Virginia Straley, 73, Fells Point bar owner

July 22, 2004|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Virginia Mary Straley, a retired bar manager who owned the Lone Star Tavern in Fells Point, died of cardiac arrest July 15 at Keswick Multi-Care Center. The former Fells Point and Highlandtown resident was 73.

Born Virginia Lukenczuk to Polish immigrants who never learned English, she dropped out of high school to care for her brother after her parents died.

She was a saleswoman at the Goldenberg's store in Fells Point and, later, a waitress at local restaurants. Her first marriage, to Joseph Gauthier, ended in divorce.

In 1962, she became co-owner of the Lone Star with her second husband, Anthony Libertine, a paraplegic who watched over the establishment from his wheelchair. After he died, she managed the bar by herself.

"Whoever came in, they always got fast help," said her daughter, Jean Boyle of Hampden. "If anyone needed money, she'd loan them the money. If anyone needed food, she'd give them food. She used to say, `You never know when you might need a helping hand.'"

One day, merchant mariner Joseph Straley walked in and told her that she looked so sad he had to buy her a drink. "She said, `Just for that you can buy me two drinks,'" the daughter said. The couple soon married. Mr. Straley died in the 1980s.

In 1972, the couple sold the bar at 734 S. Broadway for $13,500, her daughter said. It became a landmark restaurant, Bertha's, under new owners.

Mrs. Straley also was a barmaid for more than a decade in Highlandtown, at Bob Cummings Tavern on South East Avenue and the Mustang Inn on Eastern Avenue.

Services are private.

In addition to her daughter, she is survived by three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

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