Out and About (Sort of): Local Events Reflect Easygoing Charm by Howard Freedlander

There’s something about summer that provides a stage for events that project community cohesion in a low-key, down-to-earth way. Nothing flashy, just comfortable and relaxing.

A month ago, my family, including two grandchildren age 6 and 4, participated in the Trappe carnival, organized to raise money for the local volunteer fire department. We watched the standard parade of queens and princesses, fire department equipment, floats with young baseball players and politicians. The requisite tossing of candy to eager children lining the parade route particularly engaged and thrilled my six-year-old grandson as he seemed to scoop up most of the goodies. His mother, who eschews sweets in her health-conscious home, seemed sanguine by the candy onslaught.

What impressed me was the carnival, as the dollars seemed to fly out of my wallet. The games were geared to children who could win prizes with some ease. I liked the fact that the games were simple and uncomplicated.

Most of all, I liked the small-town feel of the Trappe carnival. I liked that the money raised would support a volunteer organization critical to Trappe and the surrounding area. I learned a long time ago that volunteer fire departments provide the backbone of towns and cities on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Their skills at fighting fires and providing paramedical support are invaluable.

Just the past Friday morning, I spent some time at the Talbot County Fair and again appreciated the down-home ambience. I watched the riding competition as young girls, ignoring the heat and humidity, put their horses and themselves through their paces. I was impressed by the obvious preparation undertaken by the riders and their serious competitive spirit.

I chatted with a friend who was cooking for the Easton Ruritan on this hot, muggy day. He’s always loved county and state fairs.

As I walked around the fair, I was reminded that Talbot County is still an agricultural community where youths raised on farms want to show off their skills and enthusiasm.

Being at the county fair brought back memories of the Queen Anne’s County Fair in 1979, a time when I was the editor of the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. I was asked to help judge a dog contest. I knew nothing. Fortunately, I sat next to a woman who knew almost everything about dog-judging, instructing me to look at poise, posture, movement and head size. My aptitude as a dog judge was comparable to being asked to judge a cat show. The pickings are slim when a local newspaper editor is asked to judge dogs—while hoping that the competition is not a prelude to the Westminster Kennel Club event in New York City.

I was pleased that I wasn’t being judged as a judge. That would have been embarrassing.

Intending when I thought about writing this column to avoid any expression of strong, possibly controversial statements, I found that The Sunday Star article about characterization of Talbot County as the “New Hamptons” particularly irksome. In fact, I found the description downright disgusting.

Nothing I’ve heard about the Hamptons seems at all alluring. It is defined in my mind by opulence and conspicuous consumption, I wondered if this rarified enclave includes a Trappe-like carnival and a county fair focused on the area’s traditional agricultural roots. Perhaps I’m being far too judgmental. Perhaps I’m right.

As a 41-year resident of Talbot County, I certainly am aware of its affluence and presence of political and corporate celebrities. Waterfront homes are magnificent, some of them secondary residences. At the same time, I’ve seen first-hand the incredible generosity and community engagement of many residents who have retired to the county. Many of our non-profits either would be non-existent or non-functioning without the support of wealthy, caring residents.

The characterization of Talbot County as the new Hamptons is not new. I recall hearing it before and feeling equally put off by what some might consider a compliment. For me, it connotes pretension. I’ve seen little or no showing off by most fiends with whom I’ve had the pleasure to serve on nonprofit boards.

A small-town parade and carnival and a county fair reflect the goodness of our county, as do other events organized by cultural institutions and non-profits. An image of pretension has little value.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Pervasive Angst of Drugs, Soothing Effect of Music by Howard Freedlander

Within 72 hours, I listened to Sheriff Joe Gamble describe the continuously troubling opiate epidemic in Talbot County and throughout the state and then the sounds of music performed in a lovely local home.

One presentation was jarring, the other soothing and refreshing. One shook your senses, the other appealed to your soul and love of musical excellence.

Though joined by others in the law enforcement and health care fields in promoting public awareness, Sheriff Gamble easily gains an audience’s attention and generates alarm as he tells gruesome stories about young people—situated on every socioeconomic tier—who are battling opiate use and abuse. Death from overdose permeates his tales of woe.

For example, he told about a phone call from a mother asking him to come to her home. And so he did, talking with an alarmed parent as her son tearfully told about his journey into illegal and disabling drugs. Gamble knew and liked this young man, having coached him in county sports. This young man, a lacrosse player who recently graduated from college, explained how he got hooked, thanks to a friend who offered him opiates to relieve the stress of a hangover. His addiction had begun. He was on a downhill spiral–a good kid from a good family, facing the consequences of an insidious addiction.

Sheriff Gamble was in familiar territory. He had heard similar stories and observed the painful, sometimes deadly results, not just for the young person feeling imprisoned by drug abuse but the parents trying desperately to find a solution, to avoid losing a child to an overdose.

When I asked Gamble what resulted from this anguishing conversation, he said that the family sent the young man to an expensive treatment center. Some parents can do that. Others can’t. The community suffers from increased crime brought on by the inevitable search for money to support a horrific habit. The cycle of drug abuse and crime continues unabated.

Though I no longer have children living under roof, I well understand that our community is fighting a difficult scourge facing an increasing number of families who are struggling to keep their children alive and healthy. These families can be neighbors or work associates or even relatives.

I’ve written before in this space about observing the demographic of people attending funerals at a nearby funeral home. Not too long ago I saw a number of young people standing on the steps waiting to enter the funeral home. A nosey neighbor at times, I asked an older man heading to the funeral home if he would tell me the age of the deceased person. The answer was 29. As we walked away, he said, eerily so, “There are no aging heroin addicts.” That remark has stuck with me for months. I learned more about the deceased person when I spoke at a restaurant with friends who had just attended the viewing. I was saddened.

So, what do I do besides write this column? As a grandparent, I can ask my one daughter who has teenaged children whether she’s had difficult conversations with her son and daughter about drugs. I can probe ever so carefully. And then I can pray that my grandchildren will avoid the web of opiate destruction.

As I sat comfortably in friends’ living room, “a musical salon” for two hours, followed by pleasant conversation, I absorbed the soothing sounds of Antonio Vivaldi, the exuberant melodies of Wolfgang Mozart, the beautiful poetry of Franz Schubert, the wonderful American folk song “Shenandoah,” and the feel-good words of Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies” and the Gershwin brothers’ “Our Love Is Here to Stay.”

The musicians were superb. A soprano whose voice was spellbinding, a violinist whose range seemed endless and a pianist who provided the foundation of an unforgettable blending of musical skills and varied offerings—it was incredible. I felt transported to a world without worries, one where you simply had to allow your senses to appreciate first-class talent.

I must add a caveat. I was raised in a musical family, one anchored to an omnipresent piano. I rebelled, however. I was the only member of my immediate family who strayed from the ivories. I lacked the skill and, more importantly, the patience to practice. My foray into the accordion and drums ended in disappointment for my parents and frustration for me.

Along the line, I inadvertently savored lovely music. I could listen. I could applaud excellence. I could not, however, dissect the elements of a performance. That was okay.

I draw no parallel between Sheriff Joe Gamble’s distress alarms and the cultural beauty that marked the end of Saturday afternoon. One strikes the chords of human concern—an SOS signal that none of us should ignore. The other activates your senses to beneficial effect of music written by masters and performed by superior artists.

Opposites mark our lives.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Bemused Brits Unfazed by July 4th by Howard Freedlander

Ever wonder what our British friends think about our celebration of July 4th as we gather for cookouts with family and friends, watch fireworks with great delight and wear patriotic clothes?

What I don’t wonder about is whether current residents of the Mother Country feel embarrassed about the defeat of British forces during the Revolutionary War. I suspect they don’t care a whit. What happened more than 240 years ago when our rebellious young nation rose up in angry protest against what it considered repressive treatment by its British rulers is all in the past.

My not very extensive search for insight to the British viewpoint on American frivolity on the fourth day of July led me to a reservoir of good humor (or should I say “humour?”).

Vigilant about injecting politics into this week’s column, I will only say that the Brits must be having a field day in applying their wry, sometimes biting commentary about the ridiculous behavior of our cartoonish president. Okay, readers, I will move on; I vented, moderately.

As I combed through a maze of internet writings, I happened upon Redux / Suffolk Scribblings and found a mother lode of humor entitled “5 Reasons why the British should celebrate 4th July.” I will summarize them:

  • “It was our idea.” The thinking goes like this: Thomas Paine, born in Thetford, England, wrote “Common Sense” only two years after arriving in the United States, it was an early book promoting colonial America’s independence. John Adams, one of our founders, heaped great praise on the book.
  • “We got to keep Canada.” Though I said I would not delve into our nation’s messy, dysfunctional politics, I must say that Great Britain is far better off at this time in history with our civilized neighbor to the north than our divisive, poorly functioning states.
  • By paying attention to other colonies after granting independence to its bumptious American cousins, Britain could focus on India—and enjoy its culinary delights such as curry.
  • July 4th is the only day in the calendar year that Americans pronounce correctly. “For 364 days in the year, our American cousins say April Sixth or February Eleventh. It is only on this special day that the date is pronounced correctly: the fourth of July. “
  • Perhaps the most important and substantive reason (my sarcasm) is the retention of cricket as a singular possession of the British, regardless of the popularity of baseball in the United States. Bemoaning the domination by Australia, India, the West Indies and South Africa in cricket, the writer muses: “Can you imagine how dominant the US would be if all 400 plus million people loved the game?”

To turn serious, I find that the most significant expression of British acknowledgement of our July 4th celebration occurred on July 4, 1940. In an incredibly effective and eloquent speech before the British parliament, Prime Minister Winston Churchill goaded President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to leave the sidelines of war waged by Nazi Germany and join Great Britain in fighting this menace. Specifically, Churchill succeeded in persuading Roosevelt to approve the Lend Lease program involving vitally needed warships.

What Churchill said was masterful. He told the world, including the reluctant United States, that England would stand resolutely committed to defending democracy against a rapidly spreading despotism.

“Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills, we shall never surrender, and even if, which I don’t for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s name, the new world, with all power and might, steps forth to the rescue and liberation of the old.”

So, ironically and strategically, Churchill rallied his countrymen on America’s Independence Day—but, most importantly, pushed the United States into a conflict it no longer could ignore. Churchill understood that the Free World was in desperate jeopardy. This crusade required dependence by allied countries on each other to preserve freedom.

Surrounded by good cheer, good food, and glorious fireworks, the Fourth of July has a moral underpinning to it. Winston Churchill understood that link and persuaded President Roosevelt to give renewed attention to American responsibility.

Happy Fourth, USA and Great Britain!

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Old News Maybe, but the Message is Not by Howard Freedlander

When controversy in 2015 engulfed our community about the Confederate statue of the Talbot Boys in front of the Talbot County Courthouse in Easton, I did not devote a word in this weekly column about it. I held no position. I was torn.

While I condemned a statue on public property commemorating the Confederate forces in the Civil War, I also adhered to the concept that it is foolhardy to rewrite history. The 84 local soldiers named on the statue fought bravely for a cause in which they believed—though it was a corrupt one based on retaining the evil institution of slavery and white supremacy. Slavery repressed and imprisoned blacks in a system that brought great riches to white property owners throughout the South and Mid-Atlantic.

Some readers may wonder why I am resurrecting an issue settled by the county council after months of hearings and furious letter-writing in The Star Democrat. Discussion over the proposed removal of the Talbot Boys monument was part of national revulsion over the shameful killing of African–Americans in a Charleston, SC church.

I changed my mind after recently reading eloquently passionate and reasoned words spoken by Mayor Mitch Landrieu before the removal in mid-May of four monuments in New Orleans paying homage to Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard.

I now view the propriety of the Talbot Boys statue in a harsher light. I also realize that my epiphany will make little or no difference.

We see no monument in front of the courthouse referring to slave auctions that took place there. This omission certainly would represent, if not the erasure of history, the purposeful ignorance of it. While I hardly suggest such a monument, I think thought should be given to an unvarnished view of history—if that’s the primary argument behind retaining the Talbot Boys.

In explaining the reasoning behind the removal of four monuments in New Orleans, a place well known as America’s largest slave market, Mayor Landrieu said:

“The historic record is clear; the Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and P.G.T. Beauregard statues were not erected to honor these men, but as part of the movement which became known as The Cult of the Lost Cause. The cult had one goal—through monuments and through other means—to rewrite history to hide the truth, which is that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity…these men did not fight for the United States of America. They fought against it. They may have been warriors, but in this cause, they were not patriots. These statues are not just stone and metal. They celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy, ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement and the terror it actually stood for.”

Revisionist history states that the Civil War was not about slavery but about states’ rights. Confederate states were not fighting, so the argument goes, to retain slavery but their rights to govern and conduct themselves as they wished. This is hogwash.

In Mayor Landrieu’s powerful speech, he cites remarks made by Alexander Stephens, vice president of the Confederacy, in which he said, “the cornerstone (of the Confederacy) that rests upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

Stephens’ words sound eerily similar to those spoken by Adolph Hitler. It’s critical to remember that no statues of Hitler stand as reminders of history. It was an unforgivable blight that never will go away. Concentration camps stand as a grim reminder of human terror and unconscionable behavior.

While I have no desire to stir the cauldron, I do think that the African-American mayor of Richmond, VA, Levar Stoney has developed a workable solution to the awful story of slavery and the horrific human and physical damage imposed by the Civil War as symbolized by statues that define Monument Avenue in the former capital of the Confederacy.

The theme is always the same. The monuments in Richmond and elsewhere represent false history set deceptively in stone and bronze. They pay tribute to military heroes and political figures in enabling Jim Crow discrimination and repression to continue.

Mayor Stoney has recommended interpretation—historical context—to accompany the monuments. The purpose is to perpetuate truth, not revisionist history. Some sort of explanation would provide the “other side” of history.

At some point, I suggest that county government and community leaders consider a plaque or sign beside the Talbot Boys monument to address the horror and stain of slavery. While I applaud the bravery of the Confederate soldiers, I believe the omission of a monument to Union soldiers is glaringly wrong and misguided.

The presence of the Frederick Douglass statue does not provide equal treatment; it stands on its own in honoring a person who gained national fame for his eloquent abolitionist writings and speeches

Some might say that our community has had its dialogue—and that’s true. The county council members strove to listen to all viewpoints and make a reasoned decision. I do not intend to criticize the county council. I do suggest, however, paying attention to actions taken by other jurisdictions.

History should reflect the truth. Even if it is inconvenient.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): A Community with History Driven by Tumult by Howard Freedlander

For nearly 41 years I have driven across the Miles River Bridge through the small African-American community of Unionville and never understood until recently its significance not only in Talbot County and the Eastern Shore but also in our nation.

I just didn’t “get it.”

Surrounded by waterfront estates and expensive homes, Unionville seemed oddly placed. The modest homes and well-kept church gained scant attention through my car window. I have since learned that I should have delved more deeply; I should have opened my eyes and mind to a community tied not only to the Civil War but to a Quaker landowner who despised slavery.

Thanks to an exhibit at the Talbot Historical Society and specifically Larry Denton, its dynamic executive director, I learned that the 150-year-old Unionville exists only through the generosity of Ezekiel Cowgill, a Quaker abolitionist who leased lots to 18 soldiers–former slaves and free blacks who fought for the Union in the Civil War Many of their descendants, including Harriette Lowery, still live in Unionville. Her ancestor was Benjamin Demby.

A Delaware native, Ezekiel Cowgill bought Lombardy, a dilapidated Miles River Neck farm, in 1856. He employed only free blacks. Most of the land on Miles River Neck belonged to the Lloyd family; the owner of the Wye House plantation at the time was Colonel Edwin Lloyd VI, whose bustling enterprise included hundreds of slaves. According to the Maryland State Archives, “Ezekiel Cowgill was affected by his slaveholding neighbors and expressed surprise to find himself living as a neighbor to slaveholders.”

It’s not surprising that Cowgill was one of two votes in Talbot County for Abraham Lincoln during the 1860 presidential election. I wonder how this principled man coped with being a lonely voice in Talbot County politics.

His Quaker roots go back to Delaware, where he served as State Treasurer and the trustee of a fund used to establish a school for free blacks under the auspices of the Preparative Quaker Meeting of Little Creek. After moving to Maryland, he became a “well-respected and influential member of the Quaker community in Talbot County” as a member of the Third Haven Meeting in Easton, according to the Maryland State Archives.

I have spent four paragraphs writing about Ezekiel Cowgill because I suspect that his story as a Quaker abolitionist who treated blacks fairly and humanely is one duplicated elsewhere in the United States. His leasing of land, however, for $1 a month to Civil War veterans who served with colored regiments—11 of the returning soldiers had previously been slaves on the Lloyd plantation—was an incredible and notable act embodying generosity both of spirit and material support. Though the leases generally extended 30 years, one granted to Isaac Copper spanned 99 years.

When I think about the 150th anniversary of Unionville exhibit at the Talbot Historical Society and the recent event sponsored by the Frederick Douglass Honor Society at Wye House on May 21, 2017, I feel pleased that blacks and whites are acknowledging together the county’s history—good, bad and ugly. I hope that other communities above and below the Mason-Dixon Line are facing the past equally as honestly and forthrightly.

As I’ve written before, grace comes in different forms.

Ezekiel Cowgill’s move to Talbot County changed the social order of the Miles River Neck. The establishment of Unionville paid visible tribute to Civil War veterans who escaped slavery and degradation to fight in a conflict that changed our country. The current actions by the Frederick Douglass Honor Society and the Talbot Historical Society represent a form of grace in the united efforts of well-intended individuals to give visibility (“transparency” in current vernacular) to periods of history that often displayed despicable human behavior.

Now, as I drive through Unionville, my eyes are wide open.
I see a community founded on the goodness of Ezekiel Cowgill and populated initially by resilient former slaves who fought in a horribly divisive and destructive Civil War. I see descendants of the Lloyd family, such as Richard Tilghman and his wife Beverly, and a descendant of an original Unionville resident, Harriette Lowery, working in unison to build ties that will last another 150 years.

Our county and the Eastern Shore are rife with history. We all benefit from examining it.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): You Can “Go Home” With Some Retrospection by Howard Freedlander

It’s often said, you can’t go home, you can’t recapture or repeat an idyllic time in childhood or youth.

The past Saturday when my wife and I watched our 12-year-old granddaughter play softball at Route 18 Park outside Centreville, I had flashbacks to another fun-producing time when her mother and aunt played softball on the Eastern Shore.

I was a parent heavily invested in a daughter’s athletic performance, possibly too much so. I didn’t sit on my emotions. I had played sports throughout college. I expected my daughters to do well. If their performance were lackluster on a particular day, I expected exhaustive effort. At the same time, I tried to be positive about their prowess, even if I felt otherwise. Sometimes I said nothing after a game. I’m not sure my behavior was constructive.

It was so different that past Saturday. I watched with little or no emotional investment. I was there to provide some grandparent support; the results were less important than they were 30-35 years ago.

In days of yore, I often was an obnoxious parent. I can’t deny it. I yelled and screamed, mostly at the umpires. I tried to encourage my daughters, even when it hurt. I tried ever so hard to be a patient parent, able to forgive my daughters should their performance fail to measure up to my too-high expectations.

It’s far easier being a grandparent. Your sportsmanship is much more admirable than it was at another time, when victories were of utmost importance. Your attitude is healthier. You’re just there, because being a more mellow spectator seems important to your daughter and granddaughter. Your daughter is empowered to shout and moan, though I rarely have witnessed that. Her demeanor is far more mature than her father exhibited so many years ago.

As a grandparent, you’re just a kindly accessory. You’re treated as “old” people, as we were Saturday as two team parents moved a canopy to enshroud us in shade and improve our experience at the ballfield. Is it respect or sympathy that motivates this generosity of spirit? Does it matter?

Aging has some advantages, though not many. Sometimes, your pride has to take a backseat to nice, benevolent gestures of friendship. Sometimes, you accept the extra effort of kindness without reservation or embarrassment.

As I watched my granddaughter work hard to hit the ball and contribute to her team, I was reminded of the intrinsic value of sports. While it does matter if you win or lose, if you hustle or hold back, if you focus or daydream, the opportunity to be part of a team is invaluable.

Though I periodically decry the predominance of sports in American society, often to the exclusion of cultural pursuits, I feel thrilled that women’s sports have gained more attention and respect and public support. No longer is a woman, driven to succeed in amateur or professional sports, stigmatized by athletic excellence. It’s perfectly acceptable to seek to succeed in a competitive sports venue and know that the American public honors your abilities and prowess—while at the same time appreciates your human qualities.

As a parent of two daughters, I unabashedly encouraged athletic participation. And, yes, I might have been too pushy for top-flight performance. I also understood, however, that learning to win, participating in endless practices and melding your talents with others were life lessons that should be and in fact are available to male and female athletes alike.

Maybe, just maybe, women’s sports have opened up other opportunities in other fields, such as business, the law, academia, medicine, science, government, and non-profits. I’m realistic enough to know that women still face discrimination in the work world in terms of salary and upward mobility. Change comes slowly, glacially so.

America is still the land of opportunity. Women can advance from playing softball on a well-kept field at Route 18 Park outside Centreville to leadership in a major corporation or university. Being on a team can provide valuable life lessons.

A grandparent can be hopeful about a grandchild’s future. We can even mentor benignly. The ultimate responsibility, of course, lies with a parent and a child.

As it should be. Grandparents have had their turn at bat.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): 2017 Chesapeake Champion Thrives in Nature by Howard Freedlander

Subject a week ago of a Talbot Spy interview, Jim Brighton epitomizes a nature lover who has undertaken a project that has created a first-time inventory of plant and animal species in Maryland. And he’s done this on a part-time basis.

A boat-builder during the week at Campbell’s Boatyard in Oxford, Brighton has become the fifth recipient of Horn Point Laboratory’s Chesapeake Champion award. He will receive this award on Friday, June 23 at the former Maryland National Guard Armory in downtown Easton, now owned by Waterfowl Chesapeake.

I’m lost in nature, appreciating the beauty but having no earthly idea about the species surrounding me. The Maryland Biodiversity Project (MDP), founded five years ago by Brighton and his fellow nature-loving associate, Bill Hubick of Pasadena (Anne Arundel County), removes the mystery. Its website comprises a catalogue of more than 17,000 species in checklists, more than 9,000 with photographs, more than 73,000 total photos and more than 323,000 total records.

So, the question arises: what difference does it make that MDP has created a web-based record of plant and animal life in the small but diverse State of Maryland? And another query comes to mind: how do the state’s residents benefit from this inventory?

More inartfully, I wanted to ask “so what?” when I met with the affable Jim Brighton. He was very persuasive.

What I learned during an hour-long conversation with him for an article in another publication is his determined mission to create a sense “of wonderment and stewardship” among his neighbors, friends and website users. To my way of thinking, Brighton, aided by a slew of volunteers throughout the state, wants to motivate people to feel they have an ownership interest in our natural environment.

That’s an admirable and difficult task.

We can easily overlook plants and animals and perhaps take them for granted. We might see no need to preserve the environment in which a diverse spectrum of species lives and survives. We might think that the beauty surrounding us during walks in the woods or strolls n our neighborhoods is eternally stable.

We should know better. We just need to ponder the poor health of our beloved Chesapeake Bay and understand that the riches inherent in this estuary require serious and science-based stewardship.

A Dorchester County native whose grandfather, Jim Richardson, was a well-known Cambridge boat builder, Brighton understands the need to preserve and treasure our piece of the planet.

As hard as I try to ignore the absurd announcements emitted too often by the Trump White House and their connection to life on the Eastern Shore, I simply cannot. Specifically, I wonder what impact withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord and its implicit denial of global warming bear on the venues in which plants and animals survive.

This senseless decision by our fact-challenged president might, just might, underscore the long-term importance of Jim Brighton’s and Bill Hubick’s Maryland Biodiversity Project. With the federal government seemingly abdicating its role in abating climate change, the work done to capture the incredibly diverse and numerous species in our state is a step in the right direction to propel all of us to care about the environment that sustains these plants and animals.

It would be far too easy to devote this weekly column to the daily outrage that spews ever so recklessly from the people’s White House. For the sake of readers and my personal well-being, I will continue to try to refrain from too-frequent observations and criticism.

For readers and their friends who want to attend Horn Point Lab’s fifth annual Chesapeake Champion award presentation on Friday, June 23, 2017, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., at the Waterfowl Chesapeake Building, you may call Liz Freedlander at 410-829-9913 or email her at lfreedlander@umces.edu. For full disclosure, Liz is my wife and development director at Horn Point Lab.

Jim Brighton and Bill Hubick deserve credit and commendation for creating a project that promotes awareness and ownership.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

For readers and their friends who want to attend Horn Point Lab’s fifth annual Chesapeake Champion award presentation on Friday, June 23, 2017, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., at the Waterfowl Chesapeake Building, you may call Liz Freedlander at 410-829- 9913 or email her at lfreedlander@umces.edu.

Out and About (Sort of): Slavery Draws Candor at Wye House and Williamsburg by Howard Freedlander

Nine days ago, 200 people gathered under a tent on the beautiful grounds of the historic Wye House on Bruffs Island Road outside Easton to hear a brutally frank discussion about the renown abolitionist and writer, Frederick Douglass, born and bred in Talbot County.

The marriage of “John and Dolly”

Just seven days ago, my wife and I visited one of our favorite destinations, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia and watched a powerful re-enactment of the wedding of two young slaves readying themselves to escape slavery and possibly face dire circumstances for fleeing their masters to become free and unshackled.

Then seven-years-old, Douglass confronted the evil and repressive institution of slavery at Wye House. It informed the rest of life. Amid the agri-business that defined this magnificent property in the early 19th century, young Douglass watched with horror as slaves were beaten and their souls crushed by cruelty and violence.

According to one of the panelists participating in “a conversation at Wye House,” organized by the Frederick Douglass Honor Society, Douglass wrote that the lovely trees that graced the Wye House plantation were “witnesses” to an impressive farm operation that viewed slaves as mere property to be used and abused. Not unlike plantation life elsewhere in America at the time.

Sitting in a small outside setting in Colonial Williamsburg, we watched a simple dramatic production of a wedding ceremony fraught with anxiety over the future of two slaves optimistic that their love for each other and determination to live free lives would help them overcome severe obstacles. If caught, they knew they would absorb horrible lashings.

This column is not merely about slavery, the subject of millions of words in innumerable books. It is about courage and honesty, as exemplified by Richard and Beverly Tilghman, current owners of Wye House. Richard is the 12th generation member of the Lloyd family to own the distinctive Wye House property.

For full disclosure, Richard and Beverly are personal friends. I’m writing what I said to each of them on Sunday, May 21, 2017 at the end of the two-hour program, entitled “From Frederick Douglass to Barack Obama.” The Tilghmans exhibited sincere gutsiness in hosting a session that presented an unvarnished view of life at Wye House, as described by Douglass, celebrated for his intellectual acuity and insights, and examined in depth by academic scholars.

Richard, and his now-deceased mother, Mary, have unabashedly and publicly claimed the history of slavery on one of the Eastern Shore’s premier plantations. In fact, as occurred nine days, they have provided a platform for a no-holds barred look at a particular instance of a slave-driven economy.

I believe that Richard and Beverly deserve high praise for their openness to discussion of the horrible conditions endured by Frederick Douglass and hundreds of slaves at Wye House.

The marriage of “John and Dolly” in a ceremony illegally conducted by a Baptist minister was touching and terror-ridden. It seemed that love alone would not help them overcome obstacles on their way to Philadelphia. They would need not only physical stamina but well-placed allies on the way.

The circumstances surrounding the staging of this slice of drama are similar in some ways to the Tilghmans’ purposeful acknowledgement of the slavery that imprisoned young Frederick Douglass. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation realized some years ago it could not focus merely on the well-educated, wealthy white men who founded our country and decided to become unchained from British dominance.

To be relevant and credible, Colonial Williamsburg had to pay attention to the plight of the slaves owned by the leaders of Virginia and eventually the new United States.

Our country was founded on the precepts of liberty and freedom. Unfortunately, this idealistic thrust did not apply to blacks who were slaves. It was a flaw that required a civil war to fix. Mistreatment of blacks did not vanish despite the outcome of the War Between the States.

Though many decry the obtrusive nature of today’s pervasive (some say “invasive”) media, I believe that while the truth may not set us free, it does offer insights that often leads to actions encompassing grace and goodness.

The past is an invaluable teacher. We ignore it at own peril. Thoughtlessness is a worthless option.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Reunions and Losses by Howard Freedlander

I took a week off in writing this weekly column immersed as I was in my 50th reunion at my university in Philadelphia. My perspective about this milestone event was skewed a bit due to my leadership roles. Nonetheless, I joined classmates in celebrating a once-in-a-lifetime experience with gusto and good health.

When I first encountered my classmates at the beginning of a weekend filled with social and educational activities, I perceived a certain shyness, or maybe a human reluctance to accept the fact that attendance at our 50th reunion required you to be 71-72-years-old. A common refrain was: “Twenty-five years ago when we were on campus for an earlier milestone reunion, we looked at those celebrating their 50th and thought they looked awfully old.”

Life is a matter of perspective, isn’t it? We all walked more slowly, carried our gray or white or colored hair and undeniable wrinkles with grace, talked incessantly about grandchildren—while simply enjoying the fact that we were able to mark our 50th anniversary as graduates with abundant enthusiasm, sufficient dexterity and overwhelming desire to reconnect to each other.

Appropriately, at our last event, we paid tribute to 261 deceased classmates. The memorial service was a poignant one. I could return home thankful for a fun and festive weekend and pleased that our deceased classmates remained part of our memories and souls.

Herb Andrew

Here at home, the community suffered a terrible loss two weeks ago of Herb Andrew, a native Talbot County resident, longtime farmer, well-regarded bank board member and quietly effective community leaders. He also had served four terms on the Talbot County Council.

Though I didn’t know Herb well, I found him exceedingly and sincerely friendly. He served our community with little fanfare. Our longest conversation happened when we spoke for a few minutes in October 2015 at the Ruth Starr Rose exhibit at the old Maryland National Guard Armory in Easton. This exhibit featured wonderfully evocative paintings of African-American life in Talbot County in the early 20th century. He talked candidly about what he observed in his youth about how black residents were mistreated in Talbot County. He talked about his service in the U.S. Air Force and the bias he observed.

Herb Andrew was a terrific person killed tragically in a car crash. Our community has lost one of its truly good and service-oriented people.

A significant resource in our Mid-Shore region, Chesapeake College has severed its relationship with Barbara Viniar, its hard-working president for the past nine years. Information has been sparse concerning the reasons for Barbara’s departure. While I understand the sensitivity of personnel actions, I find it regrettable that we are losing such a capable educator with so little explanation.

Barbara Viniar

Serving Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties, Chesapeake College is an invaluable asset to residents young and old. Change in top leadership is therefore important to all of us. I can only guess that being responsive to elected officials in five counties is a difficult, often thankless task.

As readers know, I often have moaned and groaned about the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and the season traffic that heads east from late May to early September. I normally focus on the Shore and the burden on local residents dealing with chronic congestion. This time around, I must talk about Annapolis.

By this time, most people probably have heard about a fatal crash that occurred early afternoon on Route 50 on Wednesday, May 17. Eastbound lanes leading to the Bay Bridge were closed to traffic as police dealt with a total mess. Annapolis became the favorite detour locale. Plans to pick up grandchildren at a day care center and elementary school became delayed.

Many of us are inextricably tied to the Western Shore for personal and professional reasons. Hence, we have to deal with agonizing delays often caused by vehicle accidents. What’s the answer?
For me, it’s patience, which I lack. It’s long-held appreciation for life on the Shore.

I started this column about a college reunion and ended it with angst over a traffic accident on Route 50 near Annapolis. In between, I bemoaned the tragic death of Herb Andrew and the unfortunate end to Barbara Viniar’s relationship with Chesapeake College.

Life moves forward, sometimes with joy at reconnecting with old friends, sadness at the loss of a community pillar, regret over the departure of an educational leader and the travail of navigating Route 50.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Sundry Comments on a Range of Subjects by Howard Freedlander

More than a week ago I read an article in The Washington Post about a reunion of Vietnam veterans trained as officers in 1967 at the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia. One of the men was Paul Berents, an Easton resident whom I wish I knew.

Of the 516 members of the basic officers who graduated in class 5-67, 39 were killed in combat. Like the faces of most war victims, those pictured in the Post article are young men facing deadly conditions in an unpopular war brought home as never before in images broadcast on TV.

Now 72, Paul Berents lost both legs to amputation after action in which a new Marine shot Lt. Berents after mistaking him for an enemy soldier. It was Dec. 7, 1967. Berents had been in country for 10 weeks.

The article about the upcoming 50th reunion of class 5-67, focusing on Berents and two other former Marine lieutenants, brought home for me a war that killed or maimed many in my generation, leaving lasting and painful emotional scars on survivors.

The Vietnam War divided our country. Our troops returned stateside to a nation that treated them poorly and disgracefully.

Our country learned a few things from the Vietnam War. One lesson learned was to commit maximum force to achieve combat victory, as we did in Operation Desert Storm in 1991. Another was to ensure that participation in a foreign war draws its strength from the national will, without which it’s difficult, if not impossible to win. And, unquestionably, the nation wholeheartedly should support its troops; anger against the reasons for, and execution of war should be directed at our political leaders—not the men and women who fight our wars.

I would like to meet Paul Berents to thank and commend him for his service in the Vietnam War. He suffered severe wounds. He served well.


Congratulations to Pete Lesher, my friend and neighbor who last week was re-elected as Easton Town Councilman for Ward 2. He and two others, Megan Cook (Ward 4) and John Ford (Council President), ran unopposed.

Though the results were less than dramatic, I believe that those who serve on the local town or city level deserve public kudos. They not only have to deal with potholes and neighborhood disputes, they must tackle complex policy challenges, such as land use and economic development, issues that have long-term compact.

Time will come in the next few years when the Town of Easton will have to face what to do with the property vacated by the University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Easton when it moves to a site near the airport. As a neighbor in South Easton, I am very concerned about the “repurposing” of this property. The Easton Town Council will confront complex land use decisions, ones that will have a marked impact on the Washington Street corridor and adjoining community.

I hope and believe that the Town Council already has determined a process involving input not only from the community but experts who have dealt with vacated hospital properties in and out of Maryland to fix upon a rational and productive use of what most of us know as Memorial Hospital. Decisions will have far-reaching consequences.

A sterling example of sound land use decisions is just down Route 50 in Annapolis. The question was the same: what to do with the property vacated by Anne Arundel Medical Center. I believe the resulting residential development blends beautifully with the Murray Hill community. While the center of Annapolis lost its hospital, it gained sensible, well-planned development.


One last comment: I was pleased that the spending bill approved a week ago in a bipartisan manner by Congress included $75 million for the continued clean-up of the Chesapeake Bay. We can only hope that the Trump Administration would consider this funding inviolate in future budget proposals.

The idea that the states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed could afford to manage alone the health of this national gem would be akin to believing crabs could fly. I pray for good sense to prevail in the White House and Congress.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.