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Stephen S. George Sr., former CEO and general manager of Haussner’s and a collector and racer of Corvettes, dies

Stephen S. George Sr. was a former president of the Maryland Restaurant Association. He's pictured in 1983.
Stephen S. George Sr. was a former president of the Maryland Restaurant Association. He's pictured in 1983. (Richard Childress / HANDOUT)

Stephen S. George Sr., former longtime CEO and general manager of Haussner’s restaurant who was an inveterate collector and racer of Corvettes, died of cancer June 7 at Beebe Medical Center in Lewes, Delaware. The former resident of Phoenix in Baltimore County was 78.

“Steve was unbelievable. He was the most friendly guy you’d ever want to meet,” said James “Jack” Lamdin, who retired from Verizon, where he’d been director of operations. “He was always interested in the other guy, always available and willing to lend a helping hand.”

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Stephen Shriver George Sr., son of Harry Edward George, a Kopper’s Co. metallurgist, and his wife, Margaret Gordy George, an administrative assistant to the then-owner of the Lord Baltimore Hotel, was born in Baltimore and raised in Phoenix.

He was a 1961 graduate of Calvert Hall College High School and attended the University of Baltimore.

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In 1964, Mr. George married Frances H. “Francie” George, whose father was master chef William Henry Haussner, who had been a chef to Kaiser Wilhelm II and founded Haussner’s in 1926, and her mother, the former Frances Wilke, an aviator, whom he married in 1935.

Mr. George wore two hats at the landmark Eastern Avenue restaurant in Highlandtown. He was both general manager and CEO, positions he held until the restaurant closed in 1999 when he and his wife, who also worked there, retired.

In 1983, Mr. George introduced an IBM computer that held an “up-to-the minute inventory and detailed cost analyses of each food and drink on Haussner’s lengthy dining room menu” that went into the 2,000 meals that the restaurant prepared from scratch each day, The Sun reported.

“Steve did everything but cook. He couldn’t even make toast,” Mrs. George said with a laugh. “He handled public relations and if a piece of trash needed to be picked up out front, he did that, too. He’d greet customers and even ran the cash register if needed.”

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After her husband’s death, a longtime customer and friend wrote Mrs. George and said, “I will miss his sense of humor and wry smile.”

“Steve loved doing things for people. It was in his blood,” she said. “He always picked up the checks for police officers, firemen and soldiers who came to the restaurant. He welcomed veterans from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center who were fed meals on days when the restaurant was closed.”

During the mayoral administration of William Donald Schaefer, who served from 1971 to 1987, a group of Baltimore business owners met regularly at Jack’s Corned Beef on Corned beef Row.

“Mayor Schaefer was trying to raise funds for Pride 1, and asked each of the business owners if they could write a check for $50,000, and the next day Steve gave him a check,” Mrs. George said.

Community involvement came naturally to Mr. George who had been a member for 50 years of the Exchange Club of Highlandtown and was its president from 1972 to 1974.

He was the first member from the private sector to serve on the board of the Baltimore Culinary College, and was a charter member of the Baltimore Convention Center and served on its board.

Mr. George was a former president of the Maryland Restaurant Association and a member of the Hennessy Travelers Association of the National Restaurant Association. He testified on behalf of the National Restaurant Association before Congress on pending bills pertaining to the hospitality business.

He was involved with promotion and tourism for the city of Baltimore and was an active member of the Maryland State Board of Tourism.

Mr. George served on numerous Fells Point planning committees and purchased and restored houses that were rented or sold to young people. He was a longtime supporter of the Special Olympics and was a board member of the Maryland Horse and Pony Association.

Mr. George and Mr. Lamdin were both 50-year members of the Exchange Club.

“He was very active in all of the charity events sponsored by the club,” Mr. Lamdin wrote in an email. “Steve was on the board of directors and the selection committee for the scholarship fund, which provides money toward tuition for eight local high school graduates. When the fund got low on cash, Steve was the first to dig into his pocket.”

Mr. Lamdin wrote that Mr. George was “most generous in buying and selling raffle tickets to honor the Southeast Baltimore police officers and firemen of the year.”

Mr. George joined the club’s effort in providing food for the needy at Thanksgiving and Christmas, including distributing it. He supported the school band fund that purchased lessons and instruments for grade school children in Southeast Baltimore, and the local Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs as well as the Patterson Park baseball and soccer programs for more than 40 years that sported the name of Haussner’s on their uniforms.

He successfully lobbied in 1998 for the first woman to be admitted to Exchange Club membership.

When the club lost its regular meeting place, Mr. George offered Haussner’s as a venue for its weekly Wednesday luncheon meetings.

“My favorite story about those meetings is that Steve always sat in a chair that had a painting of Lake Louise behind it. Now, my wife is named Louise, and for years I bugged him about giving me the picture,” Mr. Lamdin said in a telephone call. “I thought if he gave it to me, I’d keep it two or three years and then put it in a yard sale and sell it for $10. Well, when all of the artwork was sold at Sotheby’s in New York, that painting sold for $700,000.”

Not only was Mr. Lamdin a fan of the eclectic Haussner art collection, he was a fan of its seafood dishes, shrimp and “any kind of meat, and I loved their sour beef and dumplings and sausages,” he said.

An avid collector of Corvettes, Mr. George raced them from “Florida to Wisconsin and all over the country,” Mrs. George said.

He was a co-founder of the Mason-Dixon chapter of the National Corvette Restorers Society and was an active member of the Sports Car Vintage Racing Association. A resident of Millsboro since 2017, he was also a world traveler.

Graveside services were held Wednesday at Druid Ridge Cemetery in Pikesville.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a son, Stephen S. George Jr. of Millsboro, Delaware; a daughter, Kimberly Ellis George Brune of Mount Sinai, New York; and three grandchildren.

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