Hail and Farewell: Looking back on 2020 and the Community Leaders we lost
This year has been a hard one. Not only have we all endured physical isolation, economic impacts, and illnesses associated with COVID-19, but many of us have lost loved ones this year. Reflecting on some of the community leaders we lost, we wanted to pay tribute to a sampling of individuals who left a legacy in different aspects of our community.
We selected Lord Sheldon “Scotty” Scott, John Ford, Pete Howell, Eric Lowery, and Debbye Jackson — all leaders who help meet the community’s needs related to hunger and poverty, balanced government, the arts, racial justice, and mental health. We have captured below the observations of their friends and colleagues to tell their stories and capture the essence of what they meant to the community.
By Amelia Blades Steward
All Photos Courtesy
Lord Sheldon Scott. Scott, affectionately known as “Scotty,” was one of the founders of “Operation Christmas Spirit.”
Lord Sheldon “Scotty” Scott
As Told By Will Howard
The light of Christmas will be shining a little less brightly this year, with the passing of Lord Sheldon Scott. Scott, affectionately known as “Scotty,” was one of the founders of “Operation Christmas Spirit” on the Mid-Shore in 1981, which was his way of giving back and feeding the community on Christmas Day.
True to the Eastern Shore, the event began when local business owner Will Howard received quite a few ducks and geese hunted in Talbot County that fall that were donated by Rennie Gay and realized they would make a wonderful Christmas meal. Howard, who owned Chambers Restaurant in Easton at the time, decided to cook the ducks and geese with some friends and distribute Christmas dinners to local families in need. Howard solicited the help of his childhood friend and local businessman Lord Sheldon “Scotty” Scott of Easton to identify families and help with the distribution.
“Throughout the years, Scotty was always doing things for others,” reflects Howard.
“The second year, the event moved to the Gold Room in the Tidewater Inn, and then found its permanent home at the Easton Volunteer Fire Department as the crowds got larger. One year, Scotty dressed up as Santa Claus and rode on a double-decker English bus driven by Wayne Dyott. Tim Kagan, Cliff Meredith, and I used the bus to deliver canned hams, Hershey bars, and red roses to families in Easton and surrounding areas.”
Scotty became Howard’s co-chairman for “Operation Christmas Spirit” and eventually oversaw the event himself. Families who attended received a hot Christmas dinner, whether served at the Fire House or delivered to their doorstep, as well as received a box of groceries and wrapped Christmas gifts for the children. Eventually, the event added a coat drive and meal options that included Hispanic food items to meet the needs of those attending. It took 90 to 100 volunteers to serve the 1000 people who came on Christmas Day.
“There was nothing like the moment on Christmas Day when Scotty and his volunteers formed a circle with all of the guests, representing all generations and cultural backgrounds, and held hands, giving thanks for the meal that had been prepared,” Howard recalls.
John Ford, a key founder and president of the Chesapeake Forum, also taught seminars on Shakespeare.
John Francis Ford
As Told By Megan Cook
His obituary read, “He was a respected member of his community, he worked for fairness and compassion, and handled conflict with integrity. His legacy will live on in the many lives he touched. He was a consistent and treasured town leader, most often settling issues with a wry blend of common sense and compromise.” But for Easton Town Council President, Megan Cook, who worked alongside John on the Easton Town Council when he was President, John Ford was a friend and mentor.
“I gravitated toward him — valuing his opinion, insight, and perspective on things. He was smart and could see an issue from everyone’s point of view. He was also a great listener. You just wanted to be around him. He had a natural ability to put people at ease,” recalls Cook.
John had his hands in numerous activities on the Mid-Shore. He was a founding member of the Academy for Lifelong Learning at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, where he worked as Operations Manager for several decades until his retirement in June 2019. Most recently he was a key founder and president of the Chesapeake Forum, a newly formed adult education organization in Easton. John served on the boards of Historic Cemeteries of Easton and Easton’s Affordable Housing Board, as well as president of the board of the Chesapeake Multicultural Resource Center.
“He was such a caring person and reached out to everyone in the community. He felt it was important that everyone felt welcomed in Easton and worked tirelessly on Easton’s “Welcoming Statement.” Because he was a curious person, he had great questions and was well prepared on Council issues. You may not have known John, but your daily living was affected by him. He gave care to Council issues every day,” she adds.
Cook concludes, “We joked we had a pact that we wouldn’t run for office without each other. I have so many things I want to ask him now that I am President of the Council. We planted a tree in honor of John. His wife Peggy calls it a listening tree and told me that I can always go to visit it when I need it. I use it regularly and take the lessons he taught me and do my best.”
Arts supporter Pete Howell is pictured at the Bar of Gold, a Sherlock Holmes scion society.
As Told By Carla Massoni
When asking the arts community about journalist Pete Howell’s contribution to the arts on the Mid-Shore, the sentiments are the same from everyone. Pete Howell covered the arts like no one else. First, Pete was editor of The Times-Record newspaper and later served as the Arts & Entertainment Editor for The Star Democrat. He was admired, loved, and respected because he showed up at every local theater performance and concert, sought out little known artists and groups to promote, wrote a great movie review, and did it all with gentle charm and a sharp wit. Everyone wanted to be around his infectious laugh and kind heart.
“Pete was the best! I first met him as the Entertainment Editor. When no one else was covering the arts, Pete was doing it enthusiastically, with a broad approach to all of the arts and reaching across all of the counties. He took his job seriously and had writing talent,” comments gallery owner Carla Massoni of Massoni Art in Chestertown.
Massoni shares that Pete’s commitment to the arts came out of his deep personal love of the arts and his love for his community.
“He was a Renaissance Man — loving food, art, politics, and social issues,” she adds.
When Pete and his wife Carla Cronin decided to sell Carla’s Bed and Breakfast Easton Promise to the Talbot Interfaith Shelter (TIS), Pete continued his commitment to the homeless community as a volunteer for TIS.
He was also active with Talbot Humane Society and Phillips Wharf Environmental Center and served on the boards of Talbot County Arts Council and Talbot Mentors. Pete did make time for his passions, however, which included serving as the “Grand Poohbah” of the Talbot Cinema Society and being a founding member of Shore Shakespeare, Habitat for Humanity Choptank, and the Denizens of the Bar of Gold, a Sherlock Holmes scion society.
Massoni comments about his love of the community, stating, “You had a champion in Pete. For him, it was always about the greater vision and outreach to the community and making this a better place for us all.”
As President of the Frederick Douglass Honor Society, Eric Lowery led the efforts to erect the Frederick Douglass statue on the Talbot County Courthouse grounds in June 2011.
As Told By Walter Black
When Eric and Harriette Lowery moved to Easton in 2001, Harriette got involved with the Frederick Douglass Committee of the Talbot Historical Society to get a statue of Frederick Douglass erected on the grounds of the Talbot County Courthouse. But it wasn’t until her husband Eric was approached by Corey Pack in 2009 to move the project forward that the statue became a reality.
Civil Rights activist and longtime friend of Eric Lowery, Walter Black recalls, “In 2009, we convened a meeting at the American Legion and formed The Frederick Douglass Honor Society and elected Eric Lowery as President.”
“Eric was a good and honorable man who didn’t have any negative images in the community. He had the ability as a leader to bring persons of diverse backgrounds, races, and ages together for a common cause. He was always very calm, cool, and collected and had a quiet demeanor that disarmed people. He didn’t make anyone feel challenged by what he was trying to do, and people wanted to follow him.”
“Every movement has to have a leader. Eric was the right person at the right time for this monumental challenge,” he adds.
In two years, The Frederick Douglass Honor Society raised the funds that were needed to erect the statue in June 2011. “I was surprised at the individuals and organizations which came together for this project — staff from the Town of Easton and the Talbot County government and others all worked in harmony under Eric’s leadership with Harriette by his side,” Black comments.
“Eric realized the significance of the statue for the community and history. He knew it would be a monument that the Black community could feel proud of.”
Eric enjoyed hearing Walter share his experiences from the Civil Rights movement and the NAACP from the 60s. Because Eric had grown up in Baltimore, he was already committed to Civil Rights which helped fortify his commitment to the Douglass statue.
Black reflects, “I admired how he did things differently than the way I did things. Because of him, I learned to see the positive things about Talbot County.”
“My mother always said that to make jelly, you need both a tree shaker and a jelly maker. I was the tree shaker and Eric was the jelly maker. He could get people to work together and get things done. For that, we are all grateful.”
Debbye Jackson, Executive Director of Channel Marker, championed her mental
health clients for 35 years, recently creating the organization’s new retreat-like
environment on Glebe Park Drive.
As Told By Cathy Cassell
Debbye Jackson believed in family. She had not only her own immediate family, her husband Billy, children Brady, Courtney and son-in-law Christopher, and grandchildren Calleesi and J. Finn, but she had her Channel Marker family whom she served for 35 years.
“Debbye created a family culture here at Channel Marker for staff, clients, and their families. She deeply loved this agency and worked tirelessly and selflessly to make it a place where everyone felt heard and valued,” comments Cathy Cassell, Executive Director of Channel Marker, who succeeds Debbye after working for 29 years by her side.
Cassell met Debbye while doing an internship with Channel Marker’s Talbot County Services in 1989. She recalls, “I fell in love with the organization. From the beginning, Debbye was a natural leader. People were drawn to her consistent, calm, compassionate, and professional demeanor. You felt like she was always going to have the answer to whatever question you had.”
Debbye was always an advocate, but never put the spotlight on herself. She usually credited her team with any accomplishments that were made.
“The clients knew that Debbye cared for them. She took the time to listen to them and their families. The population we deal with is often forgotten. Addressing the stigma associated with mental health was important to her,” comments Cassell.
“Debbye wanted to give our clients a high quality of life. Our new building on Glebe Park Drive embodies that with its retreat-like atmosphere. When she found the building was available, she said, ‘We’re going to do this!’ and she motivated others to share that same excitement. We did it together.”
In addition to Channel Marker, Debbye continued her father’s tradition as the founder of Easton’s Waterfowl Festival, serving as a volunteer since childhood. She was elected president of the Waterfowl Festival’s Board of Directors in 2019 although she had to step down because of her health issues. She had been looking forward to celebrating the Festival’s 50th anniversary.
Cassell comments, “Despite a two-year battle with an aggressive form of cancer, she was not going to die a cancer patient — she was going out as the Executive Director of this agency and she did that. She trained all of us to go forth without her and we respected her for that. She will be missed by many.”