Forest Diner's future uncertain after owner dies

May 20, 1998|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

The death of the owner of the 41-year-old Forest Diner on U.S. 40 in Ellicott City has raised concerns about its future.

William Carl Childress, who bought the restaurant in 1957, died Saturday of unknown causes as he recovered from a series of seizures that hospitalized him in February.

Childress was buried yesterday next to his wife, the former Elizabeth Rogers, at St. John's Cemetery in Ellicott City. Childress died the same day the family was burying his wife, who died last Wednesday.

He is survived by three children and three grandchildren.

Freida Johnson, manager at the diner, said his family told employees Saturday of his death.

"This floored me," said Johnson, who has worked at the diner for 39 years. "He was doing real well. This is just an extreme shock for me."

Family members declined a request for an interview, but Childress' death adds to fears about the future of the community landmark, which was known as Gearhart's Diner during the 1940s.

Customers and employees have been worried since crews began building another diner next door.

Johnson said the Forest Diner will be open this week but hesitated to speculate on its future.

"I thought that opening [today] would give our employees a chance to get together and look for another place to work," she said. "As for next week, I'm not sure."

Pub Date: 5/20/98

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