Arnold Bennett 'Arnie' Cushing, software company co-founder, dies

Arnold Bennett "Arnie" Cushing, co-founder of a computer software company that specializes in serving the restaurant industry, died Sunday of complications from Parkinson's disease at Gilchrist Hospice Care.

The Northwest Baltimore resident was 58.

Mr. Cushing was born and raised in Norwood, Mass., where he graduated from Norwood High School in 1970.

He earned a bachelor's degree in zoology in 1974 from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and later earned a master's degree in computer engineering from the Johns Hopkins University.

"He followed a girl to Baltimore. That's what brought him here in the 1970s," said his wife of 26 years, the former Diane Grace Sipple. "We both met when we worked together at Martick's."

During the early 1980s, Mr. Cushing was working as a waiter at the old Louie's Bookstore and Cafe on North Charles Street when he took a job in a computer training program at United States Fidelity & Guaranty Co.

"That's how he got into the computer industry," said his wife.

Mr. Cushing later worked at the National Institutes of Health and several other companies before he and his partner, Scott Tyburski, established in 1994 SoftCafe LLC, a computer software company that develops software for restaurants and the food service industry.

"Arnie and I met when we were working at Systex, a computer software company in Beltsville," Mr. Tyburski said.

"We had a lucky break. A local restaurant needed a menu program, so we created what we call MenuPro, which lets restaurants create their own menus," Mr. Tyburski said. "And it took off."

Mr. Tyburski said the advantages of MenuPro, in addition to letting restaurateurs design and create their own menus, was that it was faster than word-processing and less expensive than a conventional printer.

"They could keep it all in-house," Mr. Tyburski said.

The partners' software program became so successful that many national restaurant chains, restaurants, colleges and universities, country clubs and resorts worldwide use it in their daily operations.

"Arnie was the chief software architect of SoftCafe ScheduleWriter, an employee scheduling program. Gone was paper and pencils and time cards," Mr. Tyburski said.

"Arnie was a great person who was enormously talented and a brilliant programmer. Things that were difficult for me were a snap for him. He made what we do here happen," he said.

"However, Arnie was a down-to-earth-guy with an incredible sense of humor. He had lots of humility and was not into bragging, but he could have been," Mr. Tyburski said. "He was one amazing guy."

Mr. Cushing headed the Baltimore office while his partner directed the operations of the Washington office.

The former longtime Hampden resident, who had lived in the Fallstaff neighborhood of Northwest Baltimore for the past 10 years, also enjoyed music and playing tennis.

He was a self-taught guitarist, tennis player and golfer.

"Music was an important part of Arnie's life, and he spent many hours playing acoustic guitar with friends and listening to blues bands in Baltimore," said Howard Parnes, a longtime friend. "His eclectic music tastes ranged from Leon Redbone to Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown, and provided a common frame of reference for many lasting relationships."

Mike Jakubik, another friend, said that Mr. Cushing often would play his guitar and sing before house concerts and during breaks.

"His fine guitar playing and singing, coupled with his great sense of humor and offbeat repertoire, always drew an appreciative audience," Mr. Jakubik said.

"It's hard to put a label other than 'eclectic' on a guy who's been influenced by Merle Travis, T-Bone Walker, Django Reinhardt, Chet Atkins, John Prine, Steve Goodman, Hank Williams, Frank Zappa and 'Weird Al' Yankovic," he said. "He was at his best doing offbeat songs with a comic twist."

Mr. Cushing was equally adept on the tennis court.

Mr. Parnes said his friend played golf and tennis with "classic form and uncommon gracefulness."

"To prove that tennis rackets hadn't changed the game as much as I thought, he provided me an on-court demonstration, beating me 6-0 in record time using a 20-year-old wood racket," Mr. Parnes said.

Mr. Cushing was a member for 15 years of the summer inter-club tennis team at Friends School, which won five city championships.

"He was an avid player and was known for his extraordinary quickness and graciousness on and off the court," said Steve Goodman, his tennis partner.

In addition to music and sports, Mr. Cushing was a collector of Bakelite plastic radios and jewelry, pottery and folk art.

Services will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday at Sol Levinson & Bros., 8900 Reisterstown Road.

In addition to his wife, survivors include two sons, Andrew Benjamin Cushing and Stuart Maxwell Cushing, both of Mount Washington; and a sister, Phyllis Mozes of Forest Hills, N.Y.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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