When Canton was still
a quiet neighborhood of aging rowhouses and an abandoned factory, Patrick "Scunny" McCusker opened Nacho Mama's, celebrating Elvis' birthday with National Bohemian Beer and helping jumpstart the neighborhood's (and that brand's) transformation. It was 1994 and Scunny, just a lad of 31 but with a decade of bartending under his belt, was just getting started.
Scunny's outsized personality made Nacho Mama's a hit, so he stayed and burrowed in. Though a county boy, Scunny became integral to Canton's spirit, joining the board of the Believe in Tomorrow Children's Foundation in 1999 and opening Mama's on the Half Shell in 2003. By then he had married the former Jacqueline Falter, with whom he would have a son and daughter. His reputation grew: Scunny was the guy who'd help out. He was the guy who would slip baseball game tickets into a kid's pocket. He was the guy who would cheer you up.
Patrick Michael McCusker grew up on Summit Avenue in Carney and graduated from Loch Raven High. He lived life under his own power. As a kid, he lost the tip of a finger in a bicycle chain. In later life, he pretended to lose that finger again and again when shucking oysters, just for the laugh.
Banker Ed Hale remembered getting a boardroom gorilla gram from Scunny.
More than 2000 attended Scunny's funeral, the procession led by a Natty Boh beer truck. Fellow restaurant owners chipped in to put Scunny's name on a race car for the Grand Prix weekend the following week.
Scunny's heart was big, friends said, and while he did some big things-kayaking from the Inner Harbor all the way to Seacrets in Ocean City (twice) to raise $200,000 for Believe in Tomorrow, for instance-it was the small gestures that made his legend. He made one such gesture two days before the accident that took his life.
Warren Paugh, 31, was fooling around with a boogie board off an Ocean City beach when a huge wave crashed over him and drove him to the bottom.
"I see my son go down, face and neck, first on his right side," Paugh's mom, Aphrodite Alourdas says. He came up floating, face down, apparently knocked cold: "I'm screaming to my husband-'Get him out of the water.'"
Next thing Alourdas knows, Scunny is asking if she needs help. Ever the bartender, Scunny ran all the way up the beach to fetch ice for Paugh's bruises, Alourdas says. He came back and introduced himself. "Nobody else on the beach moved to help us," Alourdas says. "I shook his hand and said 'Thank you so much for your kindness."
Two days later, Scunny was hit by a bus while riding his bike on Coastal Highway.
"I feel so blessed to have shaken this man's hand," Alourdas says.