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Roger Testud

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Roger Testud, a French-born baker who became a familiar presence at Baltimore's open-air markets, died of cardiac arrest Oct. 21 at St. Agnes Hospital. The Charing Cross-area resident was 81.

"He is about as French a baker as you can get," said a 1979 Evening Sun profile. "He looks as though he was created by Balzac, shaped by Rodin and taught by Savarin."

Born in Avignon, Mr. Testud was 14 when he began his baking apprenticeship. He baked throughout his teens and later went into demonstrating and selling commercial baking equipment.

He came to Baltimore in the 1970s and worked with Francois Borelly, another French-born baker. He baked at the old Bles d'Or (Golden Wheat) Bakery in the 5400 block of Harford Road, a shop that once housed the Mrs. Pose cheesecake operation.

He said he learned to bake in brick ovens, with wood fuel and wet sawdust strewn on the hearth providing the moisture that made the bread crusty. He made bread for numerous restaurants as well, including the old Sarabonde in Towson, the Greenspring Inn, Marconi's and Sascha's Creperie.

The 1979 article said that Mr. Testud's "English right now is limited to shrugs." He soon learned the language and worked in bakeries in Pikesville and the Village of Cross Keys. Within a few years, he became a fixture at outdoor markets in Waverly, downtown Baltimore, Owings Mills and Towson.

"He spoke a French-accented English and was a big, warm presence who cheered the mornings of many a customer," said a friend, Art Cohen, who lives in Baltimore. "He and his wife and son would often have large parties at their house off Baltimore National Pike, and many of their acquaintances would be invited to join in the festivities. Roger served delicious food, and his guests often brought a dish. They attracted diverse, cosmopolitan peoples of all races."

Mr. Cohen played the accordion and, after a period of stress at his work, he asked Mr. Testud if he could sit by his market bread-selling operation and play traditional French songs.

"Roger said yes to me, and I met many people in the process, among them my wife and her son," Mr. Cohen said.

"Roger was serious about his business," said a friend, Christine Polillo, who lives in Baltimore. "He attended to his customers beautifully and would often slip them an extra loaf of bread or almond croissant. He was a generous man, and if he saw someone who couldn't pay, he'd give the bread away. If were a little short of money, he'd say, 'Pay me next week.'"

In 2005, Mr. Testud retired and sold his business, which he had named Vivaldi, after the Italian composer.

"Roger embraced his customers. Everyone was a friend," said Gerrit Marks, a Catonsville resident who bought his business. "He knew his regular customers by sight and was as open and warm at the markets as he was in his home life. He knew how to enjoy living and knew how to enjoy a good meal."

In his free time, Mr. Testud enjoyed sports and was a fan of auto racing.

A memorial Mass will be offered at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Bernardine's Roman Catholic Church, 3800 Edmondson Ave. at Mount Holly Street.

Survivors include his wife of 63 years, the former Mireille Court, with whom he closely worked. A son, Dr. Joany Testud, a dentist, died in 2003.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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