William Angelo Courpas, 73, ran restaurants in city, Carroll

February 11, 2005|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

William Angelo Courpas, whose chili dogs and ham sandwiches were featured specialties in restaurants he had owned in Hampden and Westminster, died of pancreatic cancer Monday at a daughter's home in Carroll County. He was 73.

Mr. Courpas, the son of Greek immigrants, was born above the El Paso Restaurant on West 36th Street in Hampden. His parents had co-owned the establishment with a partner since 1927.

"He was born and raised in an apartment over the restaurant," said the daughter, Corynne B. Courpas-Markle of Westminster. "That was home."

As a teenager, Mr. Courpas was a grocery clerk and soda jerk at Cavacos Pharmacy in Hampden while attending City College. A 1950 graduate, he was editor of the Collegian student newspaper and won a Columbia Scholastic Press Award.

"It wasn't long before he learned that his blood flowed more with mayonnaise and ketchup than ink, so he gave up his literary dreams and began working weekends for his dad at the El Paso," said son-in-law Scott Markle.

In 1951, he enlisted in the Navy and served four years as a photographer. After his discharge, Mr. Courpas returned to Baltimore and worked full time at the restaurant. When his father retired in 1960 and returned to Greece, Mr. Courpas took over his father's share of the business. Mr. Courpas was its sole owner from 1968 until he sold the business in 1978.

"The restaurant was in two adjacent buildings with a big glass window facing the street," Mrs. Courpas-Markle said. "Under the window was a grill where he stood preparing hot dogs, burgers and grilled onions. The main kitchen was in the back. When he opened for breakfast at 6 a.m. there were always a dozen regulars waiting to get in, and by 9 a.m. they had poured 300 cups of coffee."

The El Paso served three meals a day. Patrons ate at a counter or in old-fashioned wooden booths in the dining room, the daughter said.

Mr. Courpas continued preparing two house favorites, Coney Island chili hot dogs and fresh ham sandwiches, that dated to his father's time.

"Everyone in Hampden knew him," said Bob Stocksdale, a retired Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. sales engineer and longtime restaurant patron. "I first went there in 1946, when we'd go there after Boy Scout meetings and get a chili dog for a dime. A lot of BGE line gangs ate breakfast there, and you could see their trucks lined up on Falls Road."

Mr. Stocksdale, a Hampden native who lives in Cockeysville, was a fan of the fresh ham sandwich and the smothered burger.

"He was a wonderful carver, and for 35 cents you could get a fresh ham sandwich and gravy," Mr. Stocksdale said. "Ten of us used to go the Colts games in the late 1950s and 1960s, including Bill [Mr. Courpas], and before the games we'd go down there on Sundays and he'd open up - he was closed that day - and make ham sandwiches for us to take to Memorial Stadium."

Mr. Courpas purchased the Frisco Family Pub in Westminster's Carroll Plaza Shopping Center in 1978. He served pizza, burgers, crabs and beer there until he sold the business to a daughter.

He retired in 1996 and moved from his longtime home in Reisterstown to Ormond Beach, Fla., with his wife of 51 years, the former Connie Benner.

The couple visited Greece several times, but Mr. Courpas couldn't stay out of the kitchen.

"He loved the business and worked part time as kitchen manager of Sonny's Barbecue in Ormond Beach," the daughter said.

He also enjoyed vegetable gardening and fishing.

Services will be held at 10 a.m. today at the Eline Funeral Home, 11824 Reisterstown Road in Reisterstown.

In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Corpus is survived by a son, William A. Courpas Jr. of Hampstead; four other daughters, Charlene C. Tote of Mount Airy, Cheryl L. Lawson of New Windsor, Connie C. Ditzel of Manchester and Caryn C. Miles of Westminster; a brother, Constantine A. "Gus" Courpas of Phoenix in Baltimore County; and 14 grandchildren.

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