Nicole McAllister,

Nicole McAllister, shown in May (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun / May 24, 2011)

Nicole McAllister, a longtime Johns Hopkins Club waitress whose grit and determination to see that her daughter received a college education paid off earlier this year when she had the pleasure of seeing her daughter receive her bachelor's degree, died Dec. 16 of a stroke at Sinai Hospital.

The Northwest Baltimore resident was 44.

The daughter of a construction worker and a teacher's aide, Nicole McAllister was born in Baltimore and raised on Newton Avenue.

After graduating from Walbrook High School in 1985, Ms. McAllister worked as a teller for almost a decade at the old Union Trust Co., later Signet Bank, until she was laid off from her job

In 1994, she took a job as a waitress at the Johns Hopkins Club, which is on the university's Homewood campus, where she quickly built a loyal and dedicated following.

"She was a great person and professionally was one of the most hardworking, dependable and conscientious employees I've ever known who has worked at the club," said Cem Baraz, who has been general manager of the club since 1994.

"Her death is a terrible loss and she'll be missed in more ways than one," he said. "She was so well-known and always had that adorable smile."

Warren Pompey, a waiter, worked at the club with Ms. McAllister for the last 10 years.

"Nicole trained me," he said. "She was very nice and everyone would ask for her to take care of them when they came into the club. She always wanted to make sure that everyone was happy. She herself was always very cheerful, and I rarely saw her without a smile on her face."

In addition to her work, Ms. McAllister had another story as the single parent of two daughters, Nikita Carter, 16 months older than her sister, Kearra Carter.

She worked long hours at the club, which meant the girls were often on their own and had to look after themselves.

Because their mother often worked in the evening, they had to cook their own meals, and when it was Easter and Thanksgiving, spent the day with a grandmother who lived nearby.

"It was hard, with the kids being small, not spending time with them," Ms. McAllister told The Baltimore Sun at the time of Kearra's graduation from Hopkins. "But they knew I had to do what I had to do."

During her time at the club, members got to know Ms. McAllister's daughters and asked how they were doing in school.

Kearra, who had been an outstanding student at City College, waited until her senior year to start thinking about college.

Through her work, Ms. McAllister had gotten to know several top Hopkins administrators who once they saw her grades offered to help her gain entry to the university.

"She was just a very kind, caring and hardworking woman," said Jim Miller, a Fairfield, Conn., lawyer who graduated from Hopkins in 1964 and had been president of the university's alumni association from 2006 to 2008.

Mr. Miller became acquainted with Ms. McAllister as a frequent diner at the Hopkins Club.

"When I learned that Kearra was interested in attending Hopkins, I checked her grades and then was one of several people who wrote a letter of support for the Baltimore Scholar program, and she got in," said Mr. Miller.

Ms. McAllister was at work when she learned that Kearra had been accepted a day before the admission letters were mailed.