The bar in Glen Burnie closed only two days a year. And on those days — Christmas and Thanksgiving — owner Jean Louise Brady Klus invited regulars to come have dinner at her home.
“We’re not going to abandon them,” Mrs. Klus told her five children, recalled her daughter Paige SeBour.
Mrs. Klus, who owned and managed Brewster’s Saloon in Glen Burnie, died Christmas Day of complications relating to Alzheimer’s disease. The Catonsville resident was 78.
She was born in Baltimore in 1940 to Beulah Butler, a baker, and George Brady, a boxer, singer and truck driver. Her paternal grandmother, Nellie Mae Ruth, was a cousin of baseball’s Babe Ruth.
Before opening Brewster’s Saloon in 1989, Mrs. Klus spent two decades tending bar in the Catonsville and Woodlawn area. A single mother to five children, she worked during the day, turning on a crock pot before she left for the bar and returning home to eat pot roast or chicken cacciatore with her family.
“It was important for us to have dinner together,” Mrs. SeBour said. Everyone was welcome at her mother’s table, and Mrs. SeBour said she thought nothing of bringing friends over for dinner. Sometimes, children stopped by just to see Mrs. Klus.
“Inevitably, she would feed them. That was her thing,” said another daughter, Rae Beth Plitt.
In later years, patrons gravitated to Brewster’s Saloon, the bar Mrs. Klus owned and ran with her husband, James Klus, whom she married in 1992. The bar’s first location was in Catonsville, with a second opening in Glen Burnie.
“To be able to raise a family pretty much on your own takes a lot of commitment, focus and perseverance,” Mrs. SeBour said. And her mother brought those same qualities to her work.
Some customers came every day of the week, drawn to the welcoming atmosphere and Klus’ comforting cooking. Particularly popular were her cream of crab soup and her crab cakes, which were “true Maryland crab cakes with no filler and always jumbo lump,” said Ms. Plitt. Though other people took over the cooking, “You could always tell [when] she was in the kitchen,” said Mrs. SeBour — as she took special care with the plating and presentation. “She had so much to get done and she cared so much.”
A music lover, Mrs. Klus hosted blues nights at the bar on Thursdays or Sundays. Rock bands performed on the weekends: “Really big names, said Ms. Plitt, including Rob Fahey & the Pieces and Mitch Allan from the band SR-71, as well as local acts like Never Never. Band members were also known to come over for Christmas dinner.
“She would never let anyone go through a holiday alone,” Ms. Plitt said.
Mrs. Klus’ generosity and cooking skills were recognized by local media outlets, said Mrs. SeBour, including by WJZ, who named her “a conscientious, caring community member” in a “Gold 13 Salute.” Local deejays on 98 Rock frequently talked on air about their meals at Brewster’s.
Although she spent her life in bars, Mrs. Klus was never a big drinker, said Mrs. SeBour, and preferred hot or iced tea. She needed to be able to focus and often ran on very little sleep. “For the first couple of years it was hard. We’re talking three hours of sleep, five hours max,” said Ms. Plitt. “I don’t know that she actually enjoyed rest.”
She also enlisted the help of her children. “Everyone who worked for us pretty much became family,” Mrs. SeBour said. Mrs. Klus taught her daughters to take pride in their work, telling them: “If you can’t make it with love, don’t make it.” It’s a lesson that Mrs. SeBour carries today in her work as a bartender in Pasadena.
In addition to Mrs. SeBour and Ms. Plitt, Mrs. Klus is survived by her husband, James Klus; children Samuel Truitt of Pasadena, Dawn Gordon of York, Pa., and Patrick Truitt of California; two brothers, Tony Brady of Maryland’s Eastern Shore and Jimmy Brady of Ocala, Fla.; and 12 grandchildren. Two sisters preceded her in death.
A memorial service will be held at Overhills Mansion in Catonsville on Feb. 10 at 2 p.m.