John Henry Thormann III, 54, owner of Essex tavern


It was the lifelong dream of John Henry Thormann III to own a tavern filled with happy and noisy people.

Mr. Thormann, who was 54, died Saturday from complications of pneumonia at Sinai Hospital. He had been the owner and proprietor with his wife of J. R. Tee's Restaurant and Sports Tavern in Essex since 1991.

"He had worked as a sprinkler fitter for 27 years with Local 536 and after retiring in 1992, went to work full time in the bar that we had bought a year earlier," said his wife of 13 years, the former Rayna Deshner.

The tavern, in the 400 block of Myrth Ave. in the Back River Highlands section, was noted for its sign on the roof that featured a large golf ball and explained Mr. Thormann's passion for the sport.

"It was a local neighborhood type of establishment where everyone was friendly with everyone else. It was like being in someone's home," said John Cunningham, longtime friend and former manager of the bar.

A cheerful man with a carefully trimmed mustache and salt-and-pepper hair who usually sported a black-and-white J. R. Tee's hat, Mr. Thormann epitomized the welcoming host.

At the end of the bar where he passed his evenings, he could be found sipping a beer or a drink while greeting each new arrival.

Crowds jammed the tavern each Wednesday for spaghetti night or Tuesday for chicken-wing night or to sample his famous crab pretzel, a creation of his and a house specialty.

"He invented it," said Mrs. Thormann, who described it as a soft pretzel covered with "crab, quickly broiled and served with horseradish."

"He tolerated no trouble in his place, and when a customer left for the evening, he always thanked them for coming and [asked them] to be careful," said Susan L. McNeal, the bar's manager and friend of many years.

He established and supported J. R. Tee's ladies and men's golf teams. He also sponsored the J. R. Tee's Ball-Busters bowling team and a softball team that was made up of customers and employees.

Mr. Thormann was known for his sponsorship of several Essex Little League teams.

Each year, he adopted three local needy families at Christmas. "He touched everyone's heart with his generosity," said Ms. McNeal. "That's the kind of person he was, he always wanted to do for the community."

He was active in the Elks Club 1866, the Moose and the Hawks Men's Club. "He was also a member of the Police Community Relations Council for Precinct 11," said his wife.

Mr. Thormann, born and raised in Essex, was a parochial school graduate.

His first marriage ended in divorce.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. tomorrow at St. Clare Roman Catholic Church, 714 Myrth Ave., Essex.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a son, John H. Thormann IV of Phoenix, Baltimore County; a daughter, Kimberly Majerowicz of Timonium; two sisters, Marlyn Dietrich of White Marsh and Debbie Schiesser of Fallston; and three grandchildren.

Pub Date: 2/24/99

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