For 45 years, John Paul Boyter Sr., a retired Baltimore police officer, was as much a part of the Highlandtown scene as a steaming plate of Haussner's sour beef with red cabbage or a snow-white wedding gown from Etta's, patrolling on foot, swinging his espantoon.
Mr. Boyter died Sunday of a stroke at his daughter's home in Taneytown. The former Overlea resident was 79.
When he retired in 1993, Mr. Boyter was the oldest police officer on duty in Baltimore. Aside from a short stint in Fells Point at the beginning of his career, he patrolled Highlandtown in Southeast Baltimore.
He was proud that he never had to fire his service revolver in the line of duty.
Mr. Boyter was such a familiar figure and had such a wide acquaintanceship with Highlandtown residents that it was natural for them to call him the "Caretaker of the Avenue" or "Mr. Highlandtown."
"He was the consummate Baltimore beat cop," said Frances Haussner George, whose parents established Haussner's Restaurant, the Highlandtown landmark that closed in 1999.
"He was the spirit of the Baltimore police in Highlandtown, and he did what beat cops used to do for decades. He was friendly and dependable," Mrs. George said.
She recalled Mr. Boyter's daily routine, which was to step inside the restaurant, say hello and ask, "Everything OK?"
The wearer of Badge No. 945 was 5 feet, 10 inches tall and weighed 223 pounds. He had a wide smile and wore heavy black glasses. In the crown of his hat, he kept a stash of lollipops that he gave to neighborhood children.
"I'd go crazy inside. I want to work the streets. I enjoy talking to people and seeing little kids' eyes light up when I give them a lollipop," Mr. Boyter told The Sun in a 1991 interview.
"Where else can you get paid for exercising and meeting people? I eat a big breakfast of ham and eggs, then I walk it off," he said.
"He was very down to earth and, as a footman, was well-known throughout the department," said former Sgt. Frederick J. Dillon of the Southeastern District, a co-worker for many years.
"He was a very friendly and open person who could communicate with all people. He never had any problems and did his job with amazing skill. He never missed a day of work and turned down other opportunities because he just loved being a foot patrolman.
"He'd been in Highlandtown for so long that generations of people know him," Mr. Dillon said.
After he retired, Mr. Boyter still checked in at the Southeastern District station and walked his old beat, greeting and checking up on friends and business owners, said family members.
He was a member of the Maryland Law Enforcement Association, the Fraternal Order of Police and the Retired Police Benevolent Association.
Born and reared in Mount Union, Pa., Mr. Boyter graduated from the local high school. During World War II, he served in the merchant marine.
After the war, he worked for Glenn L. Martin Co., the Middle River airplane manufacturer, until he joined the Baltimore Police Department in 1948.
In 1942, he married Margaret Spencer, who died in 1992.
Mr. Boyter was a communicant of St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church, 44 Frederick St. in Taneytown, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. today.
He is survived by a son, George Boyter of Baltimore; four daughters, Mary R. Kaufman of Taneytown, Susan Krepps of Towson, Kathleen Menz of Newton, Conn., and Patricia Stroup of Baltimore; 11 grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.