Pete Covacevich, Fells Point barkeep

May 14, 1993|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,Staff Writer

Pete's at 906 S. Wolfe St. was the kind of waterfront joint where stevedores brought in stolen hams off the docks and the local priest dropped by to bless the meat before it was divvied up.

"The priest said as long as a few of the hams went to poor people, it was all right," said Anthony Covacevich, who today will bury his father, Peter A. Covacevich -- last owner and barkeep of a family saloon that began at the turn of the century.

Pete Covacevich died of pneumonia Monday at Church Hospital after fighting cancer for more than a year. He was 72 and lived his entire life in Fells Point.

Today, a new generation of drinkers knows the tavern off the corner of Wolfe and Thames streets as the Red Star. It's unlikely that any of Pete's regulars -- guys known as John the Dutchman, La-Dee-Dah, Grumpy, Banjo Eyes and the One-Armed Watchman -- would recognize the place.

The Covacevich family sold the business in 1984.

The bar that Pete Covacevich ran served National Boh, Gunther and Arrow 77; it sold homemade codfish cakes two for a nickel during the Depression and when World War II broke out the price for a coddie jumped to a dime; and it stayed in business for most of the century catering to cannery workers, tugboat men, truckers and longshoremen.

"My father had a good head on his shoulders, he could converse with anyone and he was good-hearted," said Anthony Covacevich, a Fells Point resident who passed up the family business for a law degree. "But he could tell you where to get off in a minute, if you know what I mean."

Pete Covacevich was born above the family bar, established by his namesake grandfather after he immigrated from the Baltics in the late 1800s. He graduated from St. Stanislaus grammar school on Ann Street and attended Loyola High School for two years before going to work in the bar.

Over the years, as the saloon passed from father to son over three generations, it was known as Pete's Place, Tony's Cafe and then Pete's once more. When the late Mr. Covacevich was a little boy and his mother, Mary, ran the kitchen, it was famed for shrimp soup and oyster sandwiches.

When alcohol was illegal in the United States, the bar was closed, but, according to Genevieve Covacevich Zientak of Canton: "The day Roosevelt lifted Prohibition, the front door opened and we were back in business."

L In 1953, Pete Covacevich married the former Josephine Roslan

and the couple had one child, Anthony. Mrs. Covacevich died in January.

In his later years, Mr. Covacevich volunteered most of his spare ++ time to St. Stanislaus Roman Catholic Church and was the regular bartender for parties and dances at the church hall for the last 15 years.

"Pete missed the last dance, the one in April, because he was so sick," said Mrs. Zientak, his sister.

A Mass of Christian burial for Mr. Covacevich was to be offered at 9 a.m. today at St. Stanislaus.

In addition to his son and his sister, Mr. Covacevich is survived by a brother, Edward Covacevich of Canton.

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