William Henry, 60, deli owner, caterer known for generosity

October 25, 1998|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

William C. Henry, whose love of food and cooking led him to open an East Baltimore delicatessen and later start a catering business, died Tuesday of heart failure at his Ellicott City home.

Mr. Henry, 60, lived in Baltimore most of his life and operated the Old Henry's deli on Madison Avenue from the mid-1960s until the early 1970s, when he started the catering business at his home.

Although Mr. Henry made a variety of food at Old Henry's, he specialized in highly seasoned Caribbean foods, such as curried chicken, jerk chicken and samosas, or meat pies.

"I don't where he learned to cook them dishes unless he got it from cookbooks, because his whole family lived right here on the East Coast," said his longtime companion, Marianne Goode of Baltimore.

"He experimented with all kinds of foods, and to be honest with you, all of them weren't always good."

A large, jovial man, Mr. Henry enjoyed work at the deli and did most of the tasks to keep the business going. Friends said the reason it closed might have been that Mr. Henry was too generous with his food.

"With most places, you buy a plate and get enough for one meal, if that," said his cousin, Israel Barnard of Baltimore. "With his stuff, you'd get enough on a plate to feed an army for a couple of days. He'd lose money that way. He didn't want anyone to feel that they got cheated."

For his catering business, Mr. Henry prepared the food in his Mura Street kitchen and served an array of dishes for events throughout the Baltimore area. He never advertised, finding customers through former patrons.

He retired because of failing health in the early 1990s and moved to Ellicott City two years ago.

"The hard thing to deal with is that many of his dishes he took with him to his grave," Ms. Barnard said. "He didn't write his recipes down; it was always a little bit of this and little bit of that. He knew just the right amounts without looking at recipes. He didn't need them."

A native of Baltimore, Mr. Henry graduated from Paul Laurence ** Dunbar High School in the mid-1950s and attended Morgan State College. He served in the Army from 1959 to 1961. When he was discharged, he became a cook for city schools and operated a carryout dinner business from his home.

"He didn't do it [serve meals from his home] every day, but when he did people knew it because they could smell the goods coming from his house," said Latonya Scott, a former neighbor and longtime friend.

"He was a decent man with a knack for cooking. It was more than a knack, just damn good."

Mr. Henry enjoyed fishing and hunting on the Eastern Shore. He was also an avid builder of model cars and ships, constructing and painting elaborate plastic cars and ships that lined the walls of his home.

A memorial service is being planned.

Mr. Henry is survived by two sons, Jerome Henry of Baltimore and Carlos Henry of Roanoke, Va.; two sisters, Charlotte McQueen of Baltimore and Jacqueline Devers of Boston; and a grandson.

Pub Date: 10/25/98

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