Life of Patrick 'Scunny' McCusker, Nacho Mama's owner, celebrated
Nacho Mama's owner Scunny McCusker helps his bartenders pour the first Natty Boh's on draft from a cooler. Police said McCusker died Friday after being hit by a bus as he rode his bicycle along Coastal Highway in Ocean City. (Amy Davis, The Baltimore Sun / February 3, 2011)
McCusker was perhaps best known as the owner of Nacho Mama's, the Tex Mex restaurant he opened in 1994 on O'Donnell Street in Canton, which was then unfamiliar territory. McCusker was remembered, too, for his outsize personality and his philanthropic efforts.
The statements below, unless otherwise noted, are from interviews conducted on the morning after McCusker's death by Baltimore Sun reporter Andrea Walker and Baltimore Sun contributor Sloane Brown.
The mayor of Canton
"He was really the first business owner on the Square who made it and turned it around to what it is today." -- Darryl Jurkiewicz, Canton Community Association president
"The Saturday after 9/11, he's leading folks in Canton, repainting the benches in the square red, white and blue. This is an enormous loss of a guy whose heart was absolutely in the community. Canton is what it is because of guys like Scunny. There have been other guys who made investments here but not like Scunny. He firmly believed that more is more. The more business that came to Canton, the more it would help everybody." -- Jayne Miller, WBAL-TV investigative reporter and longtime Canton resident.
"I, basically, pay the electric bills at Nacho Mama's. Nothing's going to be the same without him. He was the unofficial mayor of Canton. Anything you ever needed or anything you ever needed to know, you went to Scunny first." -- Sean Flanagan, Towson University assistant to the president on government relations, 10-year Canton resident
"RIP to a true restaurant visionary from my home town... He is and will be deeply missed." -- Michael Phelps, Tweeted by Michael Phelps on Aug. 27
An unfathomable generosity
McCusker's philanthropy worked on many levels, but he was particularly devoted to Believe in Tomorrow National Children's Foundation, a Baltimore-based nonprofit that provides hospital and housing services to critically ill children and their families.
"He would take pizzas up to the Hatton Senior Center once a month. He always gave back to the community. Every time there was a need in the community, he was there to fill it. It was a perfect example of a life lived well, cut short." -- Del. Peter A. "Pete" Hammen, Maryland State Delegate from District 46, which includes Canton
"He struck up a conversation with everyone who walked into his restaurant. Often times those conversations would lead him to talking about Believe In Tomorrow. And he would always give them mugs that listed all our facilities. Scunny paid to have these mugs made. He has given out thousands and thousands of them. (From that) we get calls from all over the country. One came in last year from a couple who lives in Taos, N.M. and they said we were visiting Baltimore, when we talked to (Scunny) and got a mug. We'd like to donate our villa in Tortola for your auction. That did happen. At last year's auction, it was the highest bid item, (selling) for $12,000. That was the reach of Scunny. It went so far beyond this community." -- Brian Morrison, Believe In Tomorrow Children's Foundation founder, president and CEO
Scunny defined 'unconditional giving.' -- Dr. Steve Sobelman, 12-year Canton resident
"I never remember his saying no to any request." -- Darryl Jurkiewicz
Larger than life
"I kept waiting for him to walk in wearing a zombie costume and telling us he had tricked us again" -- Kate Wagner, Nacho Mama's hostess and waitress
"My grandmother thought he was such a good guy because every time he came over and he knew she was going to be there, he would bring her flowers. I always wondered how he would remember to get these flowers. One time, he didn't see me in the front yard. We just happened to live across the street from a pet cemetery. And there he was picking up flowers off of dead poodles' graves. I used to wonder why sometimes those flowers were plastic and sometimes they were real." -- Shane Moore, friend
"I moved to Canton, Baltimore a little more than seven years ago. The first place I went was Nacho Mama's. Scunny happened to be there that day. He asked me what I did...told me he loved Channel 11 and bought me a beer. I'll never forget it. Such a loss not just for Canton but for the city of Baltimore." -- Facebook comment by Lowell Melser, WBAL-TV meteorologist
"For (fomer 1st Mariner CEO) Ed Hale's birthday one time, he dressed up in a gorilla outfit with a bikini and [interrupted] a 1st Mariner board meeting and did a dance for Ed for his birthday." -- Sean Leahy, friend and Nacho Mama's manager
"Scunny was someone who I REALLY respected as a business person, father & friend. He was the inspiration for me to open Catonsville Gourmet. And learned from him how to run a successful restaurant through hard work & good employees. He will always be a legend & never be replaced." -- Facebook comment by Sean Dunworth, owner of Catonsville Gourmet
"He was a big Elvis fan. He wore a purple Elvis costume to the Super Bowl when the Ravens beat the Giants. He was a die-hard Baltimore sports fan. He loved the Orioles, the Baltimore Colts, the Ravens. He was the person who was larger than life." -- Sean Leahy, friend and Nacho Mama's manager
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