet still managed to accomplish so much more.
[posted by Charles Whitney Jr, co-owner, True Thai Restaurant]