Angela G. Thompson, who in 49 years of waitressing at Sabatino's in Little Italy memorized her orders and rarely used a pad, died of a heart attack Nov. 15 at Franklin Square Hospital Center. She was 76 and lived in Highlandtown.
"She worked until the week before she died," said her son, Michael R. Thompson of Baltimore. "She wanted very much to make 50 years at the same job."
Born Angela Goth in Ansbach, Germany, she met and married a Virginia-born serviceman, Richard McCarty Thompson. She moved to Baltimore with him and lived initially in Little Italy. She taught herself to read and write English, but even so, she would occasionally send her children to the corner store with a note for a bar of "soup" or a can of "soap." She retained a trace of her German accent.
Friends said she wanted to apply for a job at Chiapparelli's Restaurant, but it was closed that day. She then walked to Sabatino's and got her job.
Known as Angie or Miss Angie, she was recalled as a matriarchal presence in the restaurant. For many years, she made out the schedules for all the serving staff and when someone failed to show up for work, she filled in.
"There were times when she worked seven days a week. It was common for her to work a 15-hour day," said the restaurant's general manager, Phillip Culotta, who worked with her 37 years. "She was the kind of person who cared about her family, cared about her co-workers and cared about her customers."
Her son said she worked Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to give a break to workers with children.
"She would get home early Christmas morning and we would celebrate at 3 a.m.," her son said. "She would then rest and return to work."
Mr. Culotta characterized her as being a "mother to all of us." He said she had a knack for keeping people in line and often joked with and teased customers.
"She knew how to handle people," Mr. Culotta said. "She had a keen sense of knowing how far she could go without overstepping her boundaries."
Family members said she could take an entire order for 12 people without paper — and without making a mistake.
She routinely waited on sports figures, including baseball umpires who were regulars. And while she also waited on entertainers such as Liberace and Anthony Quinn, colleagues said she was no different with a celebrity or a regular patron.
"With some families she had waited on three generations," Mr. Culotta said. "And as good as her memory was, she did not recall names. I would tell her that such a family would be coming in, and she would say, 'I don't know names, I know what they eat.'"
After years of waiting on Baltimore Colts players, she said, she found it odd that no one tipped her off they would be leaving Baltimore for Indianapolis. She waited on some members just days before the team's abrupt exit in 1984.
For many years, Mrs. Thompson carried her own trays up and down the stairs of the restaurant's two floors. In recent years she worked only on the first floor and cut her weekly schedule to Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays at the restaurant, which is one of the few in the city to have dining well after midnight on weekends.
"She had the ability to remember what people wanted before they sat down at a table," said Lenora "Peachy" Dixon, a fellow waitress and close friend. "All her customers loved her for this. She knew what they drank and ate and they were amazed by this."
She also had a supply of disposable cameras and often took photos of her regular customers. When they returned, she presented them with their pictures.
Her son said his mother was proud to reside in America. She received her citizenship in 1973 and a decade later contributed to the preservation of the Statue of Liberty. In August 1978, she won a Baltimore Magazine "best waitress" award. The Restaurant Association of Maryland and the Hospitality Education Foundation awarded her a lifetime achievement award for longevity in service in 1999.
Family members said she normally did not eat at the restaurant and preferred her own cooking. She would come home and make German-style potato salad, potato pancakes and green salads. When she had a day off, she often watched old movies in her bed and ate cheese, crackers and grapes.
A memorial Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. Dec. 6 at St. Leo's Roman Catholic Church, Stiles and Exeter streets.
In addition to her son, survivors include a daughter, Linda Curley of Tampa, Fla.; five grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter. Her marriage ended in divorce.