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Varsity drive-in longtime worker Erby Walker dies at 70
This is a Dec. 9, 2002, file photo of Erby Walker, counterman at Atlanta's famed Varsity drive-in who died Monday of Cardiac arrest in Atlanta. He was 70. - photo by ASSOCIATED PRESS/file
    ATLANTA — Erby Walker dedicated more than five decades to serving up chili dogs and frosted orange drinks at Atlanta’s famous Varsity drive-in.
    The animated counterman who became a local celebrity with his ‘‘What’ll ya have?’’ died Monday of cardiac arrest at Grady Memorial Hospital. He was 70.
    He had been hospitalized after falling down a flight of stairs at his home last week, said his daughter, Anissa Thompson. Walker had a heart attack in 1990, after which his doctor told him to stop eating Varsity hot dogs.
    ‘‘I said ’What are you trying to do, kill me now?’’’ Walker told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution at the time.
    Walker started sweeping floors at the Varsity in 1952 at age 15. He was the first black man to work the counter when the drive-in desegregated in 1964.
    Over the years, he served food to celebrities including Muhammad Ali, Burt Reynolds and former President Bill Clinton. In 2003, the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau inducted him into the Hospitality Hall of Fame.
    Walker tried to retire in 2003 but asked for his job back after just a few months. He worked as recently as last week, the day he fell at his home and broke several bones.
    He is survived by 10 children, 19 grandchildren and seven great grandchildren. His wife, Maggie, died in 1999.
    Varsity food will be served after his funeral, scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday at St. Paul AME Church in Atlanta.
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