Richard Garrison, 75, union official, racetrack waiter

February 20, 2000|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Richard Garrison, a former racetrack waiter and shipyard union official, died Tuesday of congestive heart failure at University of Maryland Medical Center. He was 75 and lived in the Mondawmin section of Northwest Baltimore.

Born in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood, where he attended public schools, he was introduced to Maryland racing by his father, who took him to tracks as a boy.

When he returned from World War II military service in the Army and an assignment in the Philippines, he joined the restaurant staff of Harry M. Stevens Co., a New York-based caterer that provided meals to Maryland's thoroughbred race courses.

For the next 21 years, he traveled to the Bowie, Laurel, Pimlico, Havre de Grace, Delaware Park and Marlboro tracks, and was a waiter, serving bettors and owners with the signature dishes the caterer provided in the tracks' clubhouses.

In 1967, he changed careers and became a chipper at Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s Sparrows Point shipyard.

He joined United Steelworkers union Local 33 and became a contract negotiator, shop steward and chairman of the safety committee. He retired in 1982.

He then began taking annual Caribbean cruises. "He loved to dress for dinner and enjoy the meals on the ships," said his wife of 33 years, Bernice Lamb Garrison, a retired Social Security Administration employee. "He always talked about crossing the Atlantic on the Queen Elizabeth, but he never got around to it."

For many years, Mr. Garrison was a member of New Metropolitan Baptist Church, where he sang in the male gospel chorus.

Once a week, he volunteered to prepare and serve a meal for the neighborhood's homeless people. He also worked on church suppers served to the congregation after a communion service.

"He was a beautiful person," said James Johnson, a Payson Street resident and friend. "He always had a smile ready for a new person who joined the church."

Services will be at 6 p.m. today at New Metropolitan Baptist Church, 1501 McCulloh St.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a son, Hillary Garrison of Camp Springs; three daughters, Deborah Wallace of Denver, and Darlene Garrison and Denise Salisbury, both of Baltimore; eight grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

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