Out and About (Sort of): Delmarva on the Cusp by Howard Freedlander

With the looming possibility of serious consideration in the corridors of power in Annapolis of a third Chesapeake Bay Bridge span, the future of the Delmarva Peninsula as a precious slice of geography becomes an urgent subject. It requires a vision, while seemingly improbable, to take shape and grab hold of the minds and hearts of all of us living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia and most of Delaware.

Though not widely known at this point, Delmarva Oasis is a concept discussed most recently in The Spy and other venues by author Tony Hiss to describe a huge conservation effort to protect 50-80 percent of the land of Delmarva. The intent behind protecting this mass of land is to preserve not just the human quality of life but also the millions of species that go unrecognized in our daily comings and goings.

This expansive concept encompasses total conservation, including food production, public access and habitat lands to sustain the basic life conditions of Delmarva. Into this massive transformation of Delmarva, we must include deterrence of the destructive effects of global warming and climate change, appropriate economic and real estate development, the impact of increasing vehicular traffic, the hospitality of the region to waterfowl—and the list can on and on.

At this point, before readers consider this subject as pie-in-the-sky meanderings, I suggest attention be paid to the New Jersey Pine Barrens as an example of conservation of a prized piece of geography. Known as the New Jersey Pinelands National Preserve, it comprises historic villages and berry farms amid vast oak-pine forest, extensive wetlands and a wide range of plants and animals of the Atlantic coastal pine barrens ecoregion. It is protected by state and federal legislation and managed by local, state and federal agencies, as well as the private sector.

Established in November 1978, the Pinelands consists of 1,164,025 acres, all but 24,000 acres of which contain pin-oak forest. The area crosses seven counties and includes all or parts of 56,000 municipalities; the population as of the 2010 census totaled 870,000 people.

The ecological diversity encompasses 580 native species of plants—54 are threatened or endangered. The Pinelands Reserve is home to 299 species of birds, nine fish, 59 reptiles and amphibians and 39 mammals.

Agriculture defines the Delmarva Peninsula. According to a document produced by the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC), Delmarva “is the largest contiguous block of productive farmland on the East Coast from Maine to the Carolinas.” This fertile terrain lies within an overnight drive of 60 million or one-third of America’s consumers.

For full disclosure, I am a member of the ESLC board. ESLC has been a catalyst in the preservation of nearly 60,000 acres since 1990.
As Tony Hiss said in his Spy interview, the Delmarva Oasis is an audacious initiative. If it happens, it will bring towns and cities, farmland, marshlands and wilderness under one umbrella of sustained preservation. It will ensure that the Delmarva Peninsula will not be over-developed, as has happened in Middletown, DE, where land use has gone sadly and messily astray.

The question now is how does this alluring concept become a hard reality? Not easily, for sure. At least at this embryonic stage, ESLC will lead the charge in determining its feasibility. It will coordinate a slew of partners and funders to determine whether the public and private will exists to undertake such a complex initiative.

As I get older, I focus more and more on the value of legacy. Simply, I constantly think about how to preserve and conserve a quality of life that my family and I have been privileged to enjoy on the Eastern Shore of Maryland for nearly 42 years. I realize that we have a regional citizenship in Delmarva.

Delmarva Oasis will become common nomenclature in the near future. I hope it will capture the imagination and buy-in from government and private funders and partners. I hope it will succeed, realizing that the effort will be long and intricate.

The Delmarva Peninsula is a special place to live, play and pray. It can become a protected region. The Pinelands Reserve exemplifies what’s possible.

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.

Door On The Shore by George Merrill

I’m routinely in and out of all sorts of things, but none more than doors.

Doors are a signature feature of daily life. We meet one at almost every turn. I would reckon that in the course of my lifetime, I’ve come and gone through millions of doors. Yet I never take notice of them. For something as omnipresent as doors, they remain surprisingly invisible. And so, in reflection, it seemed surprising to me one day some time ago, driving along Rt. 50, I noticed several doors. It wasn’t as though I had to pass through any of them. I simply found the sight of them compelling, enough so that I pulled my car over to take a closer look. The doors were hanging in an old derelict motel located just north of Easton on Route 50. At first glance, the doors were a sorry sight.

The motel was brick, a one-story stretching out like a set of row houses and arranged in a semi-circle forming a courtyard in front. There was surprisingly little rubble in the courtyard but hardly a pane of glass remained in any of the window frames. Inside the units I saw junk: old furniture here, some wire there, metal cabinets there and in one unit, a small stove. A couple of plastic chairs and a mattress in another unit suggested that maybe the motel still provided a modicum of hospitality to some less fortunate on their journey to and fro on the Shore. My eyes were drawn again and again to the doors, most of them still intact, half open, their fronts lit by the sun, highlighting the darkness within as if in its terminal condition the motel was declaring that even in its twilight days it was still game to do what it always had, that is, providing hospitality to tired travelers.

In summers, up and down the Peninsula, motel populations swell with happy vacationers on their way east and south, “downee ocean” as Marylanders say. Cars are packed with bags and toys for the beach while kids repeatedly ask ‘are we there yet,’ all seeking the sun and fun of the Delmarva coastline. Folks come from Baltimore, Washington D.C., Philadelphia and other cities as they have for years. For the last several years they will have passed an abandoned motel just north of Easton and never seen it, in the way a motorist’s eyes hardly notice road kill. After a while, on long drives, one becomes inured to the passing landscape except for more garish sights, like those monolith road signs up and down the Eastern Shore that display advertisements for restaurants, motels, casinos and lawyers.

The small abandoned motel certainly had its day – not even its sign remained – and the only functional witness left to honor its contribution to the life of past summer migrations to the Peninsula were its doors. The doors still hung on their frames, able to open and close. A few locks worked so some doors could still provide one of a door’s most important historic functions, that is, to safely secure it’s inhabitants for the night.

For many, the word, “motel” doesn’t imply class as say, the word “hotel” or “Inn” does. The Inn of colonial times may have provided you a bed, but no shower. Forget running water. You’d get a chamber pot or use a privy, and probably share your bed with a number of strangers, some of whom may well have been lice infested. Our modern motels, however marginal, have a leg up on any Inn of old. Comfort beats class for most of today’s travelers.

Of all the doors at the old motel, it was the one at room number ‘9’ that enchanted me most. I imagined that the face of that door, like the face of some wise old man or woman for whom each wrinkle that time had etched into it, told a story. And indeed the door face was heavily wrinkled and rippled with weathered wood and peeling paint. I wondered as I watched shadows play around the curled folds of paint, what those stories may have been that the door had overheard, tales told by people who had once come by to stop and to rest on their journey ‘downee ocean.’

I’ve often had similar thoughts when I’d come across abandoned houses in the more rural areas of the Shore. Many sagged under the weight of time like people do but unlike people who feel self-conscious about it, for an old house long forgotten, no remedial measures are available. On the inside, one might see a lone pot or a mouse eaten chair or a two-legged table. Just who were the people they once served and where did they go?

As there are old men and women who are full of years but now marginalized, and yet have seen it all, there are doors like that. Doors, like such people, rest tentatively on the tired hinges they have that still move while wisely keeping their own counsel and the secrets they’ve overheard a long time ago.

Am I the only one who sometimes wonders where the trillions and trillions of stories go that humankind has told since we developed language? Do you suppose they are like the beams of lightless stars traveling into the eternity of the cosmos?

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist.  A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

How Do You Serve at the Pleasure of the President When the President takes Little Pleasure about Those Who Serve? By Craig Fuller

We seem to be witnessing further upheaval in President Trump’s Administration. While all appointed to over two thousand positions by a sitting President serve at the pleasure of the President, our current President’s criteria of “pleasing” differs substantially from prior administrations. The path to pleasing is firmly fixed in delivering strong and effective statements of public support of the President.

Larry Kudlow’s recruitment into the White House staff brings a seasoned and experienced economic policy professional to the table. I know because I served with him. He holds well considered and carefully developed views, some at odds with where the President stands, at least today, on trade. But, I suspect the strongest of the Kudlow credentials is his television persona. He can be counted upon to energetically deliver the Trump message. Time will tell just how well Larry Kudlow can differ in private with someone whose threshold for contrarian thought seems historically low.

Others on the cabinet now being identified at risk all have in common a poor performance on television or negative news stories about their practices in office. One has the feeling that the President and a small focus group of White House aides is grading the public performance of the Cabinet and seeking new cast members when ratings fall.

Compelling communications skills are, to be sure, important to successful service at the highest levels of government. But, there are other important factors. Experience, judgement and discipline to name three. People in trouble seem to be those who have a worldview shaped by experience quite different than the President’s. Or, they are trying to bring discipline to the White House staff…or both.

Those not listed as “at risk,” could be described as doing their jobs while keeping their heads down. Time will tell whether anything short of cheerleading will suffice.

What the President seems not to understand is that those he appoints to the highest most complex jobs in the land, are there to serve him; however, they have a higher calling captured in the oath they take when they assume the office when they state:  I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.

If we have entered an era where strong television appearances become the coin of the realm for high appointed office, we have put ourselves on a slippery slope where a sound bite can make or break a public career. The price we pay is that good people won’t survive and stronger people will decline to serve.

Craig Fuller served four years in the White House as assistant to President Reagan for Cabinet Affairs, followed by four years as chief of staff to Vice President George H.W. Bush. Having been engaged in five presidential campaigns and run public affairs firms and associations in Washington, D.C., he now resides on the Eastern Shore with his wife Karen.

The Art of Peacemaking with Community Mediation Upper Shore’s Penni Walker Doyle

While a case could be made that conflict mediation support is now needed at almost every level of our society these days, there is a group on the Mid-Shore that has dedicated itself in offering such help to the Mid-Shore region.

The Community Mediation Upper Shore organization has made it its mission to reach out to homes, schools, prisons, and the homeless community with its volunteers to find ways to end disputes or conflicts that generally would unnecessarily wind up clogging the region’s courts.

The Spy sat down recently with CMUP’s executive director, Penni Walker Doyle, to understand how this very efficient community service does its work on the Mid-Shore and the level of success they have had with such difficult challenges like neighbours fighting, students being truant, or working through the logistics of a prisoner coming home to their families after serving their time in a correctional facility.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about Community Mediation Upper Shore and volunteer opportunities please go here

Priests, Politicians, and Samaritans by Al Sikes

The Lenten season is rich with memories both ancient and contemporary—and what vivid recollections. So with some apprehension, let me take you on a brief journey.

The Lenten season at its simplest is: “an annual season of fasting and penitence in preparation for Easter,” this year on April 1. Christians are encouraged to prayerfully recall the extraordinary events that led to Jesus being crucified and resurrected.

My most vivid recollections retreat to my childhood and two of Jesus’ parables, the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son. Both stories made an enormous impression on me, and somewhere in the hierarchy of my brain, they will not let go.

Both stories have an overarching theme—concern, care, forgiveness—in what is often an unforgiving world. The Good Samaritan, while walking along a road, was confronted by an injured man who had been pummeled by robbers. Travelers had passed by without offering help, including a priest and a Levite. The Samaritan stopped and helped the injured man.

Regardless of one’s religious background, almost everyone has some familiarity with the story of the prodigal son. The son had abandoned his father, wasted his inheritance and then, only finding degrading work, asked for and received his father’s forgiveness.

I suspect both stories are well known as they are the essence of so many artistic expressions in the visual and performing arts. One of Rembrandt’s most celebrated paintings captures the distraught son being forgiven by his father.

Acts of grace transcend the news; if they were few, they would receive a lot of attention. Yet these acts co-exist today with civil estrangement. And this estrangement is exacerbated by political candidates and activists looking for an edge. The “other” forms much of our identity politics and the exploitative game.

America has unique and admirable qualities, but continued strength requires more than rhetoric. The eagle on the great seal of the United States holds in its beak a ribbon with the motto, E Pluribus Unum. The motto, which is Latin for “out of many, one,” was adopted by the Founding Fathers in 1782.

It can be argued that the motto is too idealistic. It can also be argued that the Samaritan should not have stopped on the road to Jericho. As the story unfolded, the Samaritan bound up the man’s wounds, took him to an Inn and left money for the Innkeeper to care for him—a sacrificial expression of love.

This story does not offer us an easily applied legal template. The parables often tell very personal stories that encourage personal response. Although in this case, Jesus was talking to a lawyer who was asking “who is my neighbor.”

The parables and similar stories from other religious traditions are aspirational or should be. They have, as one writer noted, formed a “thin tissue” of morality—the law above the law.

Civil estrangement in America preceded President Donald Trump—after all, we fought a Civil War. But, as America, informed by both the Bible and the Enlightenment, guaranteed unparalleled freedom for its citizens, its leaders relied on the recognition and influence of a greater good. Certainly Abraham Lincoln did.

In my lifetime there has not been a moment when the greater good narratives have been more at risk. The political edge has become a hard one—unforgiving, intolerant, and often hubristic. The most egregious development has been so-called evangelical leaders who have yielded to today’s Caesar. They, like all of us who struggle with faith’s calling, need to spend the Lenten season striving to understand the Gospel. They also need to understand that a person cannot be both a political and spiritual leader.

America needs spiritual leaders, not politicians wearing vestments.

Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books. 

Easton Sidewalks: Every Coffee House has Its Place

Rise Up New Building Image

Since the Spy prides itself on being a faithful observer of downtown Easton sidewalks, it has not gone unnoticed that the town has seen the recent openings of more than its fair share of high-quality coffeehouse establishments. From Piazza’s expanded space in Talbottown to Federal Street’s Weather Gage, the addition of Evergrain in the Conservation Center, and Rise Up’s plans to expand on Dover Street, Easton now finds itself in the possibly awkward position of having too much of a good thing.


Just a few years ago, some excellent locally-owned breakfast and coffee venues had sadly come to an end.  The corner store on Goldsborough and Washington, the Bartlett Pear Inn”s small store on Harrison, followed by the Cafe in the Inn, and finally, and very sadly, the untimely end of Joe’s Bagel, Easton was looking mighty thin on the coffee house front.

And yet, within twenty-four months, all have changed again. Just as the general economy has improved so has Easton’s, and poof, the community is now blessed with four new great places to frequent.

Nonetheless, having grieved over the obituaries of these former morning hangouts, it’s instinctive to wonder if all can thrive in a small town of 15,000 or so.

The Spy thinks they will.

New Piazza Location

After mapping out their different spheres of operation, clientele, and unique circumstances, it seems quite possible that all of these terrific establishments can make it work.

Weather Gage

When one looks at the bigger picture and realizes the unique territory each coffeehouse serves, as well as differences in how one arrives by foot or car, what time the store opens, all add up to each venue having their own, and very vibrant subset, of the total population they collectively serve.

While Rise Up and Piazza generally can attract motorists, Weather Gage and Evergrain will be relying on much more significant pedestrian clientele. And while Piazza and Rise Up can offer more space for customers, the other two are far more intimate. And finally, like any genuine coffee place, they will establish, if they have not already, their unique idiosyncrasies, specialties, and ambiance to draw different kinds of customers.

And that is the Spy’s hopes for these very special places on Easton’s sidewalks.

Which coffee place do you go to daily?  Take the Spy poll here

Out and About (Sort of): Mindless in Florida by Howard Freedlander

For three days last week, my friend, Paul Cox, and I watched Grapefruit League spring training in Dunedin and Sarasota, FL, repeating what we had done in the first days of March 2017 at the new Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, Fl. In both cases, our three-day immersion enabled us to watch America’s pastime while escaping the unpredictable wintry weather in the mid-Atlantic region.

In Dunedin, which adjoins Clearwater, we experienced a venue far different than the modern ballpark housing the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros in West Palm Beach. When we traveled to Sarasota to watch the Baltimore Orioles play the Toronto Blue Jays at the 8500-seat Ed Smith Stadium, we again found ourselves in a spacious and more comfortable setting than the Blue Jays temporary home in Dunedin.

Of course, the ballpark may make no difference. In two games at the Dunedin Stadium and one at Ed Smith Stadium, the Blue Jays convincingly hammered the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Orioles. So much for size and pizazz.

What got my attention in Dunedin was that most fans seemed to walk from the surrounding community to the ballpark, as we did from our hotel. An asphalt walkway, which likely ran along the right-of-way for a former railroad, was a major route to the stadium.

The community feel was unmistakable. It was as if we were walking to a neighborhood park. It seemed like a throwback to another time, though the 5,500-seat facility was built in 1999, 20 years ago. It once had 6,000 seats.

This cozy ballpark also was remarkable for its fans. We sat amidst Canadians, who naturally would flock to Florida to escape frigid weather colder than we normally experience in the United States. When both national anthems were sung, I heard far more Canadians than Americans singing the words.

On a personal note, I deliberately wanted to watch the Orioles, as I did growing up in Baltimore. In recent years, my allegiance has wavered, as I’ve seen far more Nationals than Orioles games. Perhaps it’s because one of the Nationals’ principal owners is a college friend. Both of my daughters have chided me for what they consider my disloyalty to the Orioles; they have reminded me that one of my guiding principles is loyalty, as often expressed to them.

Turnabout is fair play, I guess. Yet loyalty does not have last a lifetime.

I hope my daughters are satisfied.

As most people know, Florida offers sun, warmth, retires galore and many different American dialects, as well as the English spoken by our North American neighbors. I sense that spring training is a favorite pastime for Florida’s large population of retirees.

I also noted some young families. Perhaps they were retirees’ children and grandchildren. Maybe they live in the neighborhood.
Watching baseball nearly 1,000 miles from Easton has a special attraction. I’ve already mentioned the warmth and lack of fear about an upcoming snowstorm. It’s refreshing too to talk about on-filed action, a good for bad pitcher, a good or bad call by the home plate umpire and even some of the noisy fans sitting nearby.

No politics at the ballpark. Thank goodness.

I mentioned earlier in this column about the difference in the ambience at Dunedin Stadium, compared with the Ballpark at the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, or Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fl. It makes no difference. Baseball compels attention, slow moving that it is.

This is my second spring training column. It’s not very profound. I’ll probably write another one next year.

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.

Making the Case to Save Tilghman Island Elementary School

It is typically the sad case these days that small, underpopulated elementary public schools are frequently being closed by their school districts.

Through the gut-wrenching process of what is now called “school consolidation,” these districts are faced with the terrible task of closing down these cherished local assets as a result of dwindling student enrollments and the financial consequences that come with those lower numbers.

This trend may be the fate of Tilghman Island’s only elementary school, which has a capacity of 150 students but currently has only 62 children in attendance. While the Talbot County Public Schools District has not made any decision on TES yet, there was a clear warning given that the Tilghman school would either need to increase its enrollment or undoubtedly face closure down the road.

That’s a hard thing to do for a community that is thirteen miles from the nearly town.

But before that fateful decision is made, the citizens of Tilghman, the teachers and parents of the elementary school, and the active role played by the Tilghman Community Youth Association is going to make damn sure that doesn’t happen.

And one of those remarkable people leading this fight could not be better prepared to do so than volunteer Jay Shotel.

With his long tenure as a professor at George Washington University in the field of education, Jay is extraordinarily in his comfort role as he takes on the role of advocate, cheerleader, and admissions counselor to make sure that Tilghman’s elementary school not only continues to exist but eventually becomes one of most unique schools in the state.

We talked to Jay a few weeks ago at Bullitt House to understand more what Jay and his colleagues of the Tilghman School Facility Utilization Committee are doing find new students to fill those desks.

This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information on saving Tilghman School please go here

Beyond the Grave by George Merrill

Out of my studio window I can see the upper reaches of Broad Creek. It’s a wide shallow. At the ebb during extremely low water, I can see the jetsam that the flood waters normally hide like rotted tree limbs, cans, shotgun shells and plastic bottles. I saw a mound in the shallows the other day. It was a deer, a dead buck. I don’t know how he died.

During low tides buzzards descend on the deer to feed. One day an eagle, circling above spooked the buzzards. The buzzards vacated their seats at the feast deferring to the intimidating presence of the eagle. They returned for a later sitting.

Such scenes are common in the natural world. However, they can be disturbing to watch. Birth, death, transformation and rebirth is nature’s way. Nature, however, is unceremonious and perfunctory about the whole business. Strictly no frills. We on the other hand are very ritualistic about death, and over the years have devised all kinds of ceremonies and rites to commemorate the event.

We’ve been burying our dead for one hundred thousand years. Exactly why, is not certain.

I conducted funerals as a young clergyman. The services from the old Book of Common Prayer were typical of many funerals; solemn, sober, dignified, accompanied by melodic hymns and traditional classical music. Sometimes these funerals were regarded as inordinately depressing, funereal as some put it. During Christian funerals, the resurrection was proclaimed but I’m sure at such moments only a few were in the mood to believe it.

Our treatment of death is changing, partly because greater longevity has provided many of us much more time to consider it. Today, more people actively plan for death, beyond just tending to wills and estate issues.

We once went to funerals. Today we are more likely to attend ‘Celebrations of Life;’ rites of passage with a very different tone than those of yesterday. They are geared more to commemorate the life of the deceased than to make a statement of faith although sometimes both occur. Eulogies, although they are meant to be kind, we know are not always representative of the deceased. True or false, they remain an important part of the ritual.

A significant number of my ancestral family on my mother’s side are interred at Green-Wood cemetery in Brooklyn, N.Y. It’s located on the highest point in Brooklyn, with gorgeous trees and gaudy, imposing mausoleums, along with gothic masterpieces that attest to the wealth and prestige of old New York. It’s also a commentary on the ironies of human pride, our need to make a statement that survives us beyond the grave.

In the same cemetery as my grandparents, great grandparents, great aunts and uncles are interred, also rest luminaries like Pierre Lorillard IV, the tobacco giant; Henry Steinway of piano fame and Samuel Morse, of “What hath God wrought?” renown. Horace Greeley, newspaper tycoon is also buried there among many other famous historical names

Founded in 1838, Green-Wood is traditionally non-sectarian but was generally considered a Christian burial place for White Anglo-Saxon Protestants of “good repute.” Undesirables (?) and criminals, at least in principle, were denied plots. I’m assuming my ancestral family members were of good repute. Even if they weren’t, or were undesirables for that matter, given the cemetery’s unusual history and arbitrary admission practices they still may well have secured eternal rest there.

On closer examination, not everyone resting in Green-Wood’s bosom were exactly choir boys or girls during their earthly sojourns.

Fanny White, a fallen woman is a remarkable resident of Green-Wood. She was one of the most successful madams ever to run a high-end brothel in New York City. Believed to have been sexually abused as a child, she not only survived, she triumphed. She took great pride in her entrepreneurial skills. She hosted an especially discriminating clientele, name dropping her clients – not by name but by profession – “merchants, Congressmen, and many belonging to the Diplomatic Corps residing in New York.” She was entertained by New York’s finest. At the time of her death she was loaded and owned fashionable Town Houses all over the city.

“Boss Tweed” the nefarious leader of Tammany Hall that once steeped the democrats of New York in graft and corruption, rests undisturbed at Green-Wood. Just why is unclear since he was hardly of good repute and in fact had criminal charges against him, which should have automatically precluded him a plot at Green-Wood. I guess being a democrat in those days opened more doors than it does today.

Joey Gallo, professional mobster or Albert Anastasia, the renowned contract killer for ‘Murder Incorporated’ are also interred at Green-Wood. They either made Green-Wood an offer they couldn’t refuse or perhaps being Christian or just Catholic was sufficient to gain them admission. Who knows?

I remember three distinct visits to Green-Wood. The first was in nineteen forty-eight, when my grandfather was buried next to his parents. There was a marker designating a mysterious infant named Hattie. I was never sure who she was except from a funeral card I discovered in a family bible. Its poem indicated that her death was heartrending. I was not that close to my grandfather but the grandeur of Green-Wood’s mausoleums and the lush landscape awed me. At the time it seemed magical, a wonderland of antiquity.

The next time I visited was early in the fifties when my grandmother was buried. That’s a painful memory. I loved her a lot. The day we buried her was cold and wet with a misty rain. I felt totally desolate as I watched the coffin lowered into the earth. It seemed as if we were abandoning her. Green-Wood did not seem grand that day. It was dark and ominous, filled with the pain of loss.

I made my last visit in the seventies. I went with a friend who had an interest in its history. I wanted to photograph the family gravesite which I did, including the site where the mysterious child ‘Hattie” was interred.

The trip was a sentimental journey, the kind inspired by nostalgia. I viewed Green-Wood with more detachment that day. The majesty of the landscape was the same. I grew curious about just who these people really were who have now returned to dust. I wondered how, if they could speak to me, what might they tell me about who they were; they could tell me stories of the New York that once existed, that has since died, been transformed and is being reborn in a new world.

Speaking of transformations, I read only this week that for the next twenty-five years, visitors to Green-Wood will be able to write down their most intimate secrets and bury them in a special grave designed by an artist. The cemetery will also be hosting moonlight tours, cocktail parties, dance performances and yoga classes.

My grandfather was a staunch Baptist, eschewed alcohol and I suspect disapproved of dancing. When he went to his rest at Green-Wood, the world was a very different place.

I’m glad he did not live to see his resting place, swinging.

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist. A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

Mid-Shore Arts: Chamber Music Returns to the Mainstay

There were quite a few things that Ben and Judy Kohl wanted to accomplish when they started the Hedgelawn Foundation several years ago. For Judy, it was her desired to support local theater, which has led to a long affiliation with the Garfield Center for the Arts,  but for her husband, Ben, it was to fund a classical music program for Sundays at the Mainstay.

His motivation was simple enough. When Ben Kohl was a long-tenured professor at Vassar College, he had been particularly impressed with the Sunday concerts that the music department hosted to celebrate classical chamber music. He also felt that Rock Hall (and the Mid-Shore) would benefit from the same tradition, and worked with his close friend, Tom McHugh, the then director of the Mainstay, to make that happen.

And now, With the recent addition of John Thomas as the Mainstay’s programming manager, that series has returned to Rock Hall with a new and exciting perspective of what 21st-century chamber music can be like. With John’s long teaching career at the Peabody Conservatory, and now, Washington College, he is in a unique position to offer a level of programming with some of the brightest and most promising young musicians working today.

The Spy, as part of our continuing series of profiling the philanthropy of the Hedgelawn Foundation, spent a few minutes with John to talk about this new era in chamber music as well as Judy about the philanthropic intent with the concert for the community.

This video is approximately minutes in four minutes in length. For more information about the Hedgelawn Classical  Series at the Mainstay, please go here.


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