"We kind of had to teach him how to work in a restaurant," Smith recalls. But White learned quickly and soon developed his own routine.
He always arrived 20 minutes early for his 6 p.m. shift, friend and café regular Mark Tyndall says. He would "run around the bar and reorganize everything around the bar that was already perfectly organized," then dash off to clean the bathrooms. Even after he became part-owner of the Bamboo 10 years later, Tyndall says, he never told anyone else to do the dirty work. "If he was there, he was the guy that did it."
Even after his diagnosis with cancer, Evans says, White tried to fulfill his duties at the café. "He wanted to be strong enough to do that, but it didn't happen," she says. Still, he refused to let his illness keep him from going out to art shows and dinners with friends.
His staff considered him more a friend than a boss, says longtime waitress Elizabeth Evans. When someone needed help with a down payment or the first month's rent, he loaned them the money. He never ordered anyone around, Tyndall says, but everyone knew his expectations.
White loved traveling, art, history, literature, opera and especially the Red Sox. His prodigious memory could instantly summon up facts he first learned decades ago, his friends say, and regulars knew to consult him when bar debates reached an impasse. "He was always the final arbiter," LaPrade says.
Never argumentative, White nonetheless "didn't suffer fools quietly," Tyndall says. He recalls one night when a woman, "who was obviously not a regular," came into the bar and saw a baseball game playing on the television.
"Baseball? I hate baseball," she complained. Without looking up from his dishes, White replied simply, "Avert your eyes." Melissa Scott Sinclair
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