John Michael Fry (“Mike”), for more than three decades the welcoming face of Mr. Henry’s of Capitol Hill, died at his home on T Street, N.W., Wednesday morning, Nov. 25. He was 64.
The cause of death was cancer, according to his friend Tom Faison, a Capitol Hill Realtor, and Rick Hauser, Fry’s long-time housemate. Faison and Hauser were primary care givers during his illness.
Fry spent most of his working life as a waiter, bartender and assistant manager at the iconic Mr. Henry’s, the venue where singer Roberta Flack was introduced to the world in the 1960s. Fry and the restaurant and bar hosted the staffs of the old Washington Evening Star and the Southeast Washington Navy Yard, Capitol Hill real estate agents, members of Congress and their staffs, and employees of the Library of Congress, all just a half-dozen blocks from Henry’s location at Sixth and Pennsylvania Avenue, Southeast.
The gay and lesbian community, of which Fry was part, was a large portion of his clientele, mingling with House members like D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton; tourists, celebrities and entertainers visiting Capitol Hill; journalists and writers like the late Diana McLellan; political operatives and TV commentators, including Donna Brazile of CNN.
“Over all those years, Michael made us soar,” Brazile said on learning of Fry’s death. “He was the music when the jukebox went silent.”
“Michael was like an uncle to my kids,” said Faison, at whose vacation home on Cape May, N.J., “Mikie” was a frequent guest. Fry enjoyed European travel, including several trips with Capitol Hill friends Ann Bradley and Caroline Shook. And he visited his ancestral Ireland with long-time friend Don Blackmon, pursuing his interest in genealogy.
“Many of us anchored our weekends to Michael’s Saturday bar at Henry’s, where he held court,” said Walter Quetsch, a resident of Capitol Hill for six decades. “Michael would always have a favorite taunt for each of us. If a bar regular made a whining comment, he would respond with, ‘Do you think I give a fuck?’”
Fry was a frequent visitor to Quetsch’s summer home on Fire Island’s Cherry Grove.
“On nearly every one of my visits to Henry’s, anyone in earshot would hear Mike ask, ‘Do you remember that time in 1980 when Terry got drunk over there by the window,'” said Terry Michael. “He paired that with, ‘You’re almost 70, you know,’ his favorite way to harass me.” Michael is a former political press secretary who has lived near Mr. Henry’s for four decades.
John Michael Fry was born March 15, 1951 in Kensington, Md., son of Gorman and Dorothy Fry, who preceded him in death. He is survived by two brothers, Chris Fry and Bill Fry, and a sister, Mary Patricia McDonnell, and by a sister-in-law Linda Fry and a brother-in-law Tom McDonnell, all of Maryland, along with many nieces and nephews.
He is also survived by numerous friends, those noted above, plus Ed McManus and Karen Lyon of Capitol Hill, with whom Fry helped promote the Capitol Hill BookFest; Alvin Ross, the retired manager of Mr. Henry’s, with whom Fry worked for more than 30 years; and Library of Congress staffers, led by Ana Lupe Cristan, who dined at Henry’s every Friday for lunch.
Tributes to Michael Fry can be made with donations to the Washington Animal Rescue League, in the name of “Scooter.” Memories can be shared at his Facebook page, “Mike Fry.” Friends are planning a memorial service.