For some unknown reason, I began thinking recently about friends who have died during the past 11 years and still spark memories of people wired to make a difference in ways small and large. They strayed mightily from the status quo.
Candy Backus, who died in 2010 of ovarian cancer at 66, was a powerful force for good at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. She was one of the creators of the still successful Boating Party and an incomparable volunteer. She was forthright and opinionated; ambiguity was not her style. She was intensely loyal to her friends.
Candy also served as chair of the Talbot Hospice. She left her mark on increased philanthropy at, and visibility for Hospice. She was an active, engaged chair.
Mike Menzies, who died at 65 in 2014 of multiple myeloma, epitomized the penultimate community banker as president of Easton Bank & Trust founded by David Hill and a highly respected civic leader. He was intelligent and savvy. He loved being a banker who sought to improve the community which he served.
At one point Menzies was chairman of the Independent Community Bankers of America, a volunteer position that required him to spend considerable time in Washington, DC trying to persuade members of Congress to pay as much attention to small as well large banks. When he spoke, he talked with deep knowledge about and insight into community banks, while understanding and bemoaning the financial clout of large national banks.
Having served closely with him during his 16 years as The Adjutant General, commander of the Maryland National Guard, I became very close, professionally and personally, with Lt. Gen. (MD) James F. Fretterd of Federalsburg. He died of kidney failure in November 2016 at the age of 86.
He was a taskmaster, a demanding, tough-minded boss who was often difficult to please. At the same time, he was fair with a reservoir of common sense. His passion for the Maryland Guard and the people who served him loyally and conscientiously was enormous.
Born and raised on Staten Island, he loved the Eastern Shore, particularly his farm on Route 404. He embodied the straight-forward manner endemic to Caroline County.
Eric Lowery, who died at 71 in June 2020 of cancer and pneumonia, was someone whom I wished I had known better. He was a major player in the erection of the Frederick Douglass Monument in front of the Talbot County Courthouse. He and his wife, Harriette, a descendant of the original families of Unionville, moved to Talbot County in 2008.
What I especially liked about Lowery, who graduated three years after I did from the same high school in Baltimore, was his soft-spoken, friendly manner and his receipt of a Bronze Star for service during the Vietnam War. He also came home emotionally suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, plagued by this malady for most of his post-war life.
During his years on the Shore, he began talking about his life-changing combat experiences. It was helpful to him, providing some emotional relief. I was fortunate to listen to some of his stories.
In December 2020, when Millie Parrott died, our community lost a person who helped found Talbot Hospice and was a stalwart volunteer and parishioner at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Easton, where she was the first woman on the board of trustees and the first woman to chair the board.
I got to know Parrott when she worked at Talbot Hospice as the volunteer coordinator during my wife Liz’s 14-year stint as executive director. Millie Parrott was indomitable in ensuring that families of Hospice clients received sufficient care and attention. She was known far and wide for her devotion to Hospice.
I could write about so many others. This column could become too lengthy for readers. The five whom I selected were relentless doers and servant-leaders. They also were good, decent people who focused their energy and talent for the benefit of others.
Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.