Margaret M. Thompson, 92, co-owner of popular Govans seafood restaurant

January 10, 2002|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Margaret Mary Thompson, former co-owner of Thompson's Sea-Girt House, a Govans culinary landmark for many years, died Sunday of respiratory failure at College Manor nursing home in Lutherville. She was 92 and had been a longtime resident of Cross Keys.

Mrs. Thompson, along with her son and husband, presided over the restaurant, whose roots dated to 1885, when the original Thompson's stood at the foot of Newkirk Street in Canton. Victorian-era Baltimoreans traveled by streetcar and horse and carriage to Thompson's to dine on crab cakes, fish and fried chicken dinners, washed down by ice-cold glasses of Brehm's beer.

In 1927, she married George W. Thompson Sr., her childhood sweetheart and great-grandson of the restaurant's founder. In 1949, the Thompsons purchased Cahill's Bar at York Road and Belvedere Avenue, and moved the restaurant there.

With her husband handling kitchen duties, Mrs. Thompson greeted and seated customers. Their menu emphasized Maryland seafood and specialties such as shrimp and garlic, shad, stuffed rockfish, lobster daintie and their signature crab cakes.

Diners who stepped into the restaurant were greeted by nautical decor, backlighted portholes and a tank filled with lobsters - and by Mrs. Thompson. She knew many of the customers by name.

Orioles and Colts players frequented the restaurant, as well as celebrities, including singers Frank Sinatra, John Denver, Liberace and Johnny Cash."[Baseball great] Al Kaline called her `the last of the red-hot mamas,'" said son George W. "Tommy" Thompson Jr.

Dick Szymanski, former Colts middle linebacker and retired president of the NFL Players Alumni Association, recalled visiting the restaurant as a rookie in 1955. "When she found out that I was a player for the Colts and had gone to Notre Dame and was Catholic, a strong friendship developed," said Mr. Szymanski from his home in Lake Forest, Fla.

"I couldn't eat meat on Fridays, and she made sure I always sat in the same booth, had a shrimp cocktail followed by crab imperial. She said she always lit a candle and prayed for the Colts to win and for me not to get hurt. She was a wonderful woman and always treated me like family," he said.

Bernard A. Goeller of Timonium, who was not only a longtime customer but whose firm Goeller's Seafood and later United Seafood supplied Thompson's, said, "She was a princess of a lady and really was personality plus."

"She made you feel not only welcomed but as if you were being personally entertained by her. She was a gracious and affectionate woman. That was Margaret," said Sandra J. Bunch, a 40-year customer and longtime friend.

Mrs. Thompson's husband was fatally stabbed in a robbery at the couple's Loch Raven Boulevard home in 1968. Mrs. Thompson and her son continued to operate the restaurant until selling it in 1983. The restaurant closed in 1991.

Mrs. Thompson kept the rights to the name, and with her son opened another Thompson's on 83rd Street in Ocean City in 1987. She worked as hostess there until she was 85. It closed in 1997.

Born Margaret Mary Hart in Baltimore, she attended Sacred Heart Parochial School. She left school to help support her family, working in a broom factory and later as a Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. operator.

Her favorite meal at Thompson's began with a Crown Royal mist with a twist, followed by crab cakes, stewed tomatoes and fried eggplant, recalled her son.

She was a communicant of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, 5201 N. Charles St., where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. today.

Other survivors include a sister, Jewel Boone of Towson; and three grandchildren.

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