Helena E. Bigham, 67, bartender at Long John's

June 14, 1998|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

When Helena E. Bigham worked at Long John's Pub in Remington, the establishment didn't need to offer specials or two-for-one drink deals to fill the bar stools.

But getting customers to leave in a timely manner was another story.

"She'd get to talking and joking and playing and having a good time They'd want to stay there all day," said Russ Thomason, who spent many hours at the 29th Street tavern talking -- actually listening -- to Mrs. Bigham.

Not only was she a popular and familiar sight at Long John's, but she also was somewhat of a Remington matriarch, friends and family said. Years ago, she declared herself a "native of 28th Street" with no desire to live anywhere else.

Miss Helena, as she was known, was the person to see if you needed a loan; the person to see if you needed food or clothing; the person to check with first on a job lead.

She also was the first one to see for a little advice -- which she

doled out regularly and unasked.

"She could always help anyone, and she always knew what she was talking about," said her son, Kevin Bigham of Baltimore. "What she said was always good advice, too.

"She took and uplifted everyone's spirits.

rTC "Everyone knew my mother. She was a character. People were her hobby. Having a good time was her hobby," he said.

A lifelong Baltimore resident who never strayed far from Remington, Charles Village, Waverly and Hampden, the former Helena Watkins graduated from the old Seton High School on North Charles Street in the late 1940s, and married Harry J. Bigham in 1959.

From 1950 to 1977, she was a cashier at the former Food Fair and Pantry Pride supermarkets in the Waverly Shopping Center, at Greenmount Avenue and 29th Street -- all the while living on 28th Street in Remington.

She had been a regular at Long John's for more than 20 years and had been a bartender there for a few years.

Mrs. Bigham would play oldies and easily break into song. She also was fond of hatching ideas that involved the customers.

For instance, on St. Patrick's Day last year, she took off her green tam and had all the bar patrons pour some of their drinks into the hat.

L She gave the tam a little shake and had everyone take a sip.

"It tasted like yuck," Mr. Crouch said. "But she thought it would be good for camaraderie here."

Mrs. Bigham once told friends that "only the Lord will take me out of Remington."

Services were held yesterday in Hampden.

In addition to her husband and son, she is survived by a brother, William W. Watkins of Baltimore; three sisters, Genevieve Daily of Baltimore, Mary Stambaugh of Timonium and Louise W. Hoy of White Hall; and two grandchildren.

! Pub date: 6/14/98

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