Frank J. Guerassio Sr.

[ Age 82 ] The Navy veteran was a grocery store produce manager.

September 17, 2007|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,sun reporter

;(lines=ql);(dclead=((bodlead)*(clines)) +(2*(bodlead)));(adjcl=dclead);(clines=( A-1));(bodadj=(bodpt)*25);(bodadj=bodadj /32);(psize=((bodlead)*(clines))+(bodadj ));(psize=psize*32);(dcptsize=psize/22); (adj=dcptsize/33);cf21,(dcptsize),(dclead);ec8,Q,capQ;ec7,1,cap2Frank J. Guerassio Sr., a longtime produce manager, died of cancer complications Wednesday at St. Joseph Medical Center. The Dundalk resident was 82.

He was an assistant store manager for produce for Eddie's supermarkets, a local chain, beginning in the late 1940s. He remained with the Reisterstown store after it was sold 20 years later and became Shapiro's, working as the produce manager.

He left in 1974 to work for Lefty's Produce, first in the Eastern Avenue market, then operating the Lexington Market venue until he retired in 2002.

"He was known for his fruit baskets. His fruit baskets were second to none," said Mary Ellen Usher Guerassio, his wife of 16 years.

He made a point of helping to feed the hungry, provide for poor people at Christmas, and ensure that his church, the St. Jude Shrine in Baltimore, had flowers for the holidays, said his wife. He provided fresh food for the Christmas stockings of the children of a customer who was unable to afford to fill them.

"He told homeless people, `You don't dig in the garbage.' He would take them to the lunch counter and say, `Give him what he wants, and it's on me,'" Mrs. Guerassio said.

Customers took to calling him "Lefty" after the owner of the produce stand where he worked, John "Lefty" Alascio Sr., died in 1981.

Born in Baltimore, he attended Catholic schools in the city. He quit school as a teenager, after his father died, to do odd jobs to help support his family.

He already knew a lot about the produce business, as he had worked side-by-side with his grandfather, Frank Garbo, who operated a stand in Hollins Market.

He joined the Navy in 1942, and served in the Pacific. He was honorably discharged in 1946.

He returned to Baltimore and worked for a cousin's produce stand at the North Avenue Market for about two years before joining Eddie's.

His marriage to the former Katherine Domino ended in divorce. He married Mary Ellen Usher in 1991.

He lived in the city until 1999, when he moved to Dundalk.

He served as an usher at St. Jude Shrine.

In retirement, he enjoyed playing poker and watching horse racing. He also "became a cook. I would come home from work and my dinner would be on the table," his wife said.

He enjoyed gardening, especially growing tomatoes, and doted on three kittens the couple got last year.

A Mass of Christian burial was held Saturday at the St. Jude Shrine.

In addition to his wife, survivors include three daughters, Kay Overton and Connie Bridgeman, both of Pasadena, and Jeanie Sullivan of Bel Air; two sons, Frank Guerassio Jr. of Owings Mills and Joseph Guerassio of Catonsville; three brothers, John Guerassio of Parkville, Nick Guerassio of Dundalk and Lawrence Giglio of North Point Village; a sister, Stella D'Angelo of Odenton; two grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

andrea.siegel@baltsun.com

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