Out and About (Sort of) Looking Back at 2018 by Howard Freedlander

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Typically, a New Year’s Day essay or column looks back at the past year and forward to the next 12 months with hope and optimism.

Last week I expressed faith in the future, though in a muted way. I bemoaned the sad lack of compassionate and reasoned leadership in the White House. Today, I will go in another direction and comment briefly about events and achievements—as I view them—in Talbot County.

I feel sure that readers have personal and professional reminisces that brought them joy and discomfort. They reside in your own mental journal.

One caveat: my comments are not in sequential order.

I think back to early June when the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall came to Easton, situated on the grounds of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5118. The organizers did a splendid job in bringing this coveted symbol of the Vietnam War and its 58,000 American deaths to a place where thousands of people could gather to pay homage to family members and friends. As I wrote in June, the “Wall” brought healing and comfort to veterans, their families and even opponents of this unpopular war fought more than 50 years ago in a small Southeast Asian country.

I felt moved and touched. This war belonged to my generation. The conflict split the country. Returning troops arrived home to unjustified abuse and criticism. They deserved better.

Maybe time heals real wounds, physical and emotional.

It also was in June, specifically the 28th, when a crazed gunman killed five employees of the Annapolis Gazette in a rampage of revenge over earlier coverage of a domestic dispute. As a former journalist (maybe I still am), I was stunned. My daughter knew one of the victims, a woman well-known and well-liked in Annapolis. Like others, I considered the murders an attack on journalism and on its inextricable value to our dissonant democracy.

All of us are familiar with mass killing in our violent nation, whether in a nightclub in Orlando, FL or an outdoor music venue in Las Vegas, NV. When it occurs close to home, it strikes a particularly unsettling chord that pierces our heart and sense of decency.

Freedom of the press comes with a price. Deadly at times.

Again, in early June, Temple B’Nai Israel opened its doors to the public on property located at the southern end of Easton Parkway, across the road from St. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church. It had moved from its former location in the shadow of Shore Medical Center. My wife and I attended the impressive dedication, which drew people of all faiths. The message was healing and unity.

Under the leadership of Rabbi Peter Hyman and a devoted congregation, the synagogue has grown from 60 to nearly 200 families in the Mid-Shore area. Vibrant religious houses of worship strengthen a community, showcasing its diversity and common ties. On November 1, the synagogue hosted an all-faith vigil in remembrance of the mass killing in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA. Though I didn’t attend, 400 others did.

Now, readers, I’m moving in a literary sense to a closing, one that has affected many of us in the county. I’m referring to The News Center, an Easton bookstore that closed its doors in early August. Not until it closed did I realize how important the store had become to county residents seeking not only books (now read on IPads and Kindles) but greeting cards and gifts—as well as coffee and conversation.

The News Center had become a destination for my wife and Sandy, our Yellow Labrador Retriever, as the former sought coffee and the latter attention and treats. Store employees became frequent acquaintances.

I spoke about houses of worship as community center. Stores such as The News Center also become part of our lives. For our wedding anniversary in late December, I found myself shopping for cards in Target, instead of a small, comfortable store that had provided me with abundant selection over the years.

Change is necessary. It can be inconvenient too.

In late October, on a rainy, cold day, during the annual OysterFest, the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (CBMM) relaunched the Edna Lockwood, queen of the museum’s fleet. It was a wonderful event that celebrated the rebirth of an 1889 built on Tilghman Island by John B. Harrison for Daniel W. Haddaway. Until 1967, it dredged for oysters through the winter and bore freight after the dredging season. Edna is the last historic sailing bugeye in the world.

As a CBMM board member, I deeply appreciate the cultural and historic value of the artifacts that grace the St. Michaels campus.

I will end on a local political note. Never one to pay close attention to Talbot County Council elections, I changed my focus the past year after the establishment of the Bipartisan Coalition for New Council Leadership. Dan Watson, the key force behind this group, made a sound and thorough case for opposing the election of Jennifer Williams, council president, based on disagreement with land use decisions.

Though the Coalition’s actions drew rancor from the Republican party—and Ms. Williams ‘defeat–I believe that they prompted county residents to be more vigilant and informed about a government body that influences life in Talbot County. Were I a council member, I would like more, rather than less public participation, even if it’s annoying and obstreperous at times.

I wish Talbot Spy readers a hopeful and happy New Year. I pray that our lives will comprise more grace and civility than anger and disgust.

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.

Letters to Editor

  1. Thank you for your article chronicling some of the highlights and low lights ( I was a member of the News Center Staff) of the year. I often hear from people about how much they miss the News Center. It was a year filled with memorable events- thanks for sharing yours.

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