As hundreds mourned
the passing and celebrated the life of Patrick "Scunny" McCusker in Canton's O'Donnell Square Saturday, Rosedale resident Aphrodite Alourdas took a call from her son, Warren Paugh.
"He says, 'Mom, are you sitting down?'" Alourdas remembers.
Though she only met him once, Alourdas took the news of Scunny's death-hit by a bus Friday, Aug. 24 while riding his bicycle down Coastal Highway in Ocean City-especially hard. Scunny had rushed to her and her son's aid on Wednesday, she says.
"I have goose bumps just saying it," Alourdas says.
People who knew him better and longer would say this was pure Scunny.
McCusker opened Nacho Mama's on Elvis' birthday in 1994 and wore a purple Elvis suit to the Super Bowl in 2001. If Elvis was the King of Rock 'n Roll, Scunny was the King of Canton, credited with helping revitalize the neighborhood. McCusker was also known for his humor and generosity.
reported that he donated over 16,000 meals to Believe in Tomorrow Children's Foundation. (Memorial donations may be made to the same organization.)
"Canton wouldn't be what it is today without small-business pioneers like Scunny," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in an e-mailed press release.
Sen. Ben Cardin also praised and honored McCusker. Friends and customers have flooded Nacho Mama's, and social networks have come alive with tributes to Scunny.
Alourdas says she and her family, including three young grandchildren, were vacationing in Ocean City last week. "On Wednesday, the surf was rough and I was getting a little worried about the grandkids," she says. But it was her son, Paugh, 31 years old and 195 pounds, who almost drowned. He was fooling around with a boogie board when a huge wave crashed over him and drove him to the bottom, Alourdas says.
"I see my son go down, face and neck, first on his right side," she says. He came up floating, face down, apparently knocked cold: "I'm screaming to my husband-'get him out of the water.'"
Next thing she knows, there's a man beside her asking if she needs any help-some ice, perhaps. She says yes, and the man runs off, not to his cooler, but "all the way up the beach, running," Alourdas says. "He runs all the way up to his house, goes all the way back . . . my son is all bruised up, and he brings the ice.
"I said, 'What's your name?'
"He says, 'I'm Scunny.'
"Nobody else on the beach moved to help us. I shook his hand and said 'thank you so much for your kindness,'" Alourdas says.
Scunny had made another friend. The next day, Alourdas was too upset to return to the beach, but her son told her Scunny was there again, laughing and joking with them on his last full day on Earth.
"I feel so blessed to have shaken this man's hand," Alourdas says. "My family and I want to express our deepest sympathy and gratitude. Our prayers are with him."