Editorial: Vince

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Perhaps one of Chestertown’s very best friends during its 300 year life died yesterday. Vince Raimond, who many thought was well positioned to gain membership in the centenarian club with his nimble mind and still jet black hair, passed away at ninety-three, well before his time.

The title of “Chestertown’s best friend” is not given lightly. And nor should it immediately conjure up images of some well meaning grandfather figure — a sort of passive philanthropic presence — gentling and uncontroversially passing along tidbits of wisdom to a small community. It was quite the opposite with Vince. Rather than find the charm, which he did on occasion, with Chestertown and the Eastern Shore, Vince expected more from the region from the moment he arrived.

Like the impatient Boston/New Yorker he was, Vince was known for pushing. And he pushed hard for what he loved. That included saving some of Kent County’s most historic houses, founding and supporting innovative local arts and theatre organizations, but just as insistently demanding on civil rights, progressive public schools, and local government accountability. He expected Washington College to be true to its liberal arts mission — that it must include the arts — while also pressuring the town and the county to comprehend the cultural and financial values that come with creativity and performance.

But beyond these hallmarks of good citizenship, his more natural passion for cultural and ethnic diversity spurred the community to challenge the status quo. He wanted to celebrate it, but more importantly he wanted residents to embrace it as an unmistakable asset for Kent County. With his wife Leslie as a lifelong love and partner, Vince supported any vehicle, and no doubt masterminded many of them, to bring home the message that diversity was not just an inevitability, but a gift that must be acknowledged, respected, and nurtured.

The contributions that Vince Raimond made to Chestertown will no doubt be documented in the few weeks that follow his passing. They are an almost endless collection of anecdotes of a renaissance man in the wilderness of the Eastern Shore in the 1950s and 1960s, understanding as few did back then, the uniqueness and the value of a place like Kent County.

Some days Vince had the capacity to look back on what the Shore was like when he arrived and see that progress that had been made in his lifetime. But those moments of reflection were highly suspect events for him. He was much more comfortable with the pushing part, the unsatisfied part. It was not like him to let his guard down and enjoy the moment.

The only category that he allowed himself to indulge himself with any true self-satisfaction was with his friendships. He could never successfully conceal the joy he felt at annual Toad Hall lawn parties on how diverse and special his friends were to him and his family. It was in those moments you began to understand what really motivated Vince. While art and culture, and of course politics, requires advocacy and engagement, the final goal was to build a foundation of fellowship and support for the creative and artistic in Kent County.

Once, standing to acknowledge the toasts in his honor, he concluded by saying to his well-wishers:

“At this moment, I find that my words actually dwindle down to a precise few…. If we’ve done anything at all in our fifty years here, we’ve made lasting friends.”

And there lies the core value for Vince and the sense of community he loved.

Photo by William L. Thompson

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