Friends mourn beloved gay blackjack dealer

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A celebration to remember a popular gay man who died this week is set for Friday at Burkhart's, the same bar where he operated Blackjack tables and touched the lives of scores of people across gay Atlanta.

Tim Sisk's death on Monday prompted an outpouring of support and tributes from friends he's made over the years through Tim's 21 Atlanta, a company that operated Blackjack tables at gay bars including Burkhart's and Eagle. Friends will celebrate him during a Memorial Service for Tim Sisk on Friday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Please feel free to stop by for a drink, a story, and yes, a few tales. Tim never met a stranger. Please bring only smiles, laughs, fond memories, and yes, even a few lies. The service will be followed by a night of fun and blackjack.

Sisk's niece, Lindsey Magdalene Sisk, says family members in North Carolina will hold a small service for him there later, though details have not yet been confirmed. But she thanked his friends, who opened their arms to her and other relatives as they visited him recently in Atlanta.

"I can't even begin to tell you how much he will be missed by his family here and his family in Atlanta," Magdalene Sisk says. "Everyone treated my family with such kindness and warmth while they were there over these past few weeks. We are all so grateful for that and to hear the stories of the love that radiated out of almost everyone they met. So many good stories and funny times. It makes me so happy that he had friends that were like family to him that he truly cared for and that truly cared for him."

She says she recalls times when she was younger in which Sisk would fill the house with laughter and love.

"I honestly always wanted to be more like the person that he was," she says. "So kind and forgiving. Always there to lend a helping hand. I just have so many things that have been running through my head these past few days, so many memories and so many good times. All so special to me."

Bob Crossett, a friend of Sisk's, will conduct the memorial service on Friday. He says Sisk was a "special soul" with a big heart.

"Tim was one of those special souls that, no matter what was going on in his life, he had a smile, a joke for everyone," Crossett says. "Though his table basically broke even, he would always say, he was there to help the dealers with jobs, and to provide a meeting place for friends and strangers to meet, hangout, swap lies and have fun. He had a huge heart. On more than one occasion, he would just show up at my door knowing that I was going through a particular tough time. He was always there for his friends."

Sisk was a big supporter of Lost N Found Youth, a non-profit that cares for homeless LGBT youth in Atlanta. Paul Swicord, LNF's treasurer, played Blackjack at Sisk's tables at the Eagle and Burkhart's.

"Working with homeless LGBT youth whose families have disowned them can be stressful at times," Swicord says. "When Tim Sisk was at the Blackjack table I was sure to get a big hug and my spirits lifted. I always looked forward to seeing him and getting a boost in my day. It is hitting me hard right now as to how much we have lost in his passing. I am sure that I am not the only one who has benefited from knowing him.

'You missed out on knowing a real life angel'

 

Robby Kelley, co-owner of the Eagle, described Sisk as fun loving with a good sense of humor.

"He was a man who never had a bad thing to say and always tried to cheer you up," Kelley says. "If you played cards with him the only thing to avoid were his over the top bad jokes and the pink chip blessing, which was more a curse. He will be missed by anyone who took the time not just to play cards with him, but to just have a drink with."

Kenneth Kurtz, a dealer for Sisk, says the pair struck up a friendship when he moved to Atlanta from Wisconsin five years ago. When Kurtz decided to start his own Blackjack table at Opus 1, Sisk helped him equip it and get started. But his generosity extended beyond the Blackjack tables, he says.

"When I had to have open heart surgery two months after I started with him, he visited me in the hospital every day, and even bought me a recliner to aid in my recovery when I got home," Kurtz says. "This is the kind of person, friend, Tim was to everyone. If you were to look up the word 'selfless' in the dictionary, it would not be surprising to see a picture of our friend, Tim Sisk, next to it."

Bobby Von Tastic describes Sisk as a soul you met once in a lifetime. He met Sisk through playing at his Blackjack tables at Burkhart's and that opened the door to meeting new friends when he first moved to Atlanta.

"Tim always had a smile on his face, no matter what mood he was in, or what was going on in his life. You could always count on him to have something witty to say that would bring a smile to your face," Von Tastic says. "Tim will be missed. He is leaving a huge void within our community. My heart is broken knowing we lost such a great man."

Charles Gibson, one of Sisk's dealers, called him an "angel."

"If you didn't know Tim, you missed out on knowing a real life angel," Gibson says. "Tim had a way of making everyone around him smile, with a big hug and some witty remarks that would make you forget your troubles. After learning that I had become isolated in my home after the death of my lover, Tim offered to teach me to deal at his Blackjack table. It was a pleasure knowing such a great man. One who never met a stranger and was the most selfless person I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. He will be truly missed."

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