Burton on the Bay:
A Friend's Appreciation
When perennial State Comptroller Louis Goldstein passed away at his Calvert County home the other day, I couldn't help but reflect on the advice of my late grandmother, Clara Burton.
Grandma Burton, who died in 1966 in her late 90s, and Louis shared the same views about land.
Buy land, invest in land; it's one thing God or anyone else won't be making more of. If only I had listened.
Yet I'm pleased I made an exception to another bit of advice from Grandma Burton, who also extolled first impressions.
"People will always remember you, and you will always remember them, by that first impression," she continually harped when I was young. It was her way of fostering good appearances and behavior back during the Great Depression.
Frankly, my first impression of Louis Goldstein wasn't very good, but some of that can be attributed to the cynicism of a brash young newspaperman who came here after covering politics in Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Alaska and Nebraska. I had written about the worst and a few of the best, and though my career was changing from tracking politics to outdoors, I wasn't ready for Louis' trademark benediction, "God bless you all real good."
Louis was president of the Maryland Senate at the time, and to a skeptical 30-year-old former political reporter those words sounded more political than godly.
I watched him say them on TV, heard his enthusiastic Calvert County country boy twang, and passed him off as just another vote-seeking politician.
In addition, there was grandma's advice: Beware of those who say they're "just plain old country boys." That's to put you off guard - and being a widow trying to make a go of a farm in the Depression, she had been down that road many times.
In the winter of '56-'57, when Louis and I were introduced by Gov. Ted McKeldin, Louis suggested we might do some duck or pheasant hunting at Dorman Hall's Calvert County shooting preserve, and as we parted, I got one of his hallmark "God bless you all real good" partings.
This guy can't be for real, I thought, but a few weeks later we were kicking the fields near Prince Frederick in a hunt for stocked quail and pheasants. I bagged a few birds and a good column, but most important was a new friend.
First impression to the contrary, this guy was for real; he was sincere, smart, articulate, well informed and caring.
Our friendship continued until his passing July 3; just several days previously we chatted over the phone about getting together for lunch.
He Heard and Remembered
Louis Goldstein was a whirlwind, a man always on the go; few could keep up with him and his schedule. Fatigue had to take over at times, much as he denied it. Yet he was always vibrant, upbeat and ready to listen. And he really did listen to people.
In his incredible memory, he kept your tales, your face and your name. Months, even years, could pass before another meeting, yet he'd call you by your first name, recall the topic of your previous discussion, then might even ask how the wife and kids were - and reel off their names.
Louis served in the U.S. Marine Corps, overseas in World War II, later as a captain in the reserve. And he never forgot that as a Navy Seabee, I was attached to the Marines in World War II. Over the years, whenever a letter or holiday card arrived from Louis, there always was Semper Fi scribbled after his name - with an exclamation point. A couple months ago when in this newspaper I wrote a column about the bad rap Marines were getting from Army higher-ups, there came soon thereafter a letter of appreciation from Louis, same ending.
My wife Lois, who at times teaches memory skills, says Louis' memory was the most extraordinary she ever witnessed.
We were to meet next week, not for hunting or fishing, but to go over details concerning how an outdoor writers' group of which I am president could qualify for tax exempt status. He was so giving of his time, always willing to lend a hand. He liked to do things for people.
So Louis' impact on fellow human beings - whether constituents, friends, companions, fellow politicians or whatever - went far beyond remembering names, faces and facts, offering an uplifting God bless you real good benediction or infecting you with his contagious love of fellow man, God and country.
Among politicians - and he was the ultimate politician - he was the rare genuine article, an office holder and human being of integrity. If he told you something, you could go to the bank on it.
You didn't see it in his obituaries, but he is more responsible than anyone else for Assateague Island being saved from development; loyalist as he was, he never spoke out to claim the credit due him. It was enough that the island was saved from being turned into an Ocean City annex.
About 1960 when we chatted about Assateague while duck hunting at Barren Island, Louis asked for my voluminous file and read it. Assateague would become the topic of his featured talk at an upcoming meeting of the Mason-Dixon Outdoor Writers Association - held at Chincoteague at the southern tip of the island.
What a talk he gave - he had made it a point to tour the island - and he stressed the need to save it for its natural qualities and for the people and the wildlife. His speech generated public interest in saving the island from impending development. Then others, including Gov. Millard Tawes and U.S. Sen. Danny Brewster, spearheaded a successful Save Assateague Island campaign. But it was Louis who bucked the tide, generating the ground swell that eventually preserved that long thin sliver of sand.
Louis was a great outdoorsman whose thinking went far beyond potting a duck or catching a fish. He was sincerely and forcefully interested in the environment that made it all possible. I was disappointed that in a tribute for the Washington Post, former Gov. Schaefer wrote that when it came to environmental issues such as wetlands, Louis held ownership of the land above environmental considerations. This was not Louis Goldstein.
When afield, Louis was a good shot. He thoroughly enjoyed fishing and many, many hours we enjoyed catching shad on the Susquehanna or rockfish from the Chesapeake. Two years ago, when he was 83 and the Bay was kicking up, I watched him climb from our bobbing boat to another bobbing boat.
He wasn't about to ask us to return across the Bay back to Harrison's Chesapeake House where a driver waited to take him to an appearance. He didn't want to interrupt our fishing.
Louis never complained when we hunted with Cree Indian guides in Talbot County in blustery temperatures below zero or cast to fish in the Patuxent when the mercury rose above 100. He was the last to call it a day. And regardless of how we fared afield or on the water, promptly thereafter, our guide received a personal note of thanks.
With his love for sport came a genuine sense of humor. After one duck hunt, the late sportscaster and National Boh spokesman Bailey Goss discovered hisducks had been "dressed" by the Goldstein cats while we lunched at Louis' home.
Goss had intended to serve those ducks at a dinner party for friends the next evening. So after we laughed the whole thing off, Louis called his friend Sen. Paul Bailey and arranged an afternoon hunt for Bailey to ensure there were presentable birds on the table.
Then there was the time many years ago when I had taped the calling of geese by Cree Indians. Louis was curious about the calls, so I played them briefly for him - and he had an idea.
In the next blind hunting were Danny Brewster and Baltimore attorney Claude Callegary. We would sneak up behind them with the recorder, which would surely get their attention because it was a bluebird day and little game was flying.
We practically giggled to ourselves as we heard Callegary and Brewster softly talk over preparations for the birds they believed coming in on them over the marsh behind. Suddenly, they jumped up and we were looking down the barrels of a pair of shotguns - but from the wrong side.
"Don't shoot boys, we ain't got feathers," said Louis with the coolness of a Marine. He relived the adventure over dinner in the lodge that evening.
Much of his homestead south of Prince Frederick was managed for the benefit of wildlife. I've seen it; I hunted there. I also played horseshoes there. One had to when visiting; he loved to pitch them and was good at it. If you stayed overnight, you were expected to take a swim with him in his covered outdoor swimming pool - either before or after a country breakfast of eggs, ham and some of the best biscuits ever made.
If you were a friend and your travels took you to Calvert County for a day of sport, no motel was good enough; you were expected to stay at his residence, Oakland Hall. Just knock at the door; there would be a room waiting. Or if just passing through, stop for an iced tea - and, of course, a game of horseshoes.
Nearly 40 years ago when we were hunting Hammond's Long Acres Shooting Club west of Hancock, a member of another hunting party fired at a rising ringneck pheasant over the brow of a hill, and Louis was struck in the face and head. Before his driver, Donald Gibson, could get him in a car for a fast trip to a hospital in Hagerstown, Louis had to tell the hunter who fired the shot that he understood it was the type of accident that could happen at any time. That's the kind of guy he was.
He took pride in telling how his father went to Calvert County, a poor Jewish peddler with housewares in a cart. In the height of the Great Depression, his father carried the accounts of many on the books to earn the love and respect of the citizenry. When he died years later, he had one of the biggest funerals ever in Calvert County.
To his own end, Louis Goldstein never lost his zip, his zest for life and his interest in people and things around him. Some might say he was beginning to slow down, but I didn't notice it. He might close his eyes while we were trolling, but once a reel clicked to indicate a strike from a fish, he was the first to reach for a rod and start cranking. He made every minute count.
D.H. Lawrence wrote "Life is something to be spent, not to be saved." That's what my friend did.
We will have another state comptroller, but never another Louis Goldstein.
He will be missed.
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VolumeVI Number 27
July 9-15, 1998
New Bay Times
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