Timothy Abbott Leist, 39, Joy America Cafe manager

September 13, 2000|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Timothy Abbott Leist, general manager of the Inner Harbor's Joy America Cafe, died Friday of complications of the human immunodeficiency virus at his Canton home. He was 39.

A career waiter, bartender and restaurant manager, Mr. Leist began running the restaurant atop the American Visionary Art Museum in 1999. He had earlier worked at the Atlantic Restaurant in Canton and the John Steven Ltd. in Fells Point.

"He could run any restaurant back and forth," said Dan Toland, general manager of the Atlantic Restaurant. "He always put his stamp on whatever he was doing."

Diagnosed with HIV in 1990 and a Johns Hopkins medical research participant, Mr. Leist was the subject of a 1999 story in The Sun on AIDS therapies and people who found it difficult to take high dosages of anti-viral drugs. "My philosophy on this illness is that as long as I feel good day-to-day, I don't worry about the long term," he said in the September 1999 interview.

Born in Huntington, W.Va., he was a 1979 graduate of Loch Raven Senior High School, and he attended the University of Maryland, College Park, where he studied psychology.

"Tim loved people, and he saw psychology and the understanding of human nature as a way to help others," said Scott Barnett, a Hopkins research program coordinator and his partner of 16 years.

Mr. Leist had worked at restaurants in Provincetown, Mass., and Key West, Fla. In the 1980s and 1990s, he was a waiter at the Blue Moon and Back Porch CafM-i restaurants in Rehoboth Beach, Del., where he volunteered at the annual Sundance AIDS benefit.

"He was able to establish a rapport with any kind of patron," said Keith Fitzgerald, an owner of the Back Porch Cafe. "He was able to get people to enjoy themselves. He had a great ability to read people."

As maitre d' at the Joy America, he often dressed in a vintage dinner jacket selected from a collection of evening clothes he had assembled.

"He was a hero of mine," said Rebecca Hoffberger, founder of the Visionary Art Museum. "I loved how he took pain and suffering, and was determined to have more fun than anybody."

Remembered for his efficient service, organizational ability and strong sense of humor, he also enjoyed the role of bon vivant party-giver. "His sparkling personality was so remembered," said Dr. Joel Gallant, his physician and director of the Johns Hopkins Moore Clinic.

He threw what would be his last party Aug. 28. He named it the Celebration of Life Soiree and had 300 people at his home.

A memorial service will be held at 5:30 p.m. today at Spike and Charlie's Restaurant, 1225 Cathedral St.

He is survived by a brother, Kevin Leist of Catonsville; a sister, Donna McGhee of Hampstead; and two nieces, Crystal Barnett of Denver, Colo. and Pamela Anuszewski of Hampstead.

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