Landmark diner's future unclear 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 the restaurant's future.

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

Freida Johnson, manager at the diner, said Childress' 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."

Childress' death adds to fears about the future of the community landmark, which was known as Gearhart's Diner in the 1940s.

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

Childress' survivors declined a request for an interview.

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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