Leroy House, who helped run an East Baltimore grocery store for at least 30 years, knew many customers by name and even knew many of their orders when they walked in the door, died Sunday at his home of heart failure. He was 55.
Mr. House lived in an apartment above Earl's Grocery at Lafayette and Hope streets and often worked from the store's opening till its closing, seven days a week.
"He liked being around people because he was a people person," said his sister, Carolyn C. House of Baltimore. "He also had the love of the neighborhood. They were his extended family."
Mr. House is believed to have started work at Earl's Grocery at least 30 years ago, working as a clerk, stocking shelves and cleaning. In recent years, he helped manage the store, was a cashier and made sandwiches.
"He was always good with people and was good to people," said Geneva Overbey, one of the store's owners. "He got along good with all of the customers."
A man with an easy smile and mild demeanor, Mr. House knew two generations of customers, occasionally lent them money and would buy candy for children.
"He especially liked children and tried to help them any way he could," his sister said.
Mr. House also was a neighborhood peacekeeper, acting as a calm influence when tempers flared.
"People had a lot of respect for him because he was a decent man, a hard-working man," said Robert Smith, an area resident who knew Mr. House since the mid-1980s. "He wasn't very big, but he drew a lot of respect."
A native of the Oliver community where the store is, Mr. House attended city public schools and worked at various jobs before he started at Earl's Grocery.
He also held several part-time jobs while working at the store. They included being an usher at the former Civic Center, doing construction work and painting for city public schools.
But friends and family said that helping out at the store was his main job, and that he had no interest in working full time anywhere else.
"He's been here since candy was a nickel, and you could get a soda for under a quarter. He liked it here, and the people liked him," Mr. Smith said. "He was born and raised around here and it was a good match."
Services are scheduled for 6: 30 p.m. tomorrow at March Funeral Home, 1101 E. North Ave.
Other survivors include three brothers, Elizah House, Jerome House and Stephen House, all of Baltimore; and four sisters, Lula Mae Bell, Jousetta Harris and Viola Bailey, all of Baltimore, and Mary Daniels of Winterville, N.C.
TTC Pub Date: 5/07/98