Joseph  Catanese

Obituary of Joseph Richard Catanese

Joseph “Joe” Richard Catanese, affectionately known as “Mr. C” by legions of happy restaurant patrons, passed away peacefully of natural causes at Providence Portland Medical Center on Nov. 7, 2022. He was 95 years old. Born in Portland, Ore., on Aug. 13, 1927, Mr. Catanese was the eldest of Lena (Greco) and Peter J. Catanese’s two children. He grew up in his family’s produce business surrounded by Italian relatives whose homemade ravioli, pasta sauces, pizzelle cookies, and cannoli inspired a lifelong love of cooking and good food. After being honorably discharged from service in the Merchant Marines and Army, Mr. Catanese began a 60-year career in the restaurant industry. He started as a bartender and cook and eventually progressed to manager at Portland’s popular Prime Rib Restaurant. In 1960, he launched his first restaurant, Mr. C’s Hippopotamus in the newly opened Lloyd Center mall. This was followed by other restaurants, including The Wild Rhino and Joe’s Bar & Grill, as well as his election to the presidency of the Oregon Restaurant Association. During this time, Mr. Catanese also had a strong interest in baseball, sponsoring a team from Cleveland High School that won several regional titles and two world championships. When Mr. C’s Hippopotamus closed in 1985, Mr. Catanese opened a food booth at the Portland Saturday Market, where he was famous for his Reuben sandwiches. Over the next few years came four additional restaurants: Old Town Saloon and The Peddler in Sherwood, Ore., and Finnegan’s and Mr. C’s Creekside in Newberg, Ore. Mr. Catanese officially retired from the restaurant business in 2002. Although he lived most of his life in the Portland area, Mr. Catanese loved the Oregon coast. Over the years, he owned several vacation homes in Seaside, Ore. A true businessman, he spent his post-restaurant years building and selling homes on the coast. He eventually moved to Gearhart, Ore., in his later years. Mr. Catanese was an active member of the Royal Rosarians, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and The American Legion. He loved animals, especially dogs, and adopted several over the years. Mr. Catanese was preceded in death by his sister, Jean Rosaria (Catanese) Bussey, 1961; and a son, Jeffrey Catanese, who died shortly after birth in 1961. From his marriage to Gwen Marie VanSlyke, he is survived by four children (Lynne Catanese of Portland, Ore.; Elise Catanese of Happy Valley, Ore.; Mark Catanese of Olympia, WA.; and Donald Guth of Buckeye, Ariz.); a grandchild (Cara Greene of Longview, Wash.); and three great-grandchildren (Matteo Greene, Amaira Greene and Nico Greene). From his marriage to Nancy (Beam) Catanese, he is survived by two stepchildren (Lynn Skinner of Beavercreek, Ore.; and Christopher Beam of Gresham, Ore.) and two grandchildren (Anthony Skinner and Robbie Skinner). A private family interment ceremony will be held at the Portland Mausoleum on Dec. 9. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Mr. Catanese’s name to the Oregon Humane Society. Condolences may be sent care of Elise Catanese, 9321 S.E. 129th Avenue, Happy Valley, Ore. 97086.
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