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Local students are stepping up, speaking out and marching for a safe education

       Right here in Annapolis, students are assembling behind their colleagues in Parkland to speak up for their right to a safe education. 
      Mackenzie Boughey, a sophomore at the Severn School in Severna Park, watched with rising unease as the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, overwhelmed television and social media. First she felt horror. Then inspiration. 
       Seeing people her own age and younger standing up for the friends they lost, Boughey decided enough was enough. If a lone gunman could end and change so many lives in a small, safe town like Parkland, was any place safe?
      That was a question worth talking about. Every place. 
      The determined 17-year-old athlete, bagpipe player and leader stepped up to help organize the March for Our Lives rally in Annapolis March 24 to encourage gun control and a safe future for students. Boughey sought to create a space where students, teachers and parents could safely express their outrage, ask for change — and be taken seriously.
      Severn School students Maya Rogalski, Alexandra Szynal, Maddi Meyers and Lauren Carlson joined the first planning committee meeting on February 24, two weeks after the shooting.
 
Preparation or Prevention 
      All schools prepare for fires. Some schools practice for tornadoes or hurricanes. In the 1950s, students hid under their desks during bomb threat drills. In the early 2000s, sniper attacks had Chesapeake regional schools on high alert as students took shelter indoors.
      In 2018, students are practicing active shooter drills to be ready for a rogue gunman on campus. There is a history of preparing kids for danger in school. In this case, the danger could be preventable.
      Boughey’s Severn School is working hard on emergency preparedness and had an active shooter drill scheduled before the massacre in Parkland. She appreciates her school’s dedication to safety.
     “It’s nice to know the school was thinking about preparing us before, but it shouldn’t be necessary,” Boughey says. “Our main goal is to fix it now before anything else happens.” 
 
Something Else Happens
     To that goal Boughey and fellow organizers are in support of changes that are radical in term of political achievability: improving background checks, raising the purchasing age to 21, limiting semi-automatic weapons and banning assault rifles altogether.
      Representatives for the National Rifle Association have been outspoken about adding firearms to the equation instead of restricting them. From the County Council to the White House, many elected officials agree with that stand.
      On March 1, President Trump met with NRA Lobbyist Chris Cox. After their meeting, Cox tweeted: “POTUS supports the Second Amendment, supports strong due process and doesn’t want gun control.”
      Arming teachers makes guns the solution, not the problem, Boughey says. 
      “Teaching is a hard enough job without adding guns,” Boughey says, reflecting on her father’s work as a public school teacher. He is not interested in carrying a weapon in school, nor does he have the time for the training required.
       Opinions like these — all sorts of opinions — are what Boughey hopes will be shared at the Annapolis March from Lawyers Mall to Susan Campbell Park.     “This is about the students. We will be heard,” she says. 
       “The aim of the march,” she says, “is not about politics.” The conversation has turned political and angry on too many occasions. Organizers want to make sure the march does not go that way. Positive thinking and forward movement is their intention.
      Opinions like Boughey’s are not safely expressed in some places. Movements like this march open themselves to criticism and intimidation.
        On March 24, Boughey hopes Lawyers Mall will be a safe space for area students to think and wish and pray out loud. 
 
Turning the Tide
       The kids have their supporters. 
       Students left school by the thousands on Wednesday March 14, one month after the massacre in Parkland. Demonstrations lasted 17 minutes to honor each victim killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. As school administrators considered how to react, many principals, parents and teachers were supportive. 
       Parents are uniting behind their children to say enough is enough. On March 13, 7,000 shoes were laid on the lawn of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., to honor victims lost to gun violence. Calling on Congress to take action, protesting parents held signs that read #NotOneMore.
       “I’m so glad to see students standing up for what they believe. People are quick to dismiss them because they’re students and they’re young. But I think they’re underestimating them,” says Mackenzie’s mother. Heather Boughey. “I’m so impressed with the students from Parkland. They’re well spoken, well researched and are fighting for a change that is desperately needed.”
        There’s a long path ahead for any gun-control legislation to pass federally. But the steps already taken by the state of Florida show that on a smaller scale, changes can be made. The new Florida gun bill raises the minimum age for purchase to 21, bans bump stocks and creates a longer waiting period during the background check process.
      It doesn’t, however, ban assault rifles, and it allows the arming of school personnel.
       Legislation has a long way to go. But as far as it goes, change has come largely because of student activists like Boughey.
       In Maryland, Congressman Anthony Brown welcomed the planning committee, as well as representatives from Moms Demanding Action, for an open discussion about school safety and gun control. 
       On February 27, Brown and Pennsylvania colleague Brian Fitzpatrick introduced a bipartisan bill to tighten gun safety by raising the purchasing age for assault rifles.
      “This common-sense bipartisan bill is a critical first step that closes a dangerous loophole in our gun laws,” Brown said. 
      Both congressmen say they will do what they can to gather support for the bill from their colleagues. Their goal is to prevent Parkland from ever happening again.
 
The March
       On March 24, students will have their safe space. From 11am to 1pm, the March For Our Lives gathers in downtown Annapolis, beginning at Lawyers Mall.
        For the first hour, ideas will be in the air as speakers share their thoughts on gun control. 
      Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley will be there, saying a few words in support of the march.
      There’ll representatives from Moms Demanding Action, a powerful grassroots organization founded in response to the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012. Speakers from Moms Demanding Action will explain common-sense solutions, including legislative solutions, to gun violence. 
     The father of a Virginia Tech survivor has been invited. Students, teachers and school administrators will be there, and, organizers hope, elected officials who have the power of action.
      After the speeches, the marchers make their way down to Susan Campbell Park at City Dock to sign a banner petition for gun-blocking legislation. There’ll be voter registration for students who’ll be 18 by Maryland’s primary election in June and the general election in November. 
      In the midst of the nationwide debate, Boughey and her peers stand resolute: “Whether we fix this or not,” she says, “we’ll still be here fighting.”

Pysanky, the jewel-like Ukrainian eggs, keep the world in balance

     As an American of Ukrainian heritage, Coreen Weilminster cherishes the Easter traditions with which she was raised. Especially when it comes to the ancient art of pysanky, eggs decorated using a wax-resist method similar to batik. In design, in legend and in Christian tradition, these eggs have kept alive a gentle folk art reflecting the Ukrainian nation.
     “I grew up in the anthracite region of northeastern Pennsylvania, in a one-horse town called Nesquehoning,” explains Weilminster, 47, of her legacy. “Immigrants flocked to the area just before World War I to work the mines, among them my grandmother’s family.” With them came pysanky.
       The term pysanka (in its plural form, pysanky) is derived from the Ukrainian words pysaty, meaning to write, and kraska, meaning color. The process is delicate, the product dazzling. A special tool called a kitska — basically, a funnel attached to a stick — is first heated over a candle flame and then filled with beeswax, which quickly melts. Using the molten wax as ink, one writes (as Ukrainians say) a design on a raw egg, then dips the egg in dye. The dying can be repeated in darker colors, each round of wax sealing a different color on the shell. In the final stage, the wax is removed to reveal the finished pysanka.
      Weilminster’s grandmother came from a family of 13 children. During the Lenten weeks prior to Easter, three of her sisters (Weilminster’s great-aunts) spent evenings in the kitchen crafting jewel-like pysanky. It was a magical time. From watching these women, Weilminster learned the process. At the age of 16, she was ready. She picked up a kitska and created her first egg. 
      A pysanky artist was born.
 
The Power of the Egg
       Since pagan times, the tradition of decorating eggs with beeswax and dyes was widespread in Europe, especially among Slavic peoples. Archaeologists have unearthed ceramic decorated eggs in Ukraine dating back to 1,300bce. Many pysanky made today feature motifs adapted from the pottery designs of an ancient tribe of people, the Trypillians, who lived in Eastern Europe from roughly 5,200 to 3,500bce. References to pysanky abound in their art, poetry, music and folklore.
      Trypillians led peaceful lives as farmers and artisans. Like most early humans, they worshipped the sun as the source of all life. In the land that is now Ukraine, eggs decorated with symbols from nature became central to spring rituals and sun-worship ceremonies. The logic was simple. The yolk of an egg symbolized the sun and its white the moon. In winter, the landscape appears lifeless, as does an egg. As an egg hatches a living thing, so the sun awakens dormant fields in spring. Thus the egg was considered a benevolent talisman with magical powers, able to protect and bring good fortune. 
      Legend says the first pysanky came from the sky. A bitter winter had swept across the land before migrating birds were able to fly southward. They began to fall to the ground and were in danger of freezing. The peasants gathered the birds, brought them into their homes and nurtured them throughout the winter. Come spring, the peasants set the birds free. The birds returned bearing pysanky as gifts for the humans who saved their lives.
     In early Ukraine, a veil of superstition enshrouded pysanky. They protected from fire, lightning, illness and the evil eye. To ensure a good crop, a farmer coated an egg in green oats and buried it in his field. For a good harvest of honey, he placed eggs beneath his beehives. For a plentiful fruit harvest, he hung blown eggs in his orchards and in trees surrounding his home. When building a new home, he marked its corners with eggs, then buried them in the ground as a form of protection. 
     “An early legend said the fate of the world hinged upon pysanky,” Weilminster says. “Evil, in the guise of a monster was kept chained to a cliff. Each year in the spring, the foul creature sent his minions to encircle the globe and tally up the number of pysanky made. If the count was low, the creature’s bonds would be loosened, unleashing all manner of evils.”
 
Writing in Symbols
       At the root of all pysanky is symbolism. Every color, every symbol has meaning, many echoing pagan respect for nature and life. Late in the 10th century ce, however, their interpretation changed as Christianity gained acceptance in Ukraine. Ancient pagan motifs and Christian elements blended. Pysanky lost their connection to sun worship. Once tied to the sun god Dazhboh, motifs featuring the sun, star, cross and horse came to represent the Christian God. Grapes, a harvest motif, came to represent the growing Church and the wine of communion. The fish, formerly a mystical action figure, came to symbolize Christ. Triangles that signified the trinities of air, fire and water or the heavens, earth and air now honor the Holy Trinity. 
        Still, lurking behind the Christian symbolism are traces of magical thinking. Take, as an example, the 19th and 20th century burial customs observed in Christian families when a child died during the Easter season. For food to eat and a toy to play with, the child was buried with pysanky. Even today, lines written on pysanky should remain unbroken so as to not break the thread of life. 
 
Keeping the Tradition Alive
       As the most important religious holiday in Ukraine is Easter, pysanky has become linked with its observance. With the arrival of the Lenten season, the women in traditional Russian Orthodox families often get down to waxing. 
      As a wife, mother, professional and pysanky artist, Coreen Weilminster has come a distance from her Pennsylvania roots. Living in Arnold, she enjoys the Chesapeake life with husband Eric and their two teenage daughters, Brooke and Braelyn. On weekdays, she works in Annapolis, coordinating educational programs for the Chesapeake Bay National Research Reserve in Maryland. Somehow, though, on evenings and weekends, she finds time for pysanky. Now with 31 years of pysanky experience, she happily shares her love of the craft with others, teaching workshops in her home and at the Jug Bay Center Wetlands Sanctuary in Lothian.
       At this year’s Jug Bay workshop in late February, Weilminster spoke with nostalgia about her family’s mystical late-night egg decorating sessions.
     “In the weeks before Easter, my great-aunts Helen, Irene and Elizabeth began making pysanky by the dozen,” she said. 
     Attention was paid to color, rhythm, symbolism, harmony and the unwritten rules of technique. 
     By Ukrainian tradition, making pysanky is a holy ritual for the women of the family. No one else is supposed to peek. After the children are put to bed in the evening, the fun begins. 
     “In pagan days, the pysanka was considered a vessel. It held life,” said Weilminster. “Even today, the purpose of making pysanky is to transfer goodness from one’s household into the designs. You’re to put an intention into your eggs and then give them away as gifts. We gave them to celebrate births, weddings, funerals and religious holidays. Especially on Easter Sunday.” 
      As members of a Russian Orthodox congregation, Weilminster’s family observed all the old Easter traditions. 
      “On Easter morning, we brought the food for our Easter feast to the church for the Blessing of the Baskets,” Weilminster recalls. “We’d line a basket with hand-stitched towels. In went pysanky, ham, horseradish, butter molded into the shape of a lamb and a loaf of Paska bread, a yeast bread enriched with eggs and melted butter. Pussy willows might be tossed in for effect.” 
      Back stood the parishioners as the priest and altar boys made a joyous procession. The priest sprinkled holy water and blessed the baskets.
     “It was impressive. But all I wanted was the ham in that basket,” sighs Weilminster.
 
The Moment of Truth
     When the class got down to business, Weilminster instructed on waxing and using the aniline dyes she had mixed — all while reminding her students to be forgiving of themselves. 
      “Keep in mind that this takes time and practice. Your egg will look like it’s your first egg,” she said. “It is. Still, when the wax is removed, I promise you, you’ll love it.”
     At first, students worked in silent focus. Gradually, confidence grew. At the end of the waxing and dyeing process, Weilminster helped each student blow the egg out of its shell. Then came wax removal.
     “Traditionally, wax was removed by holding the egg over a candle flame,” Weilminster said. “Me, I believe in modern hacks. I use the microwave.”
     Loud squeals emanated from the kitchen as one anxious student after another wiped the softened wax off their pysanky. All he or she wanted to do was make one more, and another after that. 
     That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

A Bay Weekly conversation with writer, birder and ­educator Katie Fallon

       Ewww, vultures! How can you stand them?
      Katie Fallon, who finds lots to love about those bare-headed carrion-eaters that so many find fearsome and disgusting, has heard it all before. Fallon is a vulture advocate and in the business of changing minds. So she hopes her March 21 audience at Quiet Waters Park will leave with a new appreciation for the birds and the role these fabulous flyers play in our ecosystem.
       Writer, birder, educator and parent, Fallon gives the first John W. ‘Bud’ Taylor Wildlife Lecture, hosted by the Anne Arundel Bird Club to honor the beloved naturalist and artist, who died last year.
       Fallon’s love of vultures goes deep. She cofounded the Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia, which annually treats more than 300 injured birds, including turkey vultures and black vultures. Now she’s written the definitive book — Vulture: The Private Life of an Unloved Bird — on vulture life, love and parenthood, with the latest science on these common but misunderstood creatures. 
       Here’s a preview of what to expect at her lecture.
 
Bay Weekly Your first book, Cerulean Blues, was about a tiny, beautiful, elusive and threatened bird, the cerulean warbler. Your new book is about a large, ubiquitous bird that few could find handsome. Your new book’s title calls them “unloved.” Why? 
Katie Fallon I, of course, love them, and a lot of people do. But if someone calls you a vulture, it’s not a compliment. Vultures in cartoons are always the bad guys, and if someone is greedy or underhanded, they’re often called a vulture. People find their eating habits disgusting, but that doesn’t make sense to me; it’s not as if humans eat live prey. I wanted to write something that showed their “disgusting” habits in a un-disgusting way. 
         Vultures do a really important job of cleaning up all of our dead stuff, and they’re super efficient. They can very quickly remove dangerous pathogens from our ecosystem. Between the acid in their stomachs — which has a pH approaching battery acid — and the powerful bacteria in their guts, their digestive systems destroy anthrax, botulism toxins and cholera. They completely neutralize anything dangerous in an animal carcass.
 
Bay Weekly Two species of vultures are common in the U.S. Why did your book focus on turkey vultures? 
Katie Fallon I like black vultures, but when I started writing about vultures around 15 years ago, I didn’t see many black vultures in West Virginia. Turkey vultures were all over the place and came into rehab much more often, so I was more familiar with them. Black vultures have been moving north and are now more common. A non-releasable black vulture named Maverick lives at the rehab center, and he’s very outgoing. My kids, 3 and 5, are able to feed him by hand. He never bites. He has a neat personality that’s totally different from the turkey vultures. Turkey vultures are, in general, more timid. 
 
Bay Weekly Why do black and turkey vultures hang out together? 
Katie Fallon They’re both social, and they both like to be where there’s a reliable source of carrion: near roads. They both seek good winds so they don’t have to spend valuable energy flapping. Black vultures will often follow turkey vultures to food because they don’t have the excellent sense of smell that turkey vultures use to find carrion. 
 
Bay Weekly Why have black vulture numbers increased? 
Katie Fallon I think climate change is definitely a reason. Both turkey and black vultures probably originated in the tropics. As the world gets warmer, it keeps road-killed animals from freezing. We have more cars and roads than we used to, so more animals are killed. Black vultures tend to roost in urban areas, where the pavement creates heat islands. Ranchers used to blame vultures for spreading diseases among cattle, and the birds were killed in huge numbers. Now we know that the opposite is true. And now vultures are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. 
 
Bay Weekly What are other misconceptions about vultures?
Katie Fallon Turkey vultures are often accused of killing pets and livestock. While black vultures occasionally kill weak and dying animals by pecking, turkey vultures do not. Both vultures have big, flat chicken feet incapable of grasping. People will say, I saw a turkey vulture carrying off my neighbor’s cat. That’s biologically impossible. But they get blamed for that kind of stuff a lot. 
 
Bay Weekly When people want to repel vultures — could you talk about that?
Katie Fallon Some people want to get rid of their vultures. I can’t understand why (laughs). Vultures like to roost on communication and water towers, and the droppings are pretty acidic and can damage equipment. To get them to move somewhere else, sometimes hanging balloons will work. A town in Virginia hung an inflatable killer whale on their water tower, which apparently deterred their vultures. Vultures don’t like sprinklers. Flare guns and fireworks sometimes work to make them relocate. But often if you scare away one group, another may come in to that same good spot. In the fall and winter, vultures roost together, but it’s not a permanent settlement. In the spring and summer they’re busy raising young. 
 
Bay Weekly You write that our turkey and black vultures are doing well, but vultures in other parts of the world are in trouble. 
Katie Fallon Yes. Asia and Africa have many vulture species adapted to eating the large animals there. In Africa, herdsmen will poison the carcasses of cattle, with the intention to kill predators that might threaten the living livestock. Vultures will die as unintended targets. Also, people who poach elephants or rhinos will often poison the carcass after they leave it, so that when vultures land and eat they die instead of congregating in the sky and alerting authorities to the poached animal. There are cases of 70 vultures dying on one poisoned carcass. 
 
Bay Weekly How can we help ­vultures?
Katie Fallon Don’t buy ivory. Notice vultures, learn about them and appreciate them. Don’t hate them! Vultures are a good introduction to birdwatching. They’re big, easy to identify and they group up in impressive numbers. Go to a vulture festival and spend money there. There are several vulture festivals across the country.
 
 
Wednesday, March 21, 7-9pm, Quiet Waters Park Blue Heron Center, Annapolis, refreshments served: 410-222-1777: $5 suggested donation w/books available for purchase and signing.
Forensic artist puts images to 200-year-old descriptions
       Lot Bell, who became a free woman in 1816, survived through two centuries of history in a few words written by the man who had claimed her ownership. Granting Lot her freedom in his last will and testament, ­Silbey Bell described her of “pretty dark complexion, long face and high cheek bones … a very remarkable scar on her head on the left side thereof which resembles a mulberry very much.” On the 30-year-old woman’s Certificate of Freedom, those words were the equivalent of her passport photo.
       Now, thanks to the Maryland State Archives’ Faces of Freedom, this forgotten figure in Maryland history — with thousands to follow — is faceless no more.
      “We want to recognize the humanity of all people gripped by the drama of slavery in Maryland,” explains Chris Haley, director of the Archives’ Study of the Legacy of Slavery. “We want to return their voices and faces to them.”
       Haley knows the history of slavery well. Nephew of Roots author Alex Haley, Chris Haley also descends from Kunta Kinte, a slave who arrived at Annapolis’ docks on the slave ship The Lord Ligonier and whose story became famous in the older Haley’s writing and 1977 television miniseries.
       “Our aim is to bring life to the identities of these unknown individuals by using Certificates of Freedom, Manumissions and runaway slave ads,” Haley explains. “We then take it to the next level by using a professional forensic artist, whose expertise is putting a face to words.
       Descriptions from Certificates of Freedom are more detailed than wording from the other documents. The certificate and the description on it were the only evidence formerly enslaved persons had to prove who they were and to vouch for their freedom. Without good descriptions of all of the prominent facial features, a free or freed man or woman was more likely to be arrested and enslaved again.
 
Breathing Life into Words
       Lt. Donald C. Stahl of the criminal investigations division of the Charles County Sheriff’s office was the forensic artist Haley chose to reconstruct the Faces of Freedom. 
        From a Certificate of Freedom, Stahl explains, “I first pull out all of the details.” Lot Bell’s description also noted that she was “rather straight and well made, narrow between her temples, rather flat nose, with a full mouth and thick lips.”
      It’s a process, Stahl explains.
      “Given the description, I first try to form a picture of the face in my mind.”
       As well as Lot Bell, Stahl has reconstructed Samuel Curtis, a 23-year-old freed in 1838. He depicted Curtis with an open mouth because “the certificate stated that ‘his lips are thick and when he laughs shows his upper teeth.’ So I felt that was a distinguishing characteristic.” 
       Then the forensic artist seeks a photographic reference “to provide finer details like lighting and shading.”
      The next step is “research on the era to include a period feel.” Stahl tries to get a feel of what life would have been like back then to avoid making people who lived two centuries ago appear in the image of today.
      There is, however, a degree of artistic license “When we started the project,” Stahl says, “Chris and I agreed there had to be. While a good amount of information is included in the certificate of freedom, every single feature is not described in detail, so I have to develop something to complete the face.”
       The images we now see of Lot Bell and Samuel Curtis are, Stahl says, each a “true composite image made up of several pieces. It’s what we do in law enforcement to take a description and come up with a semblance.”
       Stahl’s participation in the project is a labor of love. Because it’s completed in his spare time, a facial reproduction can take anywhere from a few days to several months.
      “This is a very worthwhile project to be involved in,” he says. “I’m so used to drawing bad guys that it’s refreshing to do it for something good.”
 
Chronicling the Trail of Freedom
       In 2001, the Maryland Archives began organized research on the unsung heroes who fought against enslavement and aided escapes to freedom. Beyond the familiar names Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass were thousands of other unknowns who risked imprisonment to help. Begun with three volunteers, that project, beneath the Underground Railway, gained funding from the National Park Service Network to Freedom Program. It has since spun off the Legacy of Slavery and Faces of Freedom projects.
      Haley spreads his arms in celebration as he walks to the display case holding the reproduction of Lot Bell and a copy of her original Certificate of Freedom. Having learned his ancestry through his uncle’s research and writing, he’s made it a mission to help others exploring family history.
      “Anyone can find their own roots if they dig deeply enough,” he says. “It’s all recorded just waiting to be discovered. All it takes is time and perseverance.”

Dr. Joan Gaither’s quilts document lives and history

      Mention quilts, and people often share memories of grandmothers or great aunts working with needle and thread, joining pieces of fabric with precise stitching.
      Dr. Joan Gaither, who documents history with cloth and thread, describes herself as “a quilter who breaks all the rules.” Her quilts are covered with images, words and objects: buttons, ribbons, pieces of jewelry, shells — anything that can be sewn to fabric and symbolizes an aspect of the story she tells.
       She stitched her first quilt after the death of an aunt whose story and family history she wanted to memorialize. As she added text and photos to represent the lives and careers of seven generations of her family, the quilt grew to an impressive 10-by-12 feet. It includes the colorful and imaginative embellishments that now characterize her work and features brilliant Maryland state flag colors representing her family’s ties to Baltimore.
       That experience 18 years ago launched the Maryland Institute College of Art professor into fiber arts and three-dimensional collage. Gaither has since made over 200 quilts, telling her stories and those of black Americans. Many have themes of identity, racism and social justice. Others honor the lives of individuals who have influenced national politics, education and the arts.
       Through this month, you can see her quilts in Baltimore in the exhibit Freedom: Emancipation Quilted & Stitched at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, which celebrates the contributions and legacies of people of color in Maryland.
       Each image, object, fabric and color, she explains, has symbolism. Most quilts are edged in African mud cloth. A strip of blue stands for the ocean passage. Red, white and blue fabric represents America. Pieces with railroad tracks are the Underground Railway and the flight to freedom. 
      “The strips are often held together by safety pins, some still open,” she explains, “to symbolize the pain of slavery, oppression and injustice.”
       The topics of the quilts on exhibit range from Gaither’s personal history to broad topics of national interest. Laid out in a pattern like the Maryland flag, her Sesquicentennial 1864 Slave Emancipation Quilt has blocks that represent all of the counties in the state, plus Baltimore City. Each block focuses on events and people associated with emancipation. More than 400 people across the state helped in creating this quilt, which will continue its travels throughout Maryland when the exhibit closes at month’s end.
        Collaboration is a hallmark of Gaither’s work. She brings together local communities, school children and church groups to create and construct quilts. One of her largest quilts (10 by 14 feet) depicts the entire Chesapeake Bay and celebrates the lives of its black watermen. That inspiration was, she says, “my discovery that there was very little record of the contributions of African Americans to Bay-oriented industries.” Individuals from towns all around the Bay contributed information, family photographs and objects to make the history come alive.
       No experience required is the message at Gaither’s quilt-making workshops. People come with words, photographs and mementos. She brings ink jet printers, scissors, markers, boxes of embellishments and inspires her quilters to capture memories and stories on fabric. Sewing is done with large needles and simple stitches.
        A group of young children who swarmed into her exhibit the day she and I visited were drawn to details on the quilts, calling out to one another as they noticed yet another fascinating or unusual embellishment: strings of beads, a political button, a plastic crab. She answered some questions, then encouraged the kids to talk with their families and elders: “Ask them questions about their lives,” she said, “about what they remember from when they were young.” 
        “Memory aids, instruction manuals and moral compasses” are our stories, author and journalist Aleks Krotoski says. Gaither’s quilts are just that, capturing history, documenting and honoring lives, describing their lessons about the past and their calls for justice and equality.
       Follow Gaither on Facebook: www.facebook.com/JoanMEGaither.
Is cursive an evolutionary dodo?
       Can you sign your name in cursive?
       For much of American history, handwriting was a hallmark of education and character, taught in classrooms as part of the triumvirate of reading, ’riting and ’rithmatic. Students who persevered through eight grades took as much pride in their penmanship as John Hancock, whose graceful cursive on the Declaration of Independence made his name a synonym for signature, as in sign your John Hancock on the dotted line.
      Into the 20th century, handwriting was so foundational a part of the public school curriculum that educators devoted themselves to perfecting a system good for one and all, just as modern educators have with Common Core. From letterforms and linkages standardized in the mid-1800s by bookseller and abolitionist Platt Rogers Spencer — and not so different from many Hancock used — the American cursive handwriting style evolved.
      Spencerian descendants — about whom we’ll have more to say — were so successful that by the mid-20th century, Americans from coast to coast could write — and read — one another’s handwriting, as well as John Hancock’s.
Yet just about then (does Sputnik ring a bell?) states began de-emphasizing handwriting to allow more classroom time for the curriculum we know today as STEM. 
       Does cursive have a future? That’s the question we ask in honor of National Handwriting Day, which falls on January 23, the birthday of the Massachusetts’ patriot John Hancock. No longer can every graduate of our public schools read Hancock’s signature — or, for that matter, the handwritten document itself.
      Can you?
 
A Pillar of Civilization
       Through the four- or five-thousand-year span of recorded history, handwriting has evolved, influenced and reflected every aspect of culture. This art of forming visible, readable characters has evolved in many styles, from cuneiform and hieroglyphics to unconnected block letters to flowing cursive.
      About the time the Egyptians were developing hieroglyphics, Sumerian merchants were codifying their transactions into cuneiform script. Ever since, handwritten documents have recorded births, marriages and deaths but also started and ended wars. They’ve bought and sold land and slaves, and guaranteed — or challenged — our voting rights.
      By about 1500 BCE, the Phoenicians had an alphabet of 22 phonetic symbols. This marvelous invention spread to Greece, Persia, India and Egypt.
      Like any new technology, handwriting brought on tidal waves of change. Socrates feared a written language would destroy memory, according to Anne Trubek, author of The History and Uncertain Future of Handwriting. To a degree, he was right; the old oral tradition that gave rise to Homer is obsolete. On the other hand, as French philosopher Jacques Derrida noted, we only know what Socrates thought about anything because someone recorded his ideas.
        In the second century BCE, the Roman Empire conquered Greece, adopting its then 23-letter alphabet. The alphabet spread throughout the Roman empire. More letters were adopted over the centuries until, by the 15th century, the Roman alphabet consisted of 26 letters.
       By then, handwriting had become a specialized skill, practiced by the scribes and monks who saw their livelihood threatened when Gutenberg developed a printing press capable of assembly line-style production of books. Despite their worries, handwriting remained for many centuries the dominant medium for recording and sharing information.
         The Renaissance development of copperplate engraving brought the fanciful flourishes to script writing. This script evolved into the italics from which cursive and basic lowercase letters derive.
        In early America — as in so many cultures over the millennia — handwriting was a skill that could earn a craftsman a living. By the 1700s, master clerks were doing the actual penning of many of our historic documents. The United States Constitution was drafted by James Madison, penned by Jacob Shallus, assistant clerk of the Pennsylvania State Assembly and signed, more or less elegantly, by 56 colonial gentlemen, for whom fine handwriting was a mark of education and cultivation. 
       In 1786, George Fisher published The Instructor, or American Young Man’s Best Companion Containing Spelling, Reading, Writing, and Arithmetick.
         “The capitals must bear the same Proportion one to another,” wrote Fisher. He directed that upstrokes be fine, and downward strokes fuller and blacker. “And when you are in Joining,” he instructed, “take not off the Pen in writing, especially in running or mixed hands.” His words may ring familiar to 60- and 70-somethings who learned Palmer cursive in school. 
        In the mid-18th century Platt Rogers Spencer developed a utilitarian writing system uniting aspects of several popular writing systems. During the late 1880s, the Spencerian method evolved into the Palmer system, which emphasized writing with arm movements rather than with the fingers. With variants, Palmer remained the school standard of penmanship through the 1950s.
        Meanwhile, other technologies were changing the world. As early as 1947, when TIME magazine was already bemoaning the “day of typewriters, shorthand, telephones and Dictaphones,” educators and the media were complaining that schools were neglecting penmanship instruction. In 1955, the Saturday Evening Post pronounced us a “nation of scrawlers.” By the 1980s, some public school students were receiving little or no formal handwriting training.
 
Cursive Uncommon in ­Common Core 
        Since 2010, to many teens and young graduates of Maryland’s public schools, the swirls and twirls of cursive are as unreadable as ancient Sanskrit.
       Trace it back to Maryland’s adoption that year of Common Core State Standards in reading, English/Language Arts and mathematics, known 
as the Maryland College and Career-Ready Standards. Later, pre-K standards were added. 
       State education standards have been around since the early 1990s, varying from state to state. In 2009, most states, the District of Columbia and a couple of territories voted to develop Common Core State Standards. Maryland was among the first of many states to adopt the new, voluntary standards. 
       Common Core put our nation “one step closer,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation that bankrolled the initiative, “to supporting effective teaching in every classroom, charting a path to college and careers for all students.” 
       Often Common Core pushed cursive aside for keyboarding and computer skills, math and sciences.
 
How Important are ­Connected Letters?
        Does the loss of our common heritage of handwriting matter? Opinions are divided.
        Juli Folk, 37, is reading handwritten Calvert County Census documents for the Center for the Study of the Legacy of Slavery at the Maryland Archives while studying for her masters degree in Library Information Science at the University of Maryland ISchool. 
       Her volunteer project depends on her ability to read cursive in many hands over many decades. “I had fun learning it in elementary school,” she says.
      Yet for today’s students, she’d be happy to see it “offered as an art class. Or teachers could show students what cursive letters look like, then let them learn it on their own.”
      “What matters,” she says, “is that handwriting, whether printed or cursive, is legible.”
      The American Bar Association seems to agree. Printed signatures are just as legal as are cursive — or electronic ones,” according to University of Missouri law professor David English.
       Other benefits may make cursive fit enough to survive the keyboard era.
       Some researchers say learning cursive benefits brain development and fine motor skills in children, leading to improved writing skills and reading comprehension — skills critical across the Common Core. 
        Dr. William R. Klemm, senior professor of neuroscience at Texas A&M, says learning cursive helps train the brain to function more effectively, increasing hand-eye coordination and reading speed. Thus, he concludes that schools that drop cursive are depriving students of an important developmental tool.
        Whatever learning cursive may do for our hands, eyes and brains, losing it certainly cuts us off from our past. A generation illiterate in cursive will be unable to read historic documents, including Grandma’s letters. 
       “Sending a handwritten letter is becoming such an anomaly,” says actor Steve Carell. “My mom is the only one who still writes me letters. There’s something visceral about opening a letter. I see her in handwriting.”
       At the Maryland State Archives, Emily Oland Squires hears complaints from researchers, especially students, struggling to read with cursive. 
       Archives staff tries to bridge the gap by helping research teachers create lesson plans that include both primary source documents written in cursive and their transcriptions. Online transcriptions have been made of many documents pertaining to state and African American history.
        “Still, we ask teachers to let students try to work from the manuscripts before giving them transcriptions,” says Squires. “It helps them learn.”
 
Does Cursive Have a Future?
         Some states have legislated a future for cursive. In 2016, Alabama and Louisiana — not states earning top educational ratings — became the latest of 14 states that now require cursive in school.
        Maryland does not require cursive be taught. 
        “There are currently no standards for cursive,” says Walter Lee, of the office of the Curriculum Coordinator and Instruction at Anne Arundel County Public Schools. “But Maryland created a framework in which cursive does appear.” 
       Lee explains that Maryland decided to include cursive as part of the framework for interpreting the state standards for the Commonwealth of Maryland. “There are no policies governing cursive,” he says, “but there are practices. It is up to local education agencies.”
        In Anne Arundel County, he says “incorporating cursive into reading time during the school day is a school-based decision, meaning that it is up to the principal.”
      In the bigger picture, it may be, as Trubek says, that the decline in our use of handwriting in our daily lives is only the next stage in the evolution of communication. Where we’ll be next, who knows.
        While we wait to see what the next wave of change brings, we might all heed the advice of Benjamin Franklin: “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” He did both.
       In honor of National Handwriting Day, pick up a pen or pencil and put it to use.
 
What is Cursive?
       Cursive derives from the Latin word currere, meaning to run. Cursive writing has a more comfortable flow than early Roman square block printing or the more rounded uncial writing of early Latin literature. In handwriting history, forerunners of cursive appear as far back as ancient Roman times. Due to its speed and efficiency, many languages since the ancients have cursive forms. 
       In America, cursive has subtypes such as ligature, in which letters within words are connected with lines. There’s also cursive italic penmanship, which combines joins and pen lifts within words. Looped cursive is the style taught in American schools since the late 1800s. If you learned cursive, it may well have been this style. 
 

 

 

Rich or poor, Owensville ­Primary Care turns no one away

Over $10,000. That’s what the average American spent for health care in 2016, and up is where that number is heading.
     “My wife’s health insurance jumped 38.9 percent,” laments a friend recently retired. “My pension is disappearing.”
     Across the age spectrum, you hear endless variationa of the same story.
Last year, 11.9 percent of Anne Arundel County residents couldn’t afford to see a doctor, according to the county’s Report Card of Community Health Indicators. Seventeen percent didn’t have a primary care physician.
     In a culture where health and wealth are inextricably linked, Owensville Primary Care is a haven. It welcomes all with these words: This Health Center serves all patients regardless of insurance status or ability to pay.
     It is an oddly placed haven.
     If you wanted to show off southern Anne Arundel County’s pastoral ideal, you couldn’t do better than take a drive down Owensville Road, the east-west link between Rt. 2 and Galesville. Amid imposing white homes set back on yards rolling into farm fields, the modernistic stucco building might, if noticed, raise a question. 
     Its placement tells a truer story of Southern Maryland life than the scenery. It’s a story in many ways little changed since Owensville Primary Care was founded in 1974 to, in CEO Sylvia Jennings’ words, “address the needs of a very low-income, rural, minority population that did not have access to health care.”
     Over four decades, Jennings has seen need persist and — for many of those years — overseen Owensville Primary Care’s ability to deliver care regardless of race, age or income.
      “We pledge to provide quality health care to our entire, diverse community at a responsible cost,” Jennings says. “That’s our mission.”
     Since the Affordable Care Act was passed, that pledge has included helping people, patients or not, find qualified health care programs. Nowadays, people losing their subsidies are welcome for advice and alternatives.
 
A Melting Pot
     In the utilitarian waiting room, you find yourself in a microcosm of the larger Southern Anne Arundel County community, where homes — and with them wealth — run the full range from mansions to shanties. Here, your neighbors — black and white, young and old, more and less affluent — visit as they wait. You might find — as I did on this day — a kid sucking a lollipop. Two elderly women, black and white. A tattooed hipster with an ear gauge in his lobe. A workingman in an Orioles cap. Yourself.

Owensville Primary Care outgoing CEO Sylvia Jennings, retiring after more than 20 years.

       Owensville Primary Care has become, over the years, an American melting pot. 
     “I came in one morning to find a Jaguar in the parking lot next to a jalopy,” says Jennings, the white-topped dynamo who for two decades has been CEO of this federally qualified Community Health Center, one of 16 in Maryland and some 1,400 nationwide.
      The numbers support the impression of diversity. Of October’s 1,156 patient visits, 38 percent were paid by commercial insurance, 32 percent by Medicare and 28 percent by Medicaid, with two percent self-paid.
 
Walking Into a Nightmare
       Jennings, 82 and days from retirement, works behind the scenes, in an office stocked with tall jars of Hershey’s Kisses. Jolly, direct and demanding, she does not want a visit to her sanctum to feel like “a walk down the hall to the principal.”
      For the office she is now dismantling has been the scene of many hard decisions.
      “I walked into a nightmare,” Jennings recalls.
      In 1981, the well-intentioned, six-year-old South County Family Health had descended into bankruptcy. With $1.5 million owed, court administrators threatened to “nail doors shut and walk away,” Jennings remembers. That’s when she joined the board, deputized by her boss, Virginia Clagett, then South County’s councilwoman.
      Paying off that debt took eight years.
      A second round of troubles in the mid 1990s brought Jennings back on the board to captain “a sinking ship.” First she laughed at entreaties; finally she accepted. That was 1997. She spent the next two years cleaning up the mess.
 
The Team
      Jennings has been the force that kept Owensville Primary Care on track.
      But hers is not the face you’re likely to know if you happen to be one of its 3,400 patients, from birth to geriatrics. 
      First you meet the reception crew, who, Jennings says and experience proves, are “welcoming and treat you not as a stranger but as a friend.” 

photo by Wayne Bierbaum

Back, doctors Thomas Sheesley, Jonathan Hennessee and Wayne Bierbaum. Front, nurse practitioner Nancy Bryan, behavioral health director Dr. Jana Raup and physicians assistant Ann Hendon.

photo by Wayne Bierbaum

Rebecca Woolwine, Judy Bracken, Amber Snay and Billie Aisquith in back row. Keri Mahan and Brittany Galloway, seated.

      Many, like office manager Billie Aisquith, have been here as long as Jennings. Increasingly, they are “cross-trained in multiple functions,” like Vickie Payne, who is also a fire department EMT just certified as a medical assistant through Anne Arundel Community College’s online program.
       “When they expand their skills, they expand their incomes,” Jennings says.
       Next, you enter into the hands of nurses — among them nurse supervisor Vanessa Greenwell, Owensville Primary’s longest serving staffer at over 30 years — who’ll take your weight and height, blood pressure, temperature and blood oxygen readings.
       They turn you over to health care providers, who range from doctors to nurse practitioner Nancy Bryan, retired from the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps, to physician assistant Ann Hendon.
       At 28 years in, chief medical officer Wayne Bierbaum calls his egalitarian work at Owensville Primary “what I’ve wanted to do since I decided to go into medicine: helping people manage in difficult circumstances.”
       Doctors Jonathan Hennessee and Thomas Sheesley are National Health Service Corps Scholars, who repay their medical education by working in communities with limited access to care, in their cases for a term of five years.
      Behavioral Health Director Jana Raup or Licensed Clinical Social Worker Jen Thornton offer counseling and therapy.
 
Right People for the Job
       From the bottom up and top down, salaries are a priority with Jennings, who brings her medical experience as a nurse along with administrative experience alongside a state legislator.
      “I really focused on getting people a decent wage,” she said. “Even then, $7 an hour for nurses was ridiculous.”
        “The money wasn’t there so it was a long process,” says Sharon Widemann, Jennings’ long-time colleague and now successor as CEO.
      Nowadays, Jennings calls “our salaries very competitive,” good enough to draw expertise from outside South County. 
       “Young physicians fresh out of school are paid a very good entry-level wage that appreciates the fact that family-care physicians are difficult to recruit,” she notes. 
      For five years, Jennings and Widemann, who came on in 1994 as an accountant, “got our hands dirty with work to make sure we had the right hiring.”
        Computerization brought the next challenge. 
      “When IT hit us all with electronic records, we were able to draw the best staff among community health centers, who are doing wonders for our record keeping,” Widemann says.
 
Finding Wherewithal
      Every step took money. 
      Community health centers are backed by tax dollars. Owensville Primary Care has a $4 million budget, with federal funding of about $1.5 million, supplemented by fees for service, donations from citizens and small government grants for targeted programs.
       Federal and private funding supported the construction of the building back in 1976, enabling Owensville Primary to move out of the old Owensville primary school. The building was county property until 2002, when it was surplussed to Owensville Primary. That same year, a state grant of $200,000 and a loan from the county paid for renovation. Later grants paid for better parking. This year, the behavioral health center moved into its own remodeled space, replacing the old post office that shared space with Owensville Primary.
      Grants enabled growth in services. In 2013 federal monies brought on behavioral health case managers, certified application counselors for Affordable Care and expanded Medicare, plus two more physicians. 
      A brand-new grant supports response to the opioid addiction crisis with mental health, public awareness and Narcan training.
      From Jennings’ years with Clagett as both councilwoman and delegate, she understood the levers of government. 
     “She has kept us in the minds of politicians who help our cause,” says chief medical officer Wayne Bierbaum.
      Jennings retires with Owensville Primary Care “in the black.” But not without a touch of uncertainty. Federal funding for community health centers expired September 30, and Congress has yet to reauthorize it.
 
‘A’ For Accountabiliity
     Recovery from a troubled past has made accountability part of each day’s work.
     “We hold ourselves accountable with committees for quality care, insurance and improvement,” Widemann says. “Once a month, a group of clinical and administrative staff review incidents and look at how our patients are doing. If one provider is doing a great job, we see how to share those best practices.”
     Patients have two ways to rate their satisfactions, and a sign on the reception desk invites complaints if you’ve waited more than 20 minutes to be seen. Quality measures are posted on the front door and the website.
      Accountability is one of the hallmarks of Jennings’ tenure, according to Bierbaum who has worked beside her the whole time.
     “Our goals have been continually strengthened through her vision of what we should become, so that everyone knows that we stand for service delivered with compassion, accountability and professionalism, always trying to do better in our mission,” he says.
     On January 2, Jennings passed on title and responsibility to Widemann. She leaves with satisfaction, relief and confidence, in a transition that, she promises, “will be seamless.” Preparing Widemann to continue the mission has been Jennings’ final achievement. 
     That, and revisiting 22 years of history, paper, electronic and human. 
     Amid the sorting, preserving and trashing, there was reflecting.
     Jennings already had reached retirement age when she was persuaded to come to the rescue of Owensville Primary Care.
     “I thought I’d do it a couple years and get it straightened out,” she recalls. 
      But day after day, year after year, she returned.
      “What I do every day of my life is so satisfying that it has allowed me to work till 82,” she says.
 

Outgoing CEO Sylvia Jennings, left, and her successor, Sharon Widemann.

      Now, 20 years in, she allows herself to be “very personally pleased with myself for the job I have done here. Some people will call me smug, but you have to have some personal reward. I’m not talking about money but about feeling I have contributed something to my neighbors and friends.”
      Widemann’s mission is continuing a success she helped create.
     “We have a very fully equipped and functioning federal community health center, a strong executive staff, strong providers and a growing behavioral health component,” the new CEO says.
      Her plan is to reach into the community to bring affordable health care to people still unserved. Growing the behavioral health unit is a particular goal.
      She steps comfortably into Jennings’ big shoes.
     “We’re not a one-woman show anymore,” Widemann says. “We’re a team effort. Plus, I know where Sylvia lives.”

A look at who we are through what we do in snapshots of Chesapeake Country ­working people aged 17 to 89.

Summer officially ends with Labor Day, aptly the day America sets aside to celebrate the people who made and make the nation.
      The holiday began as part of working people’s campaign to claim the benefits of their labor. Much has changed since the determined, often life-and-death labor struggles of the late 19th century. Industries have flourished and fallen. We do different jobs, contributing to a far different give-and-take than New York City’s 1892 Labor Day paraders. 
      Again as summer ends and Labor Day approaches, Bay Weekly looks at who we are through what we do in this parade of random snapshots of Chesapeake Country working people aged 17 to 89. Here, too, we do lots of different jobs. What we all have in common is the pride we take in our work.
–Sandra Olivetti Martin
Morgan McLendon
17, Pasadena: Nordstrom Saleswoman and Annapolis High School senior
     My first job was as a bagger and cashier at the Giant in Pasadena. I was 14 at the time and really didn’t like anything about it.
     Now, I’m a salesperson in the Nordstrom TOPSHOP brand department and absolutely love it! I’ve always enjoyed fashion and find it rewarding to help others find clothing that works best for their size and shape. It never feels like actual work.
     My position with Nordstrom has been my favorite job, and I will continue to work part-time when I return to school in September. I’ll actually have two part-time jobs, since I’ll also be working in a dental office.
–interviewed by Debra Driscoll
Megan D’Apice
19, Odenton: Summer lifeguard
     This summer, I’ve been a lifeguard at the Hillsmere pool in Annapolis. Before that, I worked at the Crofton Village pool for three summers. What I like best about the job is playing with the little kids at the pool.
–interviewed by Jackie Graves
Hanah Izzi
25, Prince Frederick and Federalsburg: Ravens cheerleader and dolphin helper 
     My first real job was at a Hair ­Cuttery. I have my cosmetology license, and I still cut hair on the side. I’m also a licensed insurance producer at an Allstate company
     Plus I have two other jobs.
      I work for the Ravens part-time as a cheerleader. We have three-hour practices Tuesday and Thursday nights and appearances throughout the community we sign up for. For games, we’re there five hours beforehand and practice on the field for a few hours. We go around the stadium before the game starts and engage with the fans. Then we run out the tunnel before the players and are on the sidelines the entire time. It’s really hard work. We’re nonstop dancing almost three and a half hours. 
      I’ve danced since I was two years old, first at Julie Rogers Studio, then on the Calvert High dance team, and at Towson University I was on that dance team.
      But what I actually want to do is marine biology. I work at the National Aquarium in Baltimore with the dolphins. I volunteer Tuesday and Thursdays, when I have cheerleading practice in Baltimore. I do fish prep for dolphins and help the trainers throughout the day.
–interviewed by Sandra Olivetti Martin
Renée Bennett
27, Prince Frederick … El Paso … Fort Meade: Soon to be Six String Soldier
     I’m a musician, a singer and violinist. My first job was a gig, playing with my dad and my sister Hanah Izzi on piano.
     I’ve been freelancing in El Paso, where my husband is in the Army Band. A month ago, my husband I got hired by the Six String Soldiers, part of the United States Army Field Band at Fort Meade. So we’ll be playing and traveling together.
      I’ve been in a couple of country bands, in rock bands, but so far I really like playing classic rock with an orchestra best of all.
–interviewed by Sandra Olivetti Martin
Tony Lewis
28, Annapolis: Owner, Tony J Photography 
      If I could shoot every day, that would be a dream come true.
      My favorite part is working with people and connecting with people. I was a super shy kid; I stuttered a lot. I had a Fisher-Price camera and I remember running around the house saying, Say cheese! I realized the camera allowed me to be in places I ­wouldn’t be in or wouldn’t feel comfortable being in.
      When I was 17 I toured the country with a company that did government contracting. Every other day I went to a different part of the country and photographed employees. When I got back from that trip I thought, I’m going to be a photographer for the rest of my life. 
       People ask me what my favorite shot is. I haven’t taken it yet. The artist in me is always trying to do better. I don’t think I’ll ever have that moment … and I don’t want that moment.
–interviewed by Emily Shaughnessy
Jennifer Carr
31, Severna Park: Restoration Program Manager, South River Federation
     I’ve always been very passionate about international issues, especially international conservation. After graduating college I was waiting for a job in the environmental field to open up, and I worked for an AmeriCorps education nonprofit and for the International Refugee Committee in Baltimore. There are refugee families I picked up seven or eight years ago at the airport that I still keep in touch with today. I run clothing donations to Burmese refugee communities in Baltimore about 10 times a year.
     I started as a volunteer intern with the South River Federation. Now I manage the restoration program: everything from writing grants to coordinating with landowners to overseeing construction. Having grown up in Pennsylvania I’ve always been more drawn to the land side, but that’s a huge part of restoring the Bay: you cannot restore the Bay without addressing the stormwater coming off the land. 
–interviewed by Emily Shaughnessy
Lt. Scott Clark
34, Annapolis: USNA Conduct Officer
      My first job was at 13 or 14 as a swim instructor at our local pool in Simi Valley, California.
     After years of flight school in Pensacola, I went to San Diego, flying MH-60S Knight Hawks, then was deployed to Bahrain, Dubai, Jordan, Israel and Singapore. Now I’m back at the Naval Academy, working as a Conduct Officer, which boils down to being a disciplinarian. It’s difficult because I enjoy working with the midshipmen, and the ones I interact with on a daily basis are not there for happy reasons. It’s always a difficult conversation.
     My favorite job was as Company Officer, overseeing and advising the close to 150 midshipmen in each of 30 companies at the Academy, where I graduated in the class of 2009. I find it extremely rewarding to mentor, lead and teach the young Mids. It’s important for me to have them learn from the mistakes I made while in their position. Pay it forward, if you will.
–interviewed by Debra Driscoll
Sherry Kuiper
37, Edgewater: Public Relations Officer at Fort George G. Meade
      Working in public relations, I get to help tell the Fort Meade story every day through television, radio stations and newspapers.
     My first real job was working at McDonald’s. I worked at the McDonald’s Bill Elliott NASCAR Museum in Muncy, Pennsylvania. It was pretty cool because the car he wrecked in Talladega hanged in the restaurant. One of his other cars served as our drive-thru window
     My best job was working as a production assistant at Community Access Television in Erie, Pennsylvania. I interned there in college and was eventually hired. I got to do everything. I took care of the programming, made videos for political candidates and taught people how to shoot and edit video. It was my first job in my career. While I was sad to leave, it launched my 12-year career as a TV news producer.
–interviewed by Alka Bromiley
Marcus Hayes
38, Annapolis: Sound studio engineer and Uber driver 
     At 14, when we were living at Incirlik Air Force Base in southern Turkey, I had a clerical job with my step-mom. It made me understand what working at an office was like; it was cool. I learned how to be responsible at a young age, how waking up early to get to work was important and how to earn my own money.
      Then for almost 10 years, I was working in the optical business, and I liked that the most. I cut prescriptions and helped people choose frames, find the right look for them. I left to pursue my ambition, a career in the music industry.
      Now I do a hybrid of things. I am self-employed. My schedule is flexible, so I am an Uber driver. I help people get around. It’s not a 9-to-5 job; some people say it’s not a real job, but I treat it like one. I am also a sound studio engineer working on live performances. The genre is a mixture of soulful R&B and hip-hop, I like to call it soul hop, it’s the music I help to create.
–interviewed by Alka Bromiley
Bill Jiang
40, Gambrills, via China: Sushi chef
     Starting as a grocery clerk, I learned my art 14 years ago from a ­Japanese master who was my smoking buddy and a very demanding master. I have worked at the Fuji Lounge in Gambrills for the past five years. I like my job because it makes me feel like a surgeon: wearing gloves, holding the knife and preparing the fish very carefully. Chinese New Year is my favorite event when I prepare artistically themed creations for over 120 people, and they are so very appreciative.
–interviewed by Jane Elkin
Veronica Contreras
45, Annapolis: Owner, Vero’s Housekeeping
     I was born in Mexico and grew up in California. My first job, at the age of 13, was as a cashier at a taco stand in Canoga Park, California.
     Currently, I am the owner of Vero’s Cleaning. I started it around six years ago, as the major breadwinner in the family (I have three boys). It can be hard work sometimes, but I’m so lucky to have very nice clients who appreciate our effort. 
      My favorite job was as a cashier, no matter where. The most difficult part was standing all day. But I always enjoyed talking with the customers. It made the day go by quickly, too.
–interviewed by Debra Driscoll
Scheri Goff
47, Annapolis: Yoga teacher
      My first job was working with severely emotionally disturbed boys aged 10 to 14 in a group home setting. Most had no parents or little parental interaction. The majority were wards of the State of California, where I lived at the time. I believe that the resilient spirit of these young men taught me the meaning of compassion, love and pain. 
     It is not really accurate to call my life’s purpose a job. I love what I do as simply and fully as anyone who has found their path to show others how to live well. Through yoga, we can learn so much about ourselves and in turn share that peace with the world. 
      Best job? Being a mother, friend, wife, yoga teacher and lover of life, I feel I have been given a gift to make a difference in the world. I teach what my teachers have taught me, passing it down with personal experiences. Through positive thinking, healthy eating, proper exercise, proper breathing and plenty of rest, I believe we may all live fully and well. 
–interviewed by Alka Bromiley
Ray Alves
54, Mechanicsville: Cartographer, Calvert County Department of Planning
      I draw maps for Calvert County. Anything to do with planning and zoning. My most recent job, with lots of people working on it, was a redo of Calvert’s Critical Areas map.
     No, they aren’t as pretty as Captain John Smith’s maps. I like the old maps and style of the calligraphy. I always liked to draw, and everyplace I went, I did more and more. I used to draw maps by hand on a drafting table. Now I do them by computer.
     I’ve worked in mapping for three counties, St. Mary’s, Anne Arundel and Calvert. I like it when I can accomplish stuff and get things done for people. I like to see their faces when I’m done.
–interviewed by Sandra Olivetti Martin
Claire Cawood Parker
54, Annapolis: Maryland State Archery champion
      My first job was a counter clerk and cashier at a Burger King in Nashville, where I was born. I then attended the University of Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Johns Hopkins universities to become a mental health counselor. I worked in private practice in the Annapolis area, administering to children and adults. Over the years this profession turned out to be my favorite and most worthwhile occupation for the positive effect it had on the many patients I served.
      Retired, I’m now working part-time as the manager of the Archery and Firearms Department of Angler’s Sport Center as well as continuing as a Maryland State Archery champion. I’m an outdoorswoman, and I find working and interacting with like-minded people a great deal of fun.
–interviewed by Dennis Doyle
Celia Molofsky
North Beach: Owner of The Wheel  
     My first job was the Army. I enlisted right out of high school. I retired as a sergeant major. My biggest accomplishment was moving the National Guard from a traditional force to an active force after 9/11. 
     The Army was my best job. I believed in what we were doing, the philosophy of fight and defend.
     Now, I’m owner of The Wheel LLC in North Beach. We’re an art gallery with 45 artists, a trendy gift shop and a tavern with fine wines and Ship Oat spirits — plus selling sophisticated clothing for men and women.
–interviewed by Tracy Contrino
Dan Starsoneck
60, Newly arrived in Annapolis: Global fire detection manager
      When Dan meets new people and they ask about his life, he jokes that he spent 26 years in prison — prison security that is, as a technician installing security systems for Johnson Controls at such notorious penitentiaries as Rikers Island. After 40 years in the business, he was recently promoted to sales manager for the northeast North Atlantic division.
      His first and worst job was baling hay, “exhausting and nasty work,” he says.
–interviewed by Jane Elkin
Mitzi Bernard
60, Friendship: Director, Bay Community Support Services
     After high school I worked at the ABC Wildlife Preserve where Six Flags Amusement Park now sits. The land was broken up and enclosed in sections each representing a major continent. We would ride horseback to round up the animals from each continent: cows and buffalo for North America, wild boar and ostriches for another and so on. It was the coolest job because we rode horses.
     I made my career in not-for-profits, working mostly for people with disabilities as I have for over 25 years as director of Bay Community Support Services for disabled individuals. This is my best job ever because we make a real difference in people’s lives. I call this a giving-back-to-the-community kind of job. We provide residential support in agency group homes as well as privately owned homes, employment services, day community activity programs, life-skills training, transportation and more to over 250 clients with all levels of disabilities.
–interviewed by Mick Blackistone
Greg Bowen
63, Prince Frederick: Executive director, ­American Chestnut Land Trust
      Right out of college I was a farmer. I farmed for a couple of years on the family farm in Prince Frederick.
      At American Chestnut Land Trust, I get to help preserve lands and be a good steward to that land. I get to go out on the trails and work with hundreds of volunteers who love the land as well. We have a little farm, so we are raising food and donating that to those in need.
      One of the most exciting things we started this year is doing science in the watershed, trying to set baselines for all the critters — all the flora and fauna — and then monitor trends to see how they are impacted by development, climate change and by invasive species.
     This is my best job. The camaraderie, the kindness that you see every day and the commitment to the environment is just incredible. I’ve had good jobs, don’t get me wrong. I loved being a planner for Calvert County, and I got to see so many good things happen over that time. But now I get to focus on the land and land preservation. What a life!
–interviewed by Sandra Olivetti Martin
Bill Driscoll
Annapolis: Hotel manager
     My first job was with the City of Pittsburgh’s Department of Parks and Recreation, where I was a recreation leader. At 16, I had a pretty cushy way to spend the summer and make money. My responsibility was distributing equipment for sporting events and games for kids. 
      A 48-year-old veteran of the hospitality industry, I graduated from Penn State University in 1968 with a degree in Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management. I’m currently area general manager for the Westin and Sheraton BWI hotels. I’m the official GM of the Westin and also oversee the GM of the Sheraton. The responsibility for everything related to the profitability of both hotels is mine. My wife always has a large cocktail ready for me when I get home.
     My best job was vice president of development in the mid ’90s. I was able to use my hotel operations background when assessing new hotels for the company to buy. It was exciting growing the group one hotel at a time.
–interviewed by Debra Driscoll
Gale Gillespie
Severna Park: President, Anne Arundel Community Concert Association
     My first job was also my favorite job. Summers during college I worked keeping the books in my grandfather’s building material business in Norfolk. The office area conjoined the sales floor; there was constant interaction between the office staff and the customers. In those days Norfolk still had a small-town feel, and my grandfather knew all the customers by name. I very much enjoyed the friendly banter over those summers.
     My job as president of the concert association also lets me interact with many people and gives me the satisfaction of making this a better place to live. This is the start of our busiest time of year. We have sent out the mailings for our patrons to get their season tickets; shortly we will be processing them. We are also planning the hosting of our out-of-town artists and confirming the logistics with our venue, Severna Park High School.
     For our planning for the 2018-2019 season, I attended a showcase in Nashville where 24 artists auditioned. Now we need to sort through those and pick the four or five we want to make part of our season.
–interviewed by Bob Melamud
Linda Bouchat-Smith
Pasadena: Aquatic and land instructor
     Thanks to Miss James, my beloved kindergarten teacher, all I ever wanted to do was teach kindergarten. While in college, I worked my first job at EJ Korvettes in Glen Burnie.
     After college I found kindergarten jobs hard to come by. I taught second grade for four years. Finally, I found my dream job at Riviera Beach Elementary in Pasadena. There I spent 36 years teaching kindergarten and loved every minute of it.
     Water aerobics has always been my exercise of choice. After my retirement from the school system, I became certified through the Arthritis Foundation to teach both aquatic and land exercise classes. The classes I teach at Severna Park Community Center, Pasadena YMCA and Anne Arundel Community College promote flexibility and range of motion for persons struggling with arthritis and chronic pain. I also teach seniors how to do chair exercises through the Department of Aging. I’ve even had the privilege of teaching aquatics to my former kindergarten teacher, Miss James.
     I like to tell folks that by starting out with kindergarteners and working my way up to seniors, I’m trying to get to heaven. 
–interviewed by Diana Dinsick
Catherine Thames
89, Fairhaven: North Beach Bayside Historical Museum aide
      Right now I’m working part-time as an assistant at the North Beach Bayside Historical Museum. It is a great little gem.
     My first job was assistant playground director in Washington, D.C., during high school. I was also a Red Cross-certified swimming instructor at different D.C. community pools.
     Best or most interesting job? Well, teaching at Tracey’s Elementary for 12 years was a good one. But probably I would have to say being an elevator operator in the Longworth House Office Building, from 1964 to 1971. I got to know all the congressmen, and I could listen to their conversations about issues, the White House and so on. I would sit in the elevator, and when they heard the bell in their offices they had 20 minutes to get to the floor of the Capital to vote. When they were voting or in session I would go to the gallery and listen. When it was over I had to get back fast and have the elevator ready to take them back to Longworth. 
–interviewed by Mick Blackistone

Of Fenders and Gibsons, GE Smith and Eric Clapton

     American music grew up on American guitars.
     Mississippi Delta blues rose from the spirituals of African Americans but found a voice on National Resonator guitars built in California. Jazz and swing evolved from Big Bands on Gibson Archtops made in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The lonesome hillbilly folk we know as bluegrass was played on Martin guitars from Nazareth, Pennsylvania. When blues and jazz had a baby, they called it rock and roll and played it on Leo Fender’s Telecaster.
     In modern times, guitars that were once simply tools are hard-to-find classics. I’ve made it my business to find the coolest pieces I can for customers both in the States and abroad. 
 
Buying in Crisfield
     Back in the early 1990s, I got a phone call about a couple of old guitars down in Crisfield. About the guitars, all I knew was that one was a Fender and the other a Gibson. But I did know that the old fellow who had owned them had bought both in the ’50s.
     With an address and the old man’s name, I gassed up my van, headed across the Bay Bridge and down Route 50 on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
     Usually, my blood pressure drops as I cross over the Bay as the pastoral landscape and salty air are a potion to my soul. This day was different. I was on pins and needles with anticipation.
     No one was home, so I went into Crisfield to poke around. At a small shack with a hand-painted sign offering crabs and beer, I wolfed down an immense crab cake and washed it back with a sudsy Natty Boh. Then I asked around for the old fellow.
     It didn’t take long to learn he worked up the street as a mechanic. Luck was with me, for I found him, and we headed back to his house.
     When the old fellow pulled out a brown Fender case and a black Gibson case, it was hard to maintain my poker face. First, I opened the tight latches of the Gibson case to reveal a beautiful 1956 Gibson Les Paul Custom.
      1956 was a year of experimentation for Gibson. The pickups they used were a combination of the tried-and-true P-90 single coil and the Alnico magnet version of the same design. This guitar was in original condition, having never been altered in any way. And it had that smell that only an old Gibson has. It had a lovely patina, and, though it had the typical crazing lines in the finish, it was in splendid shape.
     The Fender had the so-called Thermometer case, named for the bulbous shape at the top and its curvaceous lines, covered in a brown fabric. A spider jumped out as I pulled the Broadcaster from its case. This guitar carried the signs of use.
      Fender, like many companies back then, named its instruments after popular themes. The Broadcaster was named for the radio and television icons of the day. That name got Fender in a pickle because the Fred Gretsch Company had trademarked Broadcaster for its line of drums. For a few months in 1951, the model was simply a Fender. Later that same year, it was re-named the Telecaster, a name in continuous use ever since.
     We agreed on a fair price.
 
Selling in New York
      Back at my shop, I restrung both guitars and called G.E. Smith, then music director and guitarist on NBC’s Saturday Night Live.
      He agreed without hesitation to buy the Broadcaster and said that I could see the show if I brought it up on Saturday.
      On Saturday afternoon, I boarded the train for New York City’s Penn Station.
      Arriving at Radio City Music Hall carrying a guitar case and wearing my Wayfarer sunglasses, I was mistaken for the evening’s musical guest, Eric Clapton (I was much slimmer in 1992). Clapton is one of my musical heroes.
      Hearing Eric Clapton and the SNL band play was magical. He played through G.E.’s old Fender Tweed Twin amplifier, and the tone was inspirational.
      At the cast party in the wee hours of the next morning, I timidly went up to Clapton as he sat in a booth with friends and that evening’s show host, Debra Winger. I mumbled something about him being an inspiration and yada yada, and he asked what was in the book I was holding. It was a photo album of all the guitars I had for sale.
      Eric Clapton slid over and told me to sit down so he could see for himself. Like the couple of guitar nerds that we are, we spoke for some time about guitars — plus fishing and shooting pool.
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Rick Hogue, the owner of Garrett Park Guitars in Annapolis, loves music, guitars, travel and good food too. He considers himself luck in finding a job wherein he can combine these passions. Check out his songs at reverbnation.com/rickhogue

Competitors in the Highland Games put brawn in their brag

You can wear a kilt, dance a jig or play a bagpipe to show the Celt in you. Or you can throw a tree, caber in Celtic parlance. You simply pick it up by the small end and run with it, then flip it end over end.
    You’ll see all those gradations and more this Saturday at the 39th Southern Maryland Celtic Festival and Highland Games.
    “There is too much to see in one day because with all the 23 event stations there is always something going on,” says organizer Mary Beth Dent. “Our goal is to entice folks to come again so they can see more.”
    Over athletic expressions of Celtic spirit, near-octogenarian Malcolm Doying rules. Doying’s enduring love for Celtic Highland Games has made him a fixture of Celtic communities near and far.
    “At almost 80 he is still training younger people coming up, encouraging them and helping perpetuate the traditions of the Highland Games and passing it down to the next generation,” Dent says.
    Tossing and throwing are key skills in the traditional heptathalon of feats of strength called Highland Games. The things you toss are weighty, and you must toss them all.
    “A caber weighs between 80 and 140 pounds,” Doying says.
    Stones used in Throwing the Stone, an early form of shot put, weigh only 16 to 22 pounds. The stone increases to 42 to 56 pounds with an overhead pole for brawny athletes Throwing the Weight — using only one hand.
    Tossing the Sheaf places the stone within a twine-stuffed bag weighing 16 pounds.
    “Competitors are Tossing the Sheaf close to 30 feet over the pole,” Doying says.
    Tossing the Hammer, Doying’s favorite sport, demands swinging a 16- to 22-pound hammer three times overhead before throwing.
    Throwing all these mighty weights, Doying traveled up and down the East Coast and all the way to Scotland.
    “The biggest and best competition was in Scotland,” said Doying. “The World’s Master’s Championship Competition for 40 and older was like the Olympics with a parade of guys from all over the world.”
    To fit into her husband’s competitive schedule, wife Patricia Shema adopted his passion. Shema started competing in her 50s, promoting a women’s class in the games. Between them, the couple has earned five world championships.
    “It’s so much fun,” Doying says.
    Want to step up?
    Start by watching the events to see how they’re done.
    “If you’re a reasonable athlete you can do it,” Doying says — next year with training.
    Forty-five athletes compete in three flights in the first games of the Mid-Atlantic season, said to be the best on the East Coast. One man is flying in from Germany. Fifteen athletes are women.


The 39th Southern Maryland Celtic Festival and Highland Games, Saturday, April 29, 10am-6pm. $20 admission includes heavyweight athletic events to testify to Celtic martial prowess and pride; music, dancing and instruction; living history to illuminate the culture, storytellers and genealogy seminars to strengthen cultural links — plus food and drink — all at Jefferson Patterson Park in St. Leonard: www.cssm.org.