Out and About (Sort of): Loss, Continued… History Alive by Howard Freedlander


After attending his funeral last week, I realized that I used far too few words in my April 16 column describing the impact of Dr. Bob Blatchley, a psychologist and friend, on our community.

Dr. Bob Blatchley

A clergyman who conducted the brief ceremony described his personal woe some years ago. He was open and revealing. He sought counseling from Dr. Blatchley, three times a week at first, then twice a week, then once a week and then not at all.

After completing his therapy, he was walking downtown when he saw Bob Blatchley at a distance and said to himself: “That man has all of my secrets.” Perhaps it was an epiphany, or simply a stark realization that he once needed help, got it from a professional and felt thankful, though perhaps wary of the view he allowed into his state of emotional vulnerability.

I too met at times with this low-key, down-to-earth psychologist. I too found a person who listened well and spoke succinctly and pointedly. He healed many of us in the community. Though he didn’t dispense hope and mental health, as if it were a tidy prescription, he provided a route for self-discovery and serenity.

Following the funeral service, friends who attended spoke frankly about their or family members’ experiences with Dr. Bob Blatchley and his wife and professional partner, Dr. Virginia Blatchley. As I wrote last week, these two people offered an invaluable service to our community.

Once upon a not too distant time, people were reluctant to discuss undergoing therapy for mental distress. It was viewed as a stigma. That’s no longer the case.

The simple but poignant funeral service compelled me to look inside and recall Bob’s necessary help. I hope as he neared death he reached out to himself and felt proud of the comfort he enabled many people to achieve.

As I did last week, I will segue to another less fraught subject, a project that reflects the very beginning of Maryland history and its first immigrants. I refer to Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum’s (CBMM) upcoming building of a new Dove, one of two ships that arrived from England and delivered roughly 150 new residents to a site on the Potomac River in 1634. Shortly thereafter, St. Mary’s, the first settlement, became Maryland’s first capital and remained so for 61 years.

As I’ve previously stated, I am a member of CBMM’s board. This project ties the maritime museum directly to the founding of our state. As a history buff, I cherish living in one of the original 13 colonies, one touched by the American Revolution, the War of 1812 and the Civil War, not to speak of cultural undercurrents like slavery, continued welcoming of immigrants, the Industrial Revolution, growth and the evolution of the Chesapeake Bay not only for commerce but harvesting of seafood.

While the Ark carried the colonists, the Dove had another purpose. Realizing that the Ark was too large to serve any other purpose but to deliver passengers and then return to England, Lord Baltimore (Cecil Calvert) bought the 40-ton Dove to serve as a commercial vessel traveling in the Chesapeake Bay area and along the East Coast carrying goods and animals, as if it were a truck moving up and down Route 50.

Maritime commerce moved far more quickly than overland wagons, horses or oxen and drivers.

For the Calvert family, founding of this new colony was a money-making venture. While historians like to cast the founding as a religious refuge for Catholics escaping Anglican rule in England, 120 settlers were Protestant; 12 to 15 were Catholic.

The Dove stayed at St. Mary’s until August 1635 when it sailed to England to sell its cargo of corn and furs. She became lost at sea.

(Much of the information about the Dove comes from an article, written by Kate Livie, that recently appeared in CBMM’s The Chesapeake Log).

A new ship with a long Maryland history and short life will be built at CBMM during the next few years, returning to Historic St. Mary’s City for years to come.

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. Jon Powers says

    Simply another simple yet complex, direct yet obtuse, poignant yet mundane piece of expository writing from our deeply valued Mr. Freedlander. May he, as do you Mr. Editor, enjoy another eight years doing what you do so well.

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