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The Rewards of Our Labors

Bay Weekly’s Labor Day parade of working people

Summer is swell. During its short stay, we imagine a vista of fun, sun and long vacations. The reality is a little different, with heat, humidity and the necessity of working for a living.
    About half of us Americans are in the work force, according to the bureau of Labor Statistics. Come Labor Day, we’re back to the work that gives so many of us a life as well as a living.
    Summer 2016 gave us the Olympics as a going-away present. Aflame with Olympian achievement, our inquiring reporters asked friends and neighbors to tell us about how their work inspires their personal best.
    Their answers make inspiring reading.

–Sandra Olivetti Martin, Bay Weekly editor


Stella Breen-Franklin

Entrepreneur and former art teacher

… 51, came to Annapolis with her family in 2001

“I love the saying There’s no such thing as a free lunch. So true. Anything really worth having is worth fighting for.
    At Art college in England when I was doing a degree in Fashion and Textile Design, a ton of people asked to look at my sketch books, asked to do so by one of my professors. They were filled with studies, sketches, notes, articles I’d read, bits of fabric I had found. The professor later told me that he wanted the others to have a hard work ethic, too, because then achievements could be accomplished.
    In 2010 when I opened my store One Petticoat Lane in West Annapolis, I drew a parallel with some of the earlier lessons I’d learned: do your homework, learn to love it, never stop improving. I knew about fashion, and I knew about the aesthetics of interiors, but I knew nothing about business, the American market or dealing with the public on a daily basis. I learned on the job, I went to night school to do psychology classes, to better understand how people think, I did a small business management course, I did a QuickBooks course. I didn’t love them while I was studying, but I had a goal.”

–Alka Bromiley

Wendy Bohon


… 40, has just moved to Chesapeake Beach with her husband, daughter and twin boys

“While working for the U. S. Geological Survey, I saw firsthand how devastating geologic hazards can be, particularly earthquakes. I also saw how taking small steps like being prepared for a disaster, or earthquake-proofing your home, can make a huge difference in saving lives and property. So I decided I wanted to use my unique combination of skills — geology and theater — to become a kind of scientific translator and teach people about earthquake science and preparedness.
    I do just that in my work for Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology ( in Washington, D.C., a consortium of more than 100 U.S. universities. Our programs contribute to both earthquake hazard mitigation and verification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty.”

–Kathy Knotts

Tara Cochran

Waitress and barn hand

… 25, moved to Annapolis in 2014 to be with her family

“I’m working toward going back to school and saving up to give my animals a better life. If it weren’t for serving, my horses wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have met the people in my life. In fact, I was featured in a photoshoot published in a bridal magazine because of serving. I met the hairstylist, Aleigha Hans, when I was working at a bar in Colorado. She said they needed a bride for a photoshoot. It was published in Colorado Wedding Magazine, which was pretty cool. I’ve also met Jason Acuña (Wee Man), some NFL players and Nick Nolte. If that was the real Nick Nolte …
    Serving has given me an opportunity to have flexibility in what I do. I couldn’t have moved across the country otherwise.”

–Kelsey Cochran

Ashley Dunn

Group fitness instructor

… 33, lives in Arnold with her husband and 14-month-old son.

“I would say my greatest achievement is overcoming my own anxiety and nervousness. During my first pregnancy, people counted on me to push them and teach them new techniques. I was nervous that as I got bigger I wouldn’t be able to keep up with myself. I was personally terrified, and then the roles reversed. I need people more then they need me. To hear someone say that I am an important part of their life, that I set them up to have a fantastic day: That keeps me going.”

–Alka Bromiley

Silvia Eberly

Accordionist and puppeteer

… 65, a native of Vienna, Austria, performs regularly at The Old Stein Inn in Edgewater

“Playing the accordion has a big mental aspect; it’s not just a physical thing. You have to have a desire to give the best you can. You have to have a vision.
    I’ve been teaching the accordion since 2001. My youngest student is nine years old and the oldest is 60-plus years old. I’m very proud of my students — three have won championships this year.
    To learn the accordion you have to practice every day — at least one hour. You have to have a desire to learn and enjoy it. I always have my recitals in a restaurant — with free pizza!”

–Karen Holmes

Sherry Lancaster

Nurse and acupuncturist

… 62, lives in her great grandparents’ 100-plus-year-old Calvert County farmhouse

“I work one full-time job, one part-time. A registered nurse at Calvert Memorial Hospital for years, I continue a little through their Community Wellness Department.  
    Now I mostly work for the ARC of Southern Maryland, with developmentally and intellectually challenged individuals in group and private homes and ARC day programs.
    Doctors prescribe medications, and as a Nurse Case Manager I ascertain that medication technicians administer them correctly. I oversee clients’ visits to hospitals, physicians, and dentists. I’m driving till all hours, never knowing how the day will turn out. I may plan things one way, but pressing needs take precedence.
    Years ago, I realized Western medicine couldn’t cure everything. Eastern medicine has existed longer, offering alternatives: acupuncture, cupping, crystal healing, healing touch, nutritional and lifestyle counseling and other treatments.
    Patients visit our farmhouse, lie on the treatment table listening to music while fine needles help assuage pain, digestive, emotional and sleep problems. Several patients claim our cats and Belgian shepherd provide pet therapy.”

–Elisavietta Ritchie

Ade Ogunbajo

Barista and student

… 20, lives in Odenton and lights up the Waugh Chapel branch of Zü Coffee

“After someone comes in for the first time, I try to remember their drink so I can make them feel at home the next time they come in. Once someone becomes a regular, I memorize their name as well as their face and their drink.
    I like to ask people how their drink was. I appreciate the feedback.
    I really care about this place. I will still care about it after I go back to school full-time this fall, studying electrical engineering at Frostburg State University.
    I try to do the best job I can. I attribute that to my parents. They were pretty strict, but not too strict — just strict enough to create a good work ethic.”

–Karen Holmes

Robert T. Parker

Superintendent, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park; National Park Service Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program, Church Creek

… 39, drives a 90-mile commute from his Beltsville home to his Eastern Shore job

“During an undergraduate summer job as a National Park guide at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, I saw the beautiful way park guides connected the public with Dr. King’s legacy — and discovered my career path. I wanted to work within history but outside the traditional paradigm of teacher or park ranger. I wanted to be a National Park Service superintendent.
    I went above and beyond, often working on my days off, at MLK and at jobs after graduate school: as cultural resource specialist at Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site in Washington, D.C.; as site manager at Bethune and Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site; and as division chief back at MLK. I always kept my eye on the prize.
    After a 120-day detail as acting superintendent at Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument, I was offered two superintendent jobs: Charles Young plus Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument, both established on March 25, 2013, by President Obama. What a great position to be in! I was elated.
    So here I am, superintendent of Harriet Tubman, a goal I set when I was 20 years old. Now I want to give back — you lift as you climb — to develop opportunities for young people and to connect the public to Harriet Tubman, to her ultimate story of freedom and fortitude, resistance and courage.”

–Dotty Holcomb Doherty

Martin Schroeder

Engineering consultant

… 65, commutes daily from Odenton to ­Baltimore on MARC.

“I can draw on technical expertise from a diverse range of professional experiences — ranging from aerospace to automotive, academia and rail transportation — to give me a broad perspective on engineering problems and help me come up with creative solutions.
    But I might be at my best when resolving conflict. Dealing with contentious issues requires you to engage, to be willing to listen. I’ve worked to understand conflict resolution, how to create teams to solve very complicated problems, and how to provide leadership to get the best from those teams.
    By combining technical expertise with experience with the human side of the equation, I’ve been able to lead teams helping transit agencies with problems in such areas as fare collection, tunneling, fire safety, railcar procurement and standards development.”

–Karen Holmes

Bonnie Schupp

Photographer and writer

… 70, retired Anne Arundel County middle school teacher lives in Pasadena

“The year I turned 30 was a milestone. I believed I had to fulfill some dreams before I grew too old, so I jumped out of an airplane — solo. It changed my perspective and opened me to possibilities. More recently I encountered another milestone: I turned 70. Beginning on my birthday, every day I wrote about a gift the day brought and illustrated it with my photos. It opened me to gratitude, even on bleak days. Now my completed book, 365 Gifts, reminds me that I shape my life with attitude. What else can I accomplish before I turn 100?”

–Jane Elkin

Karen Stengel


… 47, lives in Riva with her husband and their three young daughters

“I love pediatrics, the whole concept of seeing babies grow and develop into adults fascinates me. It took a lot of time and hard work to figure out that this is what I wanted. I did all the rotations and didn’t enjoy any of them. Pediatrics was my last rotation in my third year, and I stayed up all night studying. I found it fascinating, and that’s when I knew that pediatrics was a lifelong career for me.
    Working at Mercy Medical Centre, Baltimore, I see on average eight to 10 children a day in summer and more than 20 in the winter. Being there for the patients as well as the parents, more so during evenings and weekends, is a good feeling. I feel like I am giving something back to the community. Seeing someone they can count on makes the parents feel at ease.
    The opportunity of learning new cures and studying intriguing aliments with the hope of helping each child live a healthy life is rewarding. The best rewards, however, are the hugs. There is nothing more heartwarming then a child wrapping their arms around you and squeezing you tight.”

–Alka Bromiley

Robyn Truslow

Public relations coordinator, Calvert Library

… 46, of Prince Frederick

“My mother, an OB nurse, instilled the concept leave the world a better place.
    This notion of service propelled me to the University of Virginia Law School, thence to South Carolina’s Lowcountry Children’s Center, advocating and providing for abused children.
    Now with the excellent staff of Calvert Library’s four locations and mobile services, we’ve created virtual community centers, offering extensive library programs to all our residents. Small children and home-schooled children profit from the various reading aloud and hands-on science programs all year, and when school’s out Calvert Library becomes a haven for all youngsters.
    “Each year we strive to build a little more community, to inspire a few more people, to change a few more lives. Our reward is to witness this change, this inspiration, this community … truly a beautiful performance.”

–Elisavietta Ritchie