George Parr

[ Age 70 ] Meat cutter worked at the Esskay plant in Highlandtown and sold meats and candy from stalls at Broadway Market.

December 22, 2007|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,Sun reporter

By day, George Parr was a meat cutter and sausage maker. By night, he was Father Christmas.

He donned a white beard and a red suit, and rang sleigh bells throughout the streets of Highlandtown as a 15-year-old. He knocked on doors and posed for pictures. Everyone welcomed Santa into their homes on Christmas Eve. Years later, he arrived on a boat for the first Christmas at Harborplace.

The man who insisted that Santa-print shower curtains hang in his bathroom, and that his house be lighted by a thousand miniature lights, died of a stroke Wednesday at his Perry Hall home. He was 70.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Jefferson Street, he was a 1955 Patterson Park High School graduate. He worked briefly at Westinghouse and then joined his father-in-law at the old Schluderberg-Kurdle plant in Highlandtown where he learned to make sausage and scrapple, how to butcher a hog and how to cure a ham.

To supplement his income, Mr. Parr moonlighted in Southeast Baltimore's Broadway Market in the old Wetzelberger Brothers meat stall. He eventually bought the business and changed the name to Parr's Meats. He remained at Esskay until it closed and later worked at Santoni's Markets, always juggling two jobs.

"His day started at the market at 6 a.m. with a shot of liquor he kept in the meat box," said his wife of 50 years, the former Theresa Bowen. "The market had no heat, and he said it kept him warm."

Mr. Parr also called on his daughters to help him.

"We would wash the cases and get the stall ready for the next day," said his daughter Cheryl Slaski of Perry Hall. "We'd work until 2 a.m. on the holidays to get the sausage made."

When his daughters were students at Catholic High School, Mr. Parr invited their classmates enrolled in science classes to his stall. There he stood at a butcher block and displayed the brains, kidney and heart of pig and, when available, an embryo.

"He liked to teach," his daughter said.

About 15 years ago, as the demographics changed in Fells Point, Mr. Parr adjusted his business strategy. He took over adjoining stalls owned by his late mother, Gertrude Parr, who had run a flower and candy business.

"He was multitalented. He learned to make butter-cream candies and the Easter eggs," his daughter said, adding that he made his candy in his Perry Hall kitchen.

Mr. Parr continued to be Santa Claus. He dressed the part and appeared at the market in the days before Christmas. He was also tapped to arrive by boat at the then-new Harborplace in 1980. He sat on a throne and listened to children's Christmas wishes.

Mr. Parr had another job. He made Oriole bird whirligigs in his backyard shed. He painted them orange (according to his own paint formula) and black and sold them at his market stall and from his front lawn. He also made purple Ravens and red Terrapins.

"He didn't know the word relax," his wife said.

Mr. Parr was a longtime member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary. He was a boat examiner and also sailed the Chesapeake Bay.

After suffering a stroke several years ago, Mr. Parr gave up his business. He continued to celebrate Christmas and said of the lights on his Perry Hall home, "The brighter the better."

Family members said that in the last week he kept asking, "How many days until Christmas?"

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 9 a.m. Monday at the Shrine of the Little Flower Roman Catholic Church, 3500 Belair Road, where he was a member.

In addition to his wife and daughter, survivors include three other daughters, Kathaleen Lhotsky and Denise Schultz, both of Ocean Pines, and Pamela Shearer of Baltimore; two sisters, Catherine Miller of Millville, Del., and Eileen Russ of Abingdon; 10 grandchildren; and two great-granddaughters.

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