For more than 40 years, John "Jack" D. Mooney, served up fried chicken, his special "jo-jo" potatoes and a side of one-liners that often had people lined up on Penn Avenue N. as they waited for a table inside the small pub on Minneapolis' North Side known as Mooney's.

"The food was that good and the place was that small," said Mooney's son, John Mooney Jr. of St. Michael. "It was a shoebox of a place. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, they were lined up. ... It was good ol' American blue-collar food."

It was more than a good place to eat; it was the place where gregarious Jack Mooney made everyone feel at home. "People just wanted to be Dad's friend," his son said.

Jack Mooney, 87, died May 2 of complications from congestive heart failure.

Mooney, who grew up in Rock Lake, N.D., set his sights on running a pub while standing in London's Waterloo train station. World War II was on, and Mooney, a machine gunner, was on his way home after a German tank killed three of his buddies, tore out one of his eyes and left shrapnel in his skull.

He noticed a sign across the street for Mooney's Pub. It drew him in for a beer, and he decided to open his own pub back home.

Mooney put up his own shingle in the 1950s. "He built it up from the ground up," said daughter Therese Mooney of Minneapolis.

It was the place she and her siblings, along with cousins and some neighborhood kids, grew up.

"I started out wiping tables and booths and checking the cracks in the seats for lost change," she said. "We spent a lot of time in the basement peeling the fat off chicken and scrubbing potatoes. My dad was always coming up with new recipes."

"He really enjoyed the social aspect of the place," his son said. "He could engage anyone, anytime. He ... was just a very likable guy."

By the mid-1990s, Mooney retired. The pub at 3221 Penn Av. N. continued under new management for a few years until it was torn down to make way for a parking lot.

Retired, Mooney had more time for hunting geese back in Rock Lake, and playing golf. But it seemed he never was too far away from the kitchen and doing a good deed.

"He would take the shirt off his back for anyone," Therese said. "When some of his customers got too old to come into the pub, he would bring meals to them, and he wouldn't let them pay."

In addition, there was always a pot of soup on the stove that he would divvy up and take to his friends on the North Side.

Mooney is survived by his wife, Jean; his other daughters, Kathleen Oss of Prescott, Wis., Joan Mooney of Waseca and Mary Mooney of Orono; sisters, Alice Milliren of Minneapolis and Joyce Kennedy of Deer Lodge, Mont.; grandchildren and a great-grandson. Services have been held.

Mary Lynn Smith • 612-673-4788