Phillip Raymond Leyhe Jr., longtime chairman of the Baltimore County Liquor Board and a member for nearly three decades, died of congestive heart failure Sunday while on a vacation cruise near the Panama Canal. The Parkville resident was 65.
Mr. Leyhe worked for 42 years for Hale's Seafood in Parkville, much of that time as its manager. Active in Baltimore County Democratic Party circles, he was appointed to the liquor board in 1978 and had been its chairman since 1995.
"We always referred to him as Mister Parkville," former Baltimore County Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen said yesterday. He recalled receiving calls from tavern and restaurant owners commending Mr. Leyhe's approach to his job.
"He was an extremely fair man. It was unusual for a person who had regulatory oversight powers to be so respected by the industry he governed," Mr. Rasmussen said.
Born in Baltimore and raised in Parkville on Ridgely Oak Road, he was a 1959 graduate of Loch Raven High School.
As a teen, he began working at Hale's Seafood at Oakleigh Road and Taylor Avenue. Friends said he started out hauling ice and tending to deliveries, and rose to become manager of the steamed-crab operation and fish, shrimp and oyster counter. He retired about five years ago.
"He loved seafood and knew everything about it," said Helen Gerhart, who worked at the store for 27 years. "He was always a big jokester and had a way of getting his points across."
"He was a grass-roots kind of guy who knew an incredible number of people in Baltimore County. I think he could tell a story and know the family history of every barber, shop owner and tavern keeper in Parkville," said David F. Mister, an attorney who represented clients before the liquor board. "He had the common touch, an easy smile and a firm handshake."
He recalled that Mr. Leyhe's many years in the seafood business made him attuned to small-business owners' needs.
"He looked out for the little guy," Mr. Mister said. "And when people came before the board without an attorney, he would put them at ease."
His wife of 38 years, the former Jean Crawford, died in 1998.
A funeral Mass will be will be offered at 9 a.m. Friday at St. Ursula Roman Catholic Church, 8801 Harford Road.
Survivors include a son, John E. Leyhe of Parkville; a daughter, Deborah A. Keplinger of Nottingham; a sister, Mary Bench of Parkville; a half-brother, Thomas Stewart of Cockeysville; and four grandchildren.