Phillip Gene Gaines, a longtime D.C. resident who worked as a maître d’ at the popular D.C. restaurant Port of Piraeus for more than 20 years, died July 24 at a hospice in Arlington, Va., from a heart infection. He was 62.
Gaines was born and raised in Hagerstown, Md., and was a 1970 graduate of South Hagerstown High School and a member of the Hagerstown Christian Church, according to information released by a family member.
He and his brother Gregory sang with local Hagerstown bands and musical groups. He also worked as a ballroom dance instructor in Hagerstown.
Wallace Dickson, his partner of 40 years, said Gaines began work in the bar and restaurant business shortly after moving to Washington in the early 1970s. Among his first jobs in D.C. was that of a bar back at the Georgetown Grill, a popular gay bar at the time, Dickson said.
Gaines worked in several other establishments before landing a job at Port of Piraeus at its location at the time at 1155 21st St., N.W., in the city’s West End section. Dickson said that during his tenure at the popular Greek restaurant Gaines saw its ownership change from father to son.
“He knew every customer by name,” said Dickson. “He never forgot a name or a face.”
Dickson said he first met Gaines in the early 1970s at the then newly opened gay bar Mr. P’s near Dupont Circle about a year after Dickson separated from his wife and was just becoming acquainted with D.C.’s gay scene.
“He knew people all over town from the bars,” Dickson said. “He was my ambassador to the gay community. And he became my savior.”
Dickson said that in May 2008 Gaines suffered a severe stroke that resulted in the loss of his kidney function, requiring dialysis treatments three days a week. This forced Gaines to take an early retirement on disability.
The kidney problems led to further health issues that recently precipitated a severe infection of a heart valve, which was the immediate cause of his death, Dickson said.
“He had a long journey with the kidney problems,” said Dickson. “He never complained once. “He was a happy and cheerful guy. He always had a bright outlook on life. He was a dear person and he’s going to be missed by me.”
In addition to Dickson, Gaines is survived by his siblings, Arthur D. Gaines Jr., Judith Gaines, JoAnn Gaines Claybon, and Denise Gaines, all of Hagerstown; Julia Gaines Harris of Winchester, Va.; Timothy Gaines Simmons of Suitland, Md.; and many nieces and nephews, other cherished relatives and many dear friends.
Burial of his ashes is scheduled for Sept. 26 at Rose Hill Cemetery in Hagerstown to be followed by a memorial service on Sept. 27 at a location to be announced.
A gathering of friends and neighbors in Washington in a celebration of his life is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 17, at 11 a.m., at the home of A. Cornelius Baker, Apt. 500, 1707 Columbia Rd., N.W.