Leopold Hawelka, 100, who served steaming hot coffee and Viennese cafe flavor to princes, paupers, playwrights, poets, and untold thousands of tourists, died Thursday.
In the city of 1,900 cafes, Mr. Hawelka was an icon, as much part of Cafe Hawelka as its tables - scarred by burned-out cigarettes, their marble tops worn smooth by the elbows of four generations. He once served the neediest of the needy - the ragged Viennese masses who crowded his establishment over a free glass of water to escape the cold of their bombed-out city after World War II.
Cafe Hawelka was never posh. But while costly makeovers left other cafes soulless, Hawelka's grew in charm with each layer of patina laid down over the more than 70 years of ungentrified existence that left it little changed from the bleak postwar days.
Today - as generations ago - tuxedoed waiters flit around tables, precariously balancing countless Viennese coffee varieties and trademark yeast dumplings on silver trays. Wooden wall paneling is lovingly scarred by the countless initials of past visitors, and paintings exchanged for a cup of coffee by impoverished artists in the 1940s still hang on the walls.
The son of a shoemaker, Mr. Hawelka opened the coffeehouse in 1938, only to close it a year later when he was drafted into Hitler's army. A survivor of the brutal Russian front, he reopened in 1945 - to a cold and hungry clientele who reflected the grimness of those years.
"As soon as they saw smoke curling out of the stovepipe they came," Mr. Hawelka said in a 2001 interview.
Over the hiss of espresso machines and the multilingual chatter rising from the tables, Mr. Hawelka recalled getting up before dawn, walking for two hours to the Vienna Woods, and trudging back with a sack of firewood to keep the stove burning.