Checker Bar co-owner was ‘larger than life’

Francis X. Donnelly
The Detroit News

Clinton Township — As co-owner of a Detroit institution, Checker Bar & Grill, Harry Munro met people from all walks of life.

It was a lot of folks but he remembered every one of them, and everything about them, even ones he hadn’t seen in 40 years, said his family.

Customers quickly became lifelong friends.

Mr. Munro, who disliked closing time as much as his patrons, died Sunday at his home in Clinton Township. He was 92.

“He was larger than life, quote and unquote,” said his daughter Kathy Munro. “He was Mr. Personality.”

People were drawn to the gregarious Mr. Munro and his love of life, she said.

He kept the restaurant’s jukebox full of Frank Sinatra songs and sang along to them at full warble.

People called Checker just to ask for his joke of the day.

“He was vivacious. Everyone just loved him,” said daughter Karen Munro.

And Mr. Munro loved the city right back. He was a supporter of Detroit long before the city was cool.

When the restaurant had to move in 1980 from its original location, a former county morgue, he could easily have followed many businesses to the suburbs but didn’t want to do that, said friends. Instead, Mr. Munro set up shop at Congress and Cadillac Square, where the business remains today.

As he was growing up in Corktown, his family received help from the Detroit Goodfellows, and he never forgot the support from the local charity.

“He loved everything about Detroit,” said Kathy Munro.

After serving in the Navy during World War II, Mr. Munro worked as a tool and die maker until his employer moved to the South.

In 1973, his brother-in-law sold Checker to Mr. Munro and his wife, Helen.

Checker, which opened in 1955, was known for its checkerboard tables and its burger, a half-pound of ground round.

The big burger met its match in the owner with the big personality.

The outgoing Mr. Munro was a natural fit for a people-oriented business. Then 51, the only question was why he hadn’t done it sooner.

He and his wife owned the restaurant for 41 years before selling it last year.

Besides daughters Kathy and Karen and Helen, his wife of 69 years, Mr. Munro is survived by his son, Michael, two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

A funeral service will be at 11 a.m. Friday at St. Thecla Church, 20740 S. Nunneley, Clinton Township.

Donations may be sent to Capuchin Monastery or Heartland Hospice.

(313) 223-4186