The heart and soul of Bel Air's Main Street for many years, Pete passed away Monday, March 25, and the main thoroughfare through Bel Air became just a little emptier.
You won't see the name of Pete Panos on any buildings or hear him honored for being a big noise.
On the contrary, Pete, his brother Gus and his mom, Pota, were quiet, hard-working, middle-class folks with a passion for honest trading, human kindness and integrity. They ran a little store-front grille on Main Street for many years called the Kandy Kitchen.
It wasn't fancy, but it was comfortable with a bar and little wooden booths along one side of the narrow building.
Pete had a few helpers now and then, but he was there pretty much all of the time, except on bowling league days, when he opened after rolling a couple strikes. That's what made the place so neat. There were no signs on the door and if the TV was on, the place was open.
The Kandy Kitchen was my respite for many a visit, mainly because of the camaraderie. Folks showing respect and enjoying each other's company.
One night a bunch of rowdies rolled out of the Red Fox and started to cross the street. Pete was at the grille and he quickly locked the door and yelled down the bar, 'Turn off the TV." The crowd got to the door and everyone in the place either froze or ducked down.
After some banging and cussing, they eventually left and the Orioles game was back on the TV and things returned to normal.
Many times I was asked to lock the door or take someone home who had way too much to drink and I was glad to do it, for the wayward drinker, for Pete, and well, it's just what was done in those days.
The Kandy Kitchen was an institution totally under the radar. The late George L. Van Bibber took me to there the first time when they had a freshly baked ham on the counter and you could cut the meat for a sandwich.
You likely won't see the Panos' name in the book of prominent Bel Airians, and that's just fine. You will hear and see the name of Pete, Pota and Gus in the hearts of many of the hard-working, regular Joe's who lived and worked in town and just wanted a friendly, quiet place to relax at the end of the day.
The end of the day came to Pete last month, and those who knew him and his little bar will never forget him. He's on a different Main Street now.
We're fortunate to have had him on ours for a while.