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Wise Men

Bernie Fowler
The Miracle of Wading in the Water

March 31, 1921


You just wade out in the river,

give it all you got

Right up to your chest.

And then you pick your spot.

         —Tom Wisner's

         “Bernie Fowler Day:

         A Guide to Wading in the

         Southern Maryland Waters”


         Back in 1988, a state senator donned coveralls, broad-brimmed farm hat and a pair of white sneakers. Thus clothed, he walked into the river. Now, a full decade later, Bernie Fowler has the most famous feet in Maryland.

Next you take your peepers

And cast them slowly down

On the day we see our feet again

There'll be celebration in this town.

        They could have called Bernie Fowler a madman. Instead, they called him a visionary. His wade-in has gained attention far and wide as the clearest measure of the health of Chesapeake Bay. In 1990, The University of Maryland's Center for Environmental Studies honored him with its first Truitt Environmental Award. In 1993, Tom Horton introduced National Geographic readers to Bernie in his cover story on the Chesapeake. In 1994, the Maryland General Assembly designated the traditional wade-in day, the second Sunday in June, as Bernie Fowler Day.

         “It's a wonderful way to bring people together and increase and hold attention on water quality," said Kent Mountford, senior scientist at U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Bay Office, himself an observer of the lower Bay and Patuxent River for over four decades.

It's Bernie's measure!

It's simple — yet profound.

We got a treasure!

You can't buy it by the pound.

         It's not hard to understand why Bernie's sneaker test caught on. Chesapeake Bay casts a spell over most everybody, newcomer or oldtimer, touched by its waters, and people throughout the watershed have pitched in to bring their beloved waters back to good health. But recovery is typically measured in the equations of scientists and expressed in the language of bureaucrats, leaving even the best-intentioned Bay friends scratching their heads.

The scientists had told them

Everything they knew,

Still — the folks were puzzled

And they didn't know what to do.

         What Bernie's doing, everybody can understand.

Bill Burton
Fish, Fame and Five Wives : A life beyond his imagining
Dec. 15, 1929-Aug. , 2009

         For catching a fish or spinning a fish story, you couldn't find a better man than Bill Burton. He's traded in both for a half-century, learning like the back of his hand woods, waters and wetlands from Alaska to Cuba.

         For 42 of those years, Burton's covered Chesapeake Country — so thoroughly that he was named an Admiral of the Chesapeake by Gov. J. Millard Tawes. Burton ranks as Maryland's premier outdoorsman and -- for his work in newspapers, magazines, television and radio on the side — its dean of outdoors reporting. Thirty-seven and a half of those years, he'll tell you proudly, he spent as outdoors editor for the Baltimore Evening Sun, “the best job in the world.”

         Of course for a man of Burton's range, a single job is as hard to settle down to as a single wife (of wives, he's had five).

         Retiring at a vital 65 in 1993, Burton joined fledgling New Bay Times in our fifth issue, bringing us a strength and sagacity envied by papers many times our age.

         When Bill Burton's not out fishing, he's a family man, devoted to his six children, nine grandchildren, three sisters, one brother, beloved aunt Mimi and two cats, O.J. and the adored Frieda Lawrence. And, of course, Lois, his wife of 31 years.\

William Donald Schaefer:
Mayor, governor, comptroller: He won the Triple Crown of Maryland Politics

Nov, 2, 1921-April 18, 2011


Like newspapers, politicians are news one day and fish wrap the next. That was not the case with William Donald Schaefer.
  On a Maryland scale, Schaefer was God in his heavens. We might not think of him everyday, but if we ignored him too long, the thunder would roar — and lightning might strike.
  So I got in the habit of reckoning his existence. When he was out of office between 1995 and 1999, I could feel his restlessness. After finishing two terms as governor, what would he do next? Might he run for a third, nonconsecutive term?
  So his ascension to the office of comptroller of Maryland — the apparent lifetime right of another grand old politician, Louis Goldstein, who died in office — seemed right and just.
  Bay Weekly welcomed him to the job with an article titled the Apotheosis of William Donald Schaefer and a drawing by artist Lali, showing a king’s crown held above his very large (as it was in real life) head.
  Comptroller Schaefer did not disappoint, matching his efficiency on the job with peculiarity in public.
  I finally met and interviewed Schaefer in his last year in that job, 2006. I waited so long because I was over-awed and a little afraid.
  “No other politician touches our lives so intimately or with such power,” I wrote then.
  William Donald Schaefer was news throughout Bay Weekly’s 18-year lifetime so far of 926 issues — as he was long before we started printing papers in his state. At our arrival on the scene, in April of 1993, Schaefer was midway through his second term as governor.
  By then, he’d been mayor of Baltimore for 16 years — earning Best Mayor recognition from Esquire magazine in 1984 — and a Baltimore city councilman the previous 16. The façade of Baltimore we first got to know with its tourist-drawing showplaces — Harborplace, the Aquarium, Pride of Baltimore — was his creation.
  Mayor was his favorite job, he told me in that April, 2006, interview .
  “I couldn’t wait to wake up so I could go to work. I was so happy being mayor of the city, I thought I’d give the money back. That’s when you know you’re happy,” he told me.
  “Being single — I had no wife, no children, though I had a very nice girlfriend, Hilda Mae [Snoops] — I used to go around to the neighborhoods. No one knew when I was coming. I’d rap on doors, sit in the houses, have a cup of coffee. I’ve seen rooms where the roaches walked up one wall, across the ceiling and down the other wall.
  “The Inner Harbor was second to the neighborhoods. The big deal was the neighborhoods, and that paid off in pride.”
  Bill Burton — another grand old man who seemed eternal — made William Donald Schaefer the subject of his first Burton on the Bay columns for us back in 1993. The Guv, as Burton always called him, was pushing regulations to save blue crabs from our “insatiable appetite.”
  Taking controversial action, Burton wrote, “is nothing new for the battle-scarred guv, who has alternately roused our ire and our support for his various whims, brainstorms and sometimes downright logical paths of action.”
  In the tens of thousands of words I’ve read about William Donald Schaefer, none have suited him better.
  Burton minced no words in assessing Schaefer, but gruff affection mixed with the frankness that characterized both men. Just as both spoke plain English, both mastered the art of involvement with you.
  Back in 2006, I asked Comptroller Schaefer how showmanship fit into his political philosophy.
  “Make it a big deal,” he said. “People liked me jumping into the [National Aquarium] pool. They thought I was crazy at first, then they expected me to do something. We got publicity all over the world. Old fogies might not like it, but everybody else thought it was fun. We tried to make the city fun. We sold potholes, 425 of them. We sold sewers. We sold animals. A distant relative bought a giraffe and went to pick it up.”
  A less-tolerant electorate voted William Donald Schaefer out of office at the end of 2006. He’d occasionally raised my ire, but I voted for him every chance I got, and I mourned his loss — with him and for him.
  So I joined the thousands who trekked to the Maryland statehouse — and the streets of Baltimore — to bid him farewell as he lay in state. We were his family.
  As you do with family, I knew his birthday by heart. William Donald Schaefer died six and a half months shy of his 90th birthday, November 1, 2011.


Louis Goldstein
Mr. Maryland: An American Success Story

March 14, 1913-July 3, 1998


         A man of boundless energy, 83-year-old Louis Goldstein manages the fiscal health of Maryland as its comptroller, a job to which he’s been elected every four years since 1958.

         Louie, as everybody calls him, has been in politics since 1939, when he was elected to the House of Delegates. He was a delegate at every Democratic National Convention from 1940 to 1996, missing only 1944, when he served in the Marine Corps in Guam and the Philippines.

         Q       You must know more about politics than anyone else around.

         A       Well, I know something about people.

         Except for those war years, he lived all his live in Calvert County, not far from the house where he was delivered by midwife on March 14, 1913. By that time, his immigrant family was amassing vast tracts of land that placed them among rural Southern Maryland’s richest people.

         The world in which we were born is not the world we live in. Life is a series of adjustments. That’s why I wear this little pin, attitude. You have to have the right attitude. Talk things out, see what you can do and can’t do.

         Louie Goldstein is not Calvert County’s typical success story. To a county where lineages date to the Arc and the Dove, Goodman ‘Gus’ Goldstein came in the 1880s as a 14-year-old Jewish immigrant from Russia, without family or friends and with only a few words of English.

         Gus Goldstein landed in Baltimore at South Locust Point. Jacob Epstein, who was a merchant prince with a big wholesale corporation, he would meet these big fellows at the ship and get them a wholesale peddler’s license and give them merchandise. He had all the territories mapped out, and he sent my father down here to Southern Maryland.

         My father came by steamboat to Dares Wharf, about four miles east of here. There he met a young fellow by the name of A.D. Anderson who had an ox cart waiting for some freight to come in. Anderson took my father to his mother’s home. She was a schoolteacher and taught him how to read and write in English. He was a fast learned.

         He walked first. Then he got himself a horse and wagon. They had to have fresh meat, and he knew how to butcher, so we went all through the county and furnished meat for all those ships. That was his first real money.

—Sept 26, 1996

Irvin Peithmann
Time Traveler: He Mapped History in the Fields and Rocks


         Irvin M. Peithmann, 75 in 1979, was born too late to hunt the great buffalo hers. He was not too late to go broke in ’31 or battle the institutions of the 20th century for “a place to share our glories and our defeats.” He has lived, he believes, to see the coming of Chief White Cloud’s 1870 prophecy, “After fooling with us and taking our lands, the whites will have to suffer for it hereafter.”

         During the lifetime connecting childhood dreams with old-age wisdom, this self-educated archeologist and philosopher has been reconstructing the “shared achievements of other days.”

         “Did you ever think of the people behind an artifact,” he asks. “And all the energy expended in the making of it? If I found an ax, I thought, here was a human being, and I’m the first to touch it since it was lost 1,000 or 10,000 years ago.

         “Some people have a sense of history that inevitably leds them to the right place at the right time. To others, it seems such people knew how to make the most of life.”

—August 31, 1979 for Illinois Times

Photos by Sue Eslinger


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