Susan "Suzie" Parthemos, who with her family owned a popular Irvington restaurant, died Friday of a heart ailment at St. Agnes Hospital. The Charlestown retirement community resident was 77.
She, her husband, James Parthemos, and her parents, Lillian and Sam Malas, opened Duffy's restaurant in 1954. Later, she and her husband took it over before selling it in 1999.
It was known for seafood dishes - she negotiated prices early in the morning with watermen - as well as large dinners at reasonable prices, a homemade green goddess dressing and a congenial atmosphere.
Regular customers were greeted with hugs, and families celebrated important events at Duffy's. Many customers knew the owners as well as each other, and some didn't hesitate to stop at a table to ask a physician for medical advice, to have a few quick words with a priest or to chat with Mrs. Parthemos, said former manager Jeannie Boyd-Warren of Baltimore.
"Even with customers, when one of the kids got married, there was a death, there was a baptism, we all went. Sometimes we closed the restaurant," she said.
Over the years, opera legend Beverly Sills ate at Duffy's when she performed in Baltimore, and Orioles players were spotted at its tables. Opera singer Spiro Malas, Mrs. Parthemos' brother, brought other New York opera stars to dine there, Ms. Boyd-Warren recalled.
"She was so charitable," the former manager said, noting that fundraisers for a variety of causes were held there, some to benefit local organizations, others to help people.
Priests and nuns affiliated with nearby St. Benedict Roman Catholic Church also ate at Duffy's, and Mrs. Parthemos helped the church feed the poor.
She took an interest in inner-city youths and provided scholarships for those who worked at her restaurant.
Her family said her generosity and compassion extended to nieces and nephews, people in need and animals.
She doted on her pets, took in homeless animals to nurse back to health, brought her dogs to nursing homes with Pets on Wheels and, as recently as last week, found a home for a cat.
She was the subject of front-page headlines after her car was stolen from an Ellicott City parking lot in October 1982 with her German shepherd mix, Bunny, inside. At the time, she described her 12-year-old pet to The Sun as "the whole world to me" - a dog that saved her from a would-be mugger and on which she lavished affection.
Her efforts to recover Bunny included placing advertisements in five newspapers, offering a $500 reward, contacting three psychics, handing out 1,000 fliers, taking hundreds of telephone calls and combing neighborhoods. She agreed not to press charges against a man who told her he took her car if he would tell her where his accomplice had the dog. Her brother Gus Malas traveled to Harpers Ferry, W.Va., and found Bunny.
She marked the return of the dog with a fundraiser for an animal rescue group.
Born Susan Malas in Baltimore, she was a 1949 graduate of Forest Park High School. She worked for Hutzler's department store in Baltimore, becoming a buyer in the men's department.
In 1952, she married James Parthemos. They lived above Duffy's and in 1972 moved to Ellicott City. Her husband died in 2005.
She was a member of St. Benedict Roman Catholic Church and of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation in Baltimore.
She learned to play the piano as a child, and she traveled and sang with the Sweet Adelines.
A funeral will be held at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow at the Hubbard Funeral Home, 4107 Wilkens Ave.
In addition to brothers Gus Malas of Baltimore and Spiro Malas of New York City, survivors include a sister, Mary Malas Aiello of Baltimore.