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TLO Tribute to Cathy Cummings…

11:00 AM EST on February 13, 2024

On Sunday afternoon, I was working hard in my kitchen preparing some green chili queso for a Super Bowl get-together when I got one of those texts you never want to get.

It was from a friend letting me know that Cathy Cummings – the beloved proprietor of Vito’s Ristorante, former Mayor of The Village, and one of the sweetest, nicest, and most cheerful people you'll ever meet – had passed away at the age of 62, after a brief and painful struggle with gallbladder cancer. 

She was survived by her husband – fellow restaurateur and anti-Ryan Walters advocate Sean Cummings – and five children. 

When I heard the news, I immediately had to stop what I was doing and gather my wits. I knew Cathy received a pretty devastating cancer diagnosis back in the Fall, but I was still taken aback by the suddenness of her passing.

As I stood over a cutting board of freshly diced green chilis, I planted my hands firmly on the counter and took a couple of deep breaths as memories flashed through my mind. I then felt a couple of tears well up in my eyes, and it wasn’t because of the peppers.

I had the pleasure of knowing Cathy on a variety of levels over the past dozen years or so.

The first was as a Vito’s customer.

I randomly stopped by the place with a date in the Summer of 2012 – August 11th, to be exact – during a quest to try out all the locally-owned places on N. May Ave. It was an incredible decision. 

I was immediately blown away by the rich, tasty, comfort-style food, and the kind, radiant energy of the lady with the curly black hair who roamed around the tiny eatery, darting between tables like it was a slalom course, delivering food, picking up plates, and dropping off checks, all while chatting it up with the guests.

It was such a great first experience I had to tell the world about it:

I had no clue at the time, but that lady with the curly black hair was the owner – Cathy Cummings.

Over the years, her restaurant became my go-to spot for a great meal. Family in town? Let’s go to Vito’s. Birthday celebration? Let’s go to Vito’s. Stoned out of your mind and wanting Italian food? Let’s go to Vito’s!

A few years later, I got to know Cathy from a different TLO perspective – an Oklahoma politician.

In 2014, Cathy ran as the Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor. She had also run for other offices over the years, like County Commissioner, and even became Mayor of The Village.

I knew Cathy didn’t have a chance in hell to win the Lt. Governor's race, but based on my Vito's observations, I knew she’d be perfect at ribbon cutting and groundbreaking ceremonies.

I also thought it was cool that A) the owner of one of my favorite restaurants was running for public office, and B) she wasn’t a right-wing political psycho!

As a result, I was pretty kind in this delicately written roast I threw together about one of her campaign ads.

My only complaint was that it showed Cathy doing too many stereotypical Oklahoma political things shooting guns and going on hikes, and not enough time showing her making eggplant parmesan or whipping up a garlic butter sauce.

Cathy was smoked in the race because we live in Oklahoma – a dystopian place where people would rather elect some run-of-the-mill right-wing hack as opposed to a kind, jovial woman who makes quality homestyle marinara – but I’m happy she ran.

For one, it reminded me to hit Vito’s the following weekend when I voted. And two, it would trigger the butterfly effect that would lead back to the third and final way I knew her – as the unofficial god-grandmother of my daughter.

In 2014, I was introduced to someone who was a former employee at both Vito’s and Sean Cummings' Pub, and was very good friends with the couple and some of their kids. I thought that Vito’s connection was pretty awesome and we became social media friends. 

A couple of years later, I was reintroduced to that person and we started dating. 

About 18 months after that, this happened:

From that point on, Cathy Cummings became more than just the owner of my favorite restaurant, but a quasi-in-law who opened up Vito’s on a Sunday to host our baby shower.

I didn’t see her as a politician or mayor, but as the kind person who would hold and entertain my six-month-old while her mom and I shoved savory pasta – or Sean's Irish cuisine – into our faces at 4:30pm on a Saturday. 

I want to say that knowing Cathy in this new way provided a glimpse or look that most people don’t get to see, but if I’m being honest, it really didn’t. She was the same radiant, happy person you’d see inside the restaurant or on the campaign trail.

As her husband Sean said in a quote to The Oklahoman, it’s just who she was.

“If she walked into a room, it literally brought light into a room,” Cummings told The Oklahoman. “I’ve never seen anybody have that ability to relate to people. The biggest thing about her personality is she was happy all the time. People would ask ‘is she this way at home?’ I’d say ‘Yep. all the time.’” 

I don’t remember the last time I got to see Cathy in person.

Around the time the pandemic hit, my daughter’s mom and I went our separate directions, and my interactions with Cathy were soon limited to the social distancing world of social media.

If you thought she was outgoing when carrying around a bowl of pasta, well, just imagine how she was when armed with a Like button and a thousand heart emojis at her disposal.

Anytime I’d share a batch of pics of the kiddo on Facebook, Cathy would always make sure to leave a heart and kind comment on the post.

In fact, she’d often take things to an even deeper level, and join my Aunt Patti as one of the rare people to like and comment on the individual photos, too.

I’m going to miss seeing those social media interactions, just like I’m also going to miss seeing Cathy glide through her restaurant, smile locked on her face, delivering warm, comforting food to hungry diners. 

But, what I’m really going to miss is that my daughter, who is now an awesome almost-6-year-old, won’t get to grow up around Cathy – the person who triggered the butterfly effect that led to her existence – and see firsthand what a truly kind, awesome and impactful person she was.

Cathy was a card-carrying liberal, and active in a lot of causes. One of the biggest was fighting food insecurity for kids and the less fortunate. 

As a result, a GoFundMe has been set up in Cathy’s honor with all funds going to pay off school lunch debt for kids in our public schools. If you have a moment and the means, please consider making a donation as a tribute to Cathy’s great life, and all the work she did for Oklahoma people, especially the ones who like Italian food.

My heart goes out to Sean, Cathy’s kids, and all her other friends and family. She was one of a kind, and the world lost a good one. 


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