Remembering Owen McCoy

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Owen McCoy – in June 2018

Owen Stanton McCoy, manager of the Chestertown farmers market, died July 5 after suffering a series of strokes. He was in home hospice, surrounded by family.

Owen was a familiar figure not just at the farmers market, which he had managed since its reorganization in the 1980s, but at the Mainstay in Rock Hall, where he could be found taking tickets for almost every concert. He was a parishioner of Old St. Paul’s church, where he served on the vestry and sang in the choir for more than 25 years. And he was one of the many volunteers with Kent County 4-H, where he was a 4-H leader for more than 20 years, teaching aspiring farmers the ins and outs of raising goats.

Born Nov. 2, 1946, Owen grew up in Primos, Pa., the son of John and Mary McCoy. After graduating from the Haverford School, where he played on the football team, he attended Cornell University. He graduated in 1969 with a degree in horticulture and entered the Peace Corps, spending several years in the village of Hojancha, Costa Rica, where he taught agricultural techniques and took part in a program to collect and hatch sea turtle eggs to help increase the numbers of the endangered turtles.

He returned to Costa Rica many times in later life, visiting friends he made during his Peace Corps service, taking family members to see this country and meet the people that meant so much to him. His daughter said he adopted the Costa Rican slogan, “pura vida,” meaning to live life to its fullest, a “pure life”.  As anyone who knew him will attest, he lived up to this slogan, a life well and fully lived.  His loss leaves a large hole in the community.

Owen began coming to Kent County to visit his married sister, Cindy Bankhead.  Then he bought land here in 1976 and had completely moved to Kent County by the early 1980s. He owned a farm outside Rock Hall, raising goats, sheep, cattle, pigs, chicken, ducks, geese and turkeys — and a horse. He had a large orchard of various fruit trees.  He grew figs and persimmons and was known as “the fig man” to many farmers market patrons where he sold his farm’s produce. He took pride in cooking with ingredients from the farm.  He often brought his special home-made goat-milk fudge to parties and meetings. In addition to farming, he worked as a landscaper.

The McCoy family in October 2016- David Benton (son-in-law), Danya Benton (daughter), Owen McCoy, Josh Tyer (grandson), Grady Dierker (grandson, in arms), Kaia McCoy (daughter), David Dierker (son-in-law)

Friends remember his ready laugh and the twinkle in his eye, as well as his lifelong dedication to Philadelphia sports teams. In the latter capacity, he took his family to countless Phillies games — and was thrilled to see his Phillies win a World Series and the Eagles’ Super Bowl victory.

At a game, Owen, with daughters Kaia & Danya

Owen loved music.  He had a fine tenor voice and enjoyed singing – particularly Irish songs. He had a special fondness for what he called “hanged outlaw ballads,” such as “Roddy McCorley.” He also had a rich stock of Irish jokes, and his Irish heritage inspired him to learn to play the bagpipes.

He was for many years a member of Col. Leonard’s Irregulars, a band named for the road his farm was located on. Owen sang and played guitar in the group which performed regularly at the Chestertown Tea Party, and also appeared at the Mainstay, as well as performing St. Patrick’s Day concerts at Heron Point, Andy’s Bar, the Imperial Hotel, and other venues. It also formed the nucleus for a musical revue, “The Great War and the Lost Generation,” featuring songs of World War I and the Roaring 20s. The show was produced at the Prince Theater, Heron Point, and the Mainstay in the early 2000s.

Owen McCoy singing at the Imperial Hotel on St. Patrick’s Day ca 2014

Owen appeared in several productions at Church Hill Theater, playing the lead in “Damn Yankees” and adding his strong voice to other musicals including “South Pacific,” “Brigadoon,” and “Once Upon This Island.

He was also one of the founders of the “Natural Living Exchange” potluck dinner, which he attended regularly for more than 30 years — including the most recent dinner at the end of April just days before his first stroke, when many of his friends saw him for the last time.

Owen McCoy – Manager of the Chestertown Farmers’ Market since the early 1980s

He is survived by his daughters Danya Benton (David Benton) of Chestertown and Kailee McCoy (David Dierker) of Rock Hall; grandchildren Joshuah Tyer, Grady Dierker, and his sister Celinda Bankhead.  A new baby sister for Grady and first granddaughter for Owen is expected any day now. 

Memorial services will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 4 in St. Paul’s. A celebration of his life will be held at a later date.

Contributions in his memory may be made to Kent County 4-H or to Compass Regional Hospice.

Photo Gallery byFamily and Friends

Owen McCoy in Phillies shirt and crown – June 2018

Can you find young Owen? Answer at bottom of Photo Gallery – Primos, PA Elementary School, 5th grade 1957-58

Peter Heck & Owen McCoy play at Chestertown Tea Party 2015 – photo from Owen’s FaceBook page, photo credit Steve Atkinson

Owen McCoy with his grandson Josh Tyer in 2015

An incredibly young Owen McCoy with baby Danya in early 1980s

Owen McCoy on a visit with fellow musicians to the Martin Guitar factory in Nazareth, PA, several years ago.

Owen McCoy at Chestertown Farmers Market

Owen McCoy at home on his Kent County farm – happy as a pig!

Primos Elementary School picture above – Owen McCoy 2nd row, 3rd from left in a striped shirt between two girls.

 

 

 

 

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Looking at Chestertown from the West: Basket-Makers Go on Strike and Win

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Editor’s note: This is a new Spy series that will be sharing historic news clippings on Chestertown from the perspective of the newspapers of Washington, D.C. Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York. While the Shore’s local newspapers have faithfully recorded Chestertown’s life and times since 1791, when this small town periodically finds itself being the subject of a major daily story, it’s always been greeted, like any small community, with extreme interest. For when those occasions occur, now or in the past,  it gives the community a rare opportunity to see how the rest of the world may view it. And thanks to such powerful databases as newspapers.com, we can now able to share some of that coverage from the West of Chestertown. 

Its almost impossible to image that Chestertown would have a serious labor dispute on its hands in the 19th Century but, as the Baltimore Sun reports in 1899, that was indeed the case when the basket-makers in town had enough from Crane & Trenchard Brothers.

 

 

The Baltimore Sun
July 8, 1899

Spy Poll: Would You Use a Scheduled Shuttle Bus between Chestertown and Easton?

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Every day, from the crack of dawn until the last show at the Avalon lets out in the late evening, hundreds of people and their cars move back and forth between Chestertown and Easton. Some work here or there, others commute for doctor appointments, while others seek out a new restaurant, an art show at the Academy, or merely wanting a unique shopping experience, but one thing seems clear, the axis between the two towns is very real.

Does this certain reality open the door for a new form of transportation to meet this need? Would a regularly scheduled service using high-quality Sprinter vans work for these two small towns? How much would people pay to use the service?

There are many unknowns to these questions, but the Spy thought it would be worth asking our readers what they thought of an alternative to the car to get from downtown Chestertown to downtown Easton nonstop.

Please take our most recent poll here.

Looking at Chestertown from the West: The Sun Reports on Miserable Train Service

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Editor’s note: This is a new Spy series that will be sharing historic news clippings on Chestertown from the perspective of the newspapers of Washington, D.C. Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York. While the Shore’s local newspapers have faithfully recorded Chestertown’s life and times since 1791, when this small town periodically finds itself being the subject of a major daily story, it’s always been greeted, like any small community, with extreme interest. For when those occasions occur, now or in the past,  it gives the community a rare opportunity to see how the rest of the world may view it. And thanks to such powerful databases as newspapers.com, we can now able to share some of that coverage from the West of Chestertown. 

The Spy was conversing with one of our agents on Queen Street this morning on the matter of public transportation, or the lack of it in Kent County. It’s one of the top four concerns raised by a recent United Way-sponsored report, and so it was interesting to discover this clipping from a Baltimore Sun article reporting on the dreadful train service Chestertown almost one hundred years ago.

The Baltimore Sun
November 25, 1910

 

And the Winners Are… The Boccelaureates

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From left: Brooke Harwood, Trish Harwood, Nancy Low, Andrew Wierda, Nancy Swanson, Dick Swanson, Sally Sweetser, Joe Fick, Margie Fick, Bill Low, Fick grandchildren Sofia and Yumi Hammond. Missing from photo – Peter Sweetser, Zsuzsa Wierda.

Forget about the World Cup, the one thing that matters in Chestertown is who has won in the Ye Olde Towne Bocce League. We found out this weekend when the Boccelaureates took the title.

Spy Minute: After Seven Years, Mainstay is Having Another Party

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Usually, it’s not really news that some local organization is having a party but when it’s the Mainstay the Spy sought to investigate the rumor. Of course, one could easily say that almost every night there’s a party at the locally beloved music venue, but truth be told, they haven’t gathered as a group in years; 2011 to be precise.

Group, in this case, means not only people that attend Mainstay concerts but the dozens of board members, volunteers, and staff that make up the Mainstay family. And that number is so big that they can’t even have it at the Mainstay so Washington College’s Hudson Hall, which offers curbside valet service, it the perfect size for guests and the Conservatory Classic Jazz Band, singer Lena Seikaly and host Tom McHugh.

The funds collected that evening also is a driving force. Once again, the Mainstay wants to provide an educational scholarship for a young promising musician from Kent, Queen Anne’s or Cecil Counties to follow their passion for music when they attend college.

The Spy tracked down Mainstay’s managing director Carol Colgate in downtown Lynch last week to get the lowdown.

 

The Mainstay, Kent County’s Home of Musical Magic
Saturday, July 14, 2018 6:00 to 10:00
Hodson Hall Commons, Washington College 
Tickets can purchased here

 

Homage to Donald Hall: Afternoon at MacDowell by Jane Kenyon

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Editor’s Note: Poet Donald Hall passed away this week at the ripe age of 89 years old. Over the course of his career, he grew to become one of America’s most gifted and respected writers of the last century. His work inspired thousands of students to begin writing poetry, as he did when he visited Washington College in the 1970s, and eventually became the country’s poet laureate.

When he married fellow poet Jane Kenyon, almost twenty years his junior, in 1972, it was assumed that Hall would be the first to pass away. Sadly, it was Kenyon who died at 47 years old. 

One of the Spy’s favorite poets, Sue Ellen Thompson, counseled reprinting Kenyon’s poem “Afternoon at MacDowell” that she wrote after one of Hall’s many health crises as a compelling way to remember both of these special American poets.

Afternoon at MacDowell
Jane Kenyon, 1947 – 1995

On a windy summer day the well-dressed
trustees occupy the first row
under the yellow and white striped canopy.
Their drive for capital is over,
and for a while this refuge is secure.

Thin after your second surgery, you wear
the gray summer suit we bought eight
years ago for momentous occasions
in warm weather. My hands rest in my lap,
under the fine cotton shawl embroidered
with mirrors that we bargained for last fall
in Bombay, unaware of your sickness.

The legs of our chairs poke holes
in the lawn. The sun goes in and out
of the grand clouds, making the air alive
with golden light, and then, as if heaven’s
spirits had fallen, everything’s somber again.

After music and poetry we walk to the car.
I believe in the miracles of art, but what
prodigy will keep you safe beside me,
fumbling with the radio while you drive
to find late innings of a Red Sox game?

Jane Kenyon, “Afternoon at MacDowell” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 2005 by the Estate of Jane Kenyon.

 

 

The Wall Comes to the Mid-Shore

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When it was first announced a few months ago that the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall would be exhibited in Easton this spring, there was a some doubt that it could ever match the power of the original monument designed by American architect Maya Lin on the Washington Mall.

That apprehension turned out to be completely unwarranted for those that visited the site at the VFW on Glebe Road yesterday. Dozens and dozens of veterans and their families made the trip to visit the memorial and the names of the fallen with the same kind of overwhelming emotion and quiet reverence that the original wall has so movingly inspired for the last thirty six years.

The Spy was there to capture a few special moments of this remarkable testimony to patriotism, sacrifice and courage.

This video is approximately one minute in length. The exhibit’s last day is June 6.

Mid-Shore History: Chestertown’s Black Entrepreneurs

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Thanks to a small grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, volunteers Airlee Johnson and Lani Seikaly had the resources to move forward with an ambitious project to document, record, and display an extraordinary era of Chestertown’s black entrepreneurs during the 1960s and 1970s.

The exhibition, now being shown at Sumner Hall, the project tells the stories of twenty-four African-Americans who were either business owners, a member of their family, employees, or customers of the fifteen businesses that formed a very vibrant commercial sector of Chestertown.

The Spy sat down with Airlee and Lani to talk about these unique entrepreneurs and through the unique blend of Airlee’s memories and Lani’s video documentation (now on Youtube) resulted in a compelling story of independence, creativity, and self-sufficiency.

This video is approximately minutes in length. The Exhibit will run until mid-August. For more information please go here. To watch the project’s video profiles please go here