MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Loved ones said goodbye Saturday to a beloved restaurant employee killed in a hit-and-run accident.
Anousone Phanthavong, 38, of Roseville, Minn., was a head chef at True Thai Restaurant in Minneapolis, and he died Tuesday night after a car hit him when he was filling his gas tank on the side of an Interstate 94 exit ramp.
The Minnesota State Patrol said the incident happened around 11 p.m. Tuesday on the Cedar-Riverside exit of Westbound Interstate 94. Police said they recovered a gold 2009 Mercedes ML350, but they’re still looking for the driver.
A crowded room at the Crystal Lake Washburn McReavy funeral home honored him Saturday in Buddhist tradition: Everyone wore white. The Buddhist belief symbolizes a new beginning, in a time of an unknown end.
“The frustration the family is facing right now, and the anger as well, is how could someone do this, and not take responsibility, this is a person’s life, “ said cousin Manilath Schillinger. “To run away, we feel like it’s a coward, to just own up. It’s a tragic accident, but owning up to the responsibility shows you are a person as well.”
The service honored him as man who wasn’t daunted by everyday struggles, who was a beloved co-worker, whom everyone called “Ped”, and a man who fought for a better life after a war-torn start in his native Laos.
“War makes people hard, and Ped ran with a hard crowd for many years. Ped turned his life around and overcame the obstacles placed in his path,” said his boss, Chuck Whitney.
“He had a hard life in the beginning, but in the end he had it all worked out, he did what he had to do to be successful,” said his nephew, Shawn Phanthanvong. “Everyone loved him.”
Schillinger says her cousin dreamed of owning his own restaurant one day, an American dream beginning at True Thai. Co-workers say he always cooked for fellow employees, came in on his days off to help out, and devoted his income to his family. Whitney says he cooked for celebrities, like the band U2; but he was better known for nourishing his community.
“He cooked for people who loved the way he cooked and came back night after night to try the dishes Ped made special,” Whitney said.
Loved ones said the true measure is not what he accomplished, but what he overcame. They also said what Ped now deserves is dignity in his final moments.
“It’s a tragic accident, but give the family peace. Give them a resolution,” Schillinger said.
The Minnesota State Patrol said they know who owns the car that hit Phantavong, but now they must find out who was behind the wheel.
If you know anything, call police at 651-582-1511.