Patrick "Scunny" McCusker, the 49-year-old owner of Nacho Mama's and a force in the revitalization of Canton, was remembered Saturday by friends, employees, patrons and local leaders for his outsize personality, philanthropy and pioneering contributions to the community.
"The neighborhood is what it is because of him," said Gianene Musotto, 43, who gathered with other customers at Nacho Mama's, one of the neighborhood's first popular destinations.
Police said McCusker died Friday after being hit by a bus as he rode his bicycle along Coastal Highway in Ocean City. The Cockeysville resident was treated at the scene by emergency personnel. McCusker was taken by ambulance to Atlantic General Hospital in Berlin and then transferred to Peninsula Medical Center in Salisbury, where he died.
"Canton wouldn't be what it is today without small-business pioneers like Scunny," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in a statement. "It is impossible to quantify his positive contributions to the city of Baltimore. Scunny's restaurants not only offered outstanding food in an amazing atmosphere but also a sense of community. Patrick was also my friend."
McCusker opened Nacho Mama's on Jan. 8, 1994, the anniversary of Elvis Presley's birth. The restaurant was immediately embraced for its Tex-Mex fare, laid-back attitude and profusion of National Bohemian beer and Elvis memorabilia.
The restaurant was packed Saturday. Some longtime diners wept as they dropped in to pay their respects. Red carnations, shaped into a heart, lay next to the Elvis statue that stands in front of the restaurant. Neighbors stood somberly outside.
"He was really the first business owner on [O'Donnell] Square who made it and turned it around to what it is today," said Darryl Jurkiewicz, president of the Canton Community Association.
Friends and community leaders remembered McCusker for his charitable efforts and big personality.
"He would always come off like a big, tough guy," said Ron Furman, owner of Max's on Broadway. "But he was a big teddy bear. He did so much for everybody. He'll be missed by a lot of people."
"His generosity was almost unfathomable," said Brian Morrison, president and CEO of 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 donated something in the neighborhood of 16,000 meals to our families and to the Believe in Tomorrow Children's House at Johns Hopkins."
In a statement, Sen. Ben Cardin called McCusker "the epitome of a life lived fully."
"McCusker never met a charity that he did not support," Cardin said. "I am honored to have been among the hundreds who were fortunate to have been able to call him a friend."
McCusker, who grew up on Summit Avenue in Carney, was also being remembered Saturday in Ocean City, where he worked various jobs over many summers spent in the resort as a teen and young adult.
"If you walked into any restaurant or bar in Ocean City with Scunny," Morrison said, "it was like walking in with a rock star."
On Saturday, the marquee at The Starboard in nearby Dewey Beach, Del., displayed this message: "Scunny: An inspiration & Baltimore Icon. You will be missed."
A fan of Elvis Presley and Baltimore sports teams, the Loch Raven High School graduate was in his purple Elvis costume at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., in January 2001 when the Ravens beat the Giants 34-7 in Super Bowl XXXV. His friend Sean Leahy said it was just one of many costumes McCusker was known to own and wear.
"When his wife went to the dry cleaners, she didn't know if she was picking up the Comeback Elvis, the Fat Elvis, the Spider-Man, the gorilla outfit or the Easter Bunny," Leahy said.
In 2004, McCusker opened the seafood restaurant Mama's on the Half Shell a few doors down from Nacho Mama's on O'Donnell Square. When asked about the new restaurant's upscale atmosphere, McCusker said, "This is House & Garden. Nacho Mama's is the National Enquirer."
McCusker is survived by his wife, Jacqueline, and two children, Darby, 13, and Finn, 12.
Friends may call at Mitchell-Wiedefeld Funeral Home Inc., 6500 York Road, in the Anneslie area of Baltimore County. Viewings will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, with a memorial Mass at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, 5200 N. Charles St. in Baltimore.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Believe in Tomorrow Children's Foundation, 6601 Frederick Road, Baltimore, 21228.
Ocean City police are investigating the accident. Police have not released the identity of the bus driver.
Baltimore Sun reporters Yvonne Wenger and Andrea K. Walker contributed to this article.