Eleanor Minnick, who with her husband operated a Dundalk restaurant, died Friday of lung cancer at her Dundalk home. She was 72.
For several decades, she managed Minnick's Restaurant. Known for its signature dish of sour beef and dumplings, the Dundalk restaurant was a traditional gathering spot for local politicians to gab, argue and make deals as they ate.
In a 1999 Sun article, she described the restaurant, as "one of the last ma and pa restaurant operations left" in the Dundalk area. The east side of Baltimore County began to sag economically in the 1960s as businesses shut, claiming several other restaurants, though Minnick's remains home to several local Democratic and community groups.
Daniel "Junior" Minnick Jr., her husband of 45 years, said he will continue his wife's decade-old holiday tradition that has collected more than 4,000 toys for distribution to needy children through the Police Athletic League in Baltimore County. She held an open Christmas party at the restaurant.
"People, if they wanted to come, had to bring two gifts for two young kids," he said. "We'd give them free food."
The day after she died, the family opened the restaurant as a fund-raiser in her memory, bringing in more than $1,000 for the American Cancer Society.
Nicknamed "Big Red" for her hair color in the late 1960s by then-House Speaker Thomas Hunter Lowe, she managed her husband's four successful District 7 campaigns for the House of Delegates beginning in 1966. He described her as an energetic and organized campaigner.
Born and raised on Long Island, N.Y., the former Eleanor Moyer was one of three sisters. She completed public school in New York before she went to work at the Bainbridge Naval Training Center in Cecil County.
She worked alongside her husband and his brother, Joseph J. "Sonny" Minnick (who has since taken over his brother's legislative seat, now District 6), in the family business, a dance club called Minnick's Hollywood Inn.
The club is remembered as a place where the area's most agile hoofers tried to outdo each other with jitterbug and shag steps to the music of live bands.
Mr. Minnick said his wife loved to dance.
"Oh, she was a good dancer. She was one of the few shaggers still left in town," her husband recalled.
The dance craze waned, and in 1968 the Minnick brothers converted the club to a restaurant.
Later, they added a catering service and during the 1970s ran a dinner theater there.
She supervised the club and then the restaurant operation from the time of her marriage until last year.
She attended the Sacred Heart of Mary Roman Catholic Church in Dundalk.
A funeral will be held at 11 a.m. today at Connelly Funeral Home of Dundalk, 7110 Sollers Point Road.
In addition to her husband, survivors include daughters Debbie Darr of Dundalk and Cindy Bezilla of Baltimore County, three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.