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The Geography of Community

Farewell to one neighbor; bon voyage to another

For most of my earlier years, the neighborhoods where I lived were grids, and connections followed straight lines, side to side and front to back. Sometimes I was lucky and the next- or nearly next-door neighbors were people of shared interests beyond the chance of proximity. That’s how husband Bill and I developed dear friendships with the Kirkpatricks, next door but one, and the Ladleys, next door but two, in Holland Point, where we spent our first years in Chesapeake Country.
    A quarter-century ago we moved across Herring Bay to Fairhaven Cliffs, bought our home and settled in. We joined the community association and plunged into the life of the community.
    Geography made that plunge easy.
    Fairhaven Cliffs — and its indistinguishable sister community, Owings Cliffs — are shaped like half a bowl. Three half-circles of homes rise from the bottom of the bowl — beach or cliffs — to the center to the rim, where I live. Walking up and down to the beach or to the school bus stop at my corner, neighbors rub shoulders and warm to one another.
    The easy back and forth of kids and dogs helps bond neighbors into a community. I knew the names of all the dogs in my neighborhood before I knew the people’s names. For the longest time, more distant neighbors knew me as my dog Max’s mom. Age or youth, male or female didn’t seem to matter much; friendships even crossed species, bringing in dog and cat.
    Once our family made Bay Weekly and many of the neighbors bought $100 charter lifetime subscriptions, Max and I had a paper route to walk. Every week meant three or four or five conversations along the way.
    That’s how I got to know Frank DeLuca down at the bottom of the bowl. He hadn’t bought a subscription, but if I was leaving a paper for his neighbor who hadn’t paid either (Capt. Charlie Walton), Frank thought I should leave him a paper, too. Frank was a sportsman, and he liked to read and talk to me about Bill Burton’s outdoors column. He wanted dearly to be in it. Couldn’t I show Burton this photo of him with this fine fish or these two wild boars shot in the Everglades? Every year come Christmas, Frank would thank me with a wrapped bottle of sweet wine.
    At the death of Tina, his wife, the community mourned with Frank, as we do all our neighbors’ losses. Then Frank took out a new lease on life. Like all the other old widowers in our neighborhood, Frank found a new lady. He and Josephine Weschitz traveled up and down the East Coast, following the seasons and good times, dancing and playing cards.
    Once Frank’s touring car was back in the carport, I’d resume leaving Bay Weekly behind his side mirror. As the years passed, I saw first a cane, then a walker in the yard. Then this summer, the papers I left were still there when I passed the next week.
    Frank died on September 14, having lived 961⁄2 good years, leaving three children, 10 grandchildren and a dozen great-grandchildren to carry his memories.
    Fairhaven and Owings cliffs loses another citizen this week, though Sam Kelly is headed for California and not, like Frank, for a sporting man’s heaven.
    At 28, Sam is the grandson of one of Frank’s contemporaries and neighbors, Ed Becke, and his family — mother and father, brothers and sister, aunt, uncle and niece — fill the neighborhood. So Sam grew up with the pleasures of beach and Bay, forest and winding roads.
    After a broken heart, Sam gave up his dream of buying his parents’ house and bringing up a family in Fairhaven. While working in the boatyard at Herrington Harbour North, he went to Anne Arundel Community College, discovered a love for psychology and followed the American dream West. He’s on the road as I write, off to see what awaits him.
    So today I say farewell and bon voyage to two of my neighbors. And I reflect on my good fortune to have fallen into a geography where my neighbors became my community with all our lives intertwined in care.
    Each of us has communities of interest — our work, our sport, our politics, our environment. But the places we live are the places we call home. Over the years, Bay Weekly has expanded my geography, opening my heart to all the communities on the Bay and their lore and characters.
    Somewhere in the neighborhoods of Chesapeake Country, two new Bay Weekly readers will, I hope, step up to replace the two I’ve lost.
    Celebrate Frank DeLuca’s life Sunday, Sept. 25, from 2 to 5pm at Herrington Harbor South in Rose Haven.