Tribute For Catharine Phanavong, Expert Cook and Dinner Party Enthusiast, Dies at 39

This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.

If Cathy Phanavong knew how to do one thing, it was throwing a feast for friends.

“We would have dinner parties two or three times a week, and have 10 or 15 people over at our place eating dinner,” Dominic Marcum, her boyfriend of seven years, said. “Chefs would get off work and come to our place for late night dinners.”

Ms. Phanavong, who lived in Los Angeles, had a large network of friends and loved to cook for them, her older brother, Kal, said. Whether it was a Thanksgiving dinner or a crab boil, “it’s just amazing that she puts everything together so easily by herself,” he said.

She lost her appetite in August after testing positive for the novel coronavirus and stopped eating. “She’s a cook, so if things don’t taste right to her, she’s not eating it,” Mr. Marcum said. And sick with the virus, nothing tasted right to her. “Everything tasted like salt, she said.”

When her condition worsened, Ms. Phanavong went to a Los Angeles hospital and died there on Aug. 12. The cause was listed as complications of the novel coronavirus. She was 39.

Catharine Phanavong was born on Oct. 18, 1980, in Seattle. Her mother, Sounthala (Inthirat) Phanavong, is a personal assistant to a doctor, and her father, Bo Phanavong, is a retired security guard. Both were Laotian refugees.

Ms. Phanavong and her family moved often. From Seattle they moved to Quincy, Wash., a small town in the central part of the state, and then to Stockton, Calif., in the Central Valley.

Ms. Phanavong dropped out of high school in Stockton and moved on her own to Minneapolis, where she later received her diploma through G.E.D. tests. She earned an associate degree in business marketing from a community college in Minnesota and attended San Francisco State University for a semester.

She met Mr. Marcum on while living in Minneapolis. Soon after they began dating, she told him that she wanted to return to California to live a little closer to her parents, her brother and a younger sister, Melinda, all of whom had by then settled in the Bay Area. Though he had known her for only six weeks, Mr. Marcum packed up and moved with her to Los Angeles.

“It was just one of those things where you know,” Mr. Marcum said. “I didn’t want to not be with her.”

The couple soon acquired an Apple Head chihuahua named Chula and built their life on the West Coast.

“She was so good at keeping in touch with family members,” her brother said. “She reaches out to them all the time on a monthly, if not weekly, basis, sending them a message. She even has a pen pal from third grade who she still keeps in touch with.”

In 2017, Ms. Phanavong took a job as an assistant to the chief executive of Kimo Sabe Mezcal, a spirits company in Pasadena, Calif.

Along with Mr. Marcum, her parents, her brother and her sister Melinda, Ms. Phanavong is survived by two other sisters, Julie and Jennie.

“The thing about Cathy is she could make any place home, but she loved being around her family,” Kal Phanavong said. “For her, home is wherever your family is.”

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