Theresa Burke, 51, barmaid at Lee's Love Nest

June 04, 1996|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

By most accounts, Theresa Burke wore at least five hats at Lee's Love Nest on Edmondson Avenue. Formally, she was the barmaid, but she was also the peacekeeper, cashier, social director and hostess at the West Baltimore tavern.

Ms. Burke, 51, who died of cancer Friday at Mercy Medical Center, was one of the main reasons for the popularity and success of the Love Nest, a tavern and package goods store where she had worked more than 20 years.

"She just seemed to do it all here," said co-worker Emil "Rabbit" Dillon. "There was really nothing that she didn't do. She was always working -- and working hard."

She not only knew most of the regular patrons' names, but also their beverage of choice. And she often had it waiting on the counter seconds after she saw them step through the door.

Among her unofficial titles at the Love Nest was head of security. Regulars recall her personally escorting patrons who may have had a drink too many out the door.

"She'd go toe to toe, eyeball to eyeball with anyone who was causing trouble," said Louie Jackson, a tavern patron. "She didn't take no stuff from anyone. As sweet and nice as she was, she was one person I didn't want to make mad.

"To be honest with you, if someone ever got into it with her, my money would be on Theresa."

Said another tavern patron, Clarence Pilfer: "She made you feel comfortable, whether you wanted something to drink or not.You go to some places and they make you want to either drink or leave. She wasn't like that. You could sit and talk with her -- of course, sometimes she'd have five or six conversations going on at the same time."

A native of Baltimore, Ms. Burke graduated from Carver Vocational Technical High School in 1962 and worked for the next 13 years on a Bendix Corp. assembly line when the company was located in Hunt Valley.

Leesther Stewart hired Ms. Burke at the Love Nest in 1975. They never had an employee-employer relationship, Ms. Stewart said, just that of two friends who vacationed together yearly.

"She just knew how to treat people; she was able to take care of a crowd," she said. "Of course, if you made her mad, she'd tell you about it and it was all over with."

The former Theresa Parrott married Leroy Burke in 1964; they divorced in 1993. She lived at several locations in West Baltimore, including Edmondson Village, and last lived in Rosemont.

Survivors include five daughters, Karen Jones, Sharon Jones, Terry Burke, Tonya Burke and Nicole Burke, all of Baltimore; three brothers, James Knox of Atlanta and Richard Knox and William Parrott, both of Baltimore; four sisters, Yvonne James of New York City and Mamie Morton, Cleo West and Mirdis Parrott, all of Baltimore; and eight grandchildren.

Services will be at 7 p.m. todayat New Union Baptist Church, 510 N. Monroe St.

Pub Date: 6/04/96

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