Volume XI, Issue 4 ~ January 30 - February 5, 2003

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<Dock of the Bay>
<Letters to the Editor>
<Bay Reflections>
<Burton, Sky and Sea>
<Not Just for Kids>
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Dock of the Bay

Bare, Cold Bellies Bring $442,000 to Special Olympics

No body looks good in a bathing suit in January. The mid-winter sun shines harsh and bright, like an unflattering fluorescent light. The holidays aren’t far behind, and tell-tale signs of indulgence press against swimsuits that might have flattered months ago. Euro-Americans are ghostly pale, except, perhaps, the few who’ve hibernated in tanning booths, and they shine an unnatural golden-bronze, blending in with the beach where sand crystals are glued together by a strong bond of ice.

So it was more than cold that some 2,200 Polar Bear Plungers braved on the beach at Sandy Point State Park the Saturday before Super Bowl Sunday. What ever other motives they might have had, all shared a common desire to support Maryland Special Olympics.

For the 7th annual plunge, the air temperature hit an all-week high, climbing to 36 degrees. The wind, which had blown hard the days throughout the week, whispered its way across bare skin. In the Bay, the temperature hovered around 32 degrees, and as saltwater freezes at lower temperatures than freshwater, this was another boon from the weather gods.

Over the seven years, the Polar Plunge has become a mid-winter festival for the brave and the foolhardy alike, and in that time the crowds have grown exponentially, drawn by the good cause at hand but also by the party atmosphere provided by co-sponsor WQSR radio, Outback Steakhouse and others.

More than 2,000 brave — and chilly — souls, including Gov. Robert Ehrlich, endured Bay waters hovering around 32 degrees to raise in excess of $400,000 for Maryland Special Olympics in this year’s Polar Bear Plunge.
Among the mass were Maryland’s new governor, Robert Ehrlich, recently recovered from a bout with the flu but looking fit and strong as a prize fighter cowled in a white terry-cloth robe. With him was his lieutenant, Michael Steele, and his soon-to-be adversary in politics, speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates Michael Busch. Also plunging was Maryland’s new head crime fighter, Maryland State Police superintendent Ed Norris.

Joining in the festivities this year was a crowd of spectators that dwarfed the actual Polar Plungers, making access to the water — and worse yet, out of the water — a run through a human obstacle course.

Even so, it is the crowd that defines the phenomenon. Waiting on the beach for the starter’s pistol to signal “go,” the plungers bare all the flesh not covered by a swimsuit, which provides no insulation from the cold. In a sense, everyone’s equal with nothing to hide, and the sense of camaraderie is strong.

For Jim Klemstine, of Cape St. Claire, camaraderie is only part of his motivation to plunge. For seven years straight, since the get-go, Klemstine has braved the icy waters of the Bay. “It’s for a great cause, Maryland Special Olympics,” he said. “One of my neighbor’s kids has Downs Syndrome, and this is my way to help. I can see the benefits.”

Joining Klemstine this year were fellow teachers from Corkran Middle School in Glen Burnie, where he teaches, as well as his principal and the assistant principal.

“There are six of us here this year,” said principal Chris Truffer, who made this his sixth plunge running. “All together, we raised $620 at school for the plunge.”

Klemstine said that it’s easy to raise money for the Polar Plunge, in that most people don’t want to take the dip themselves but they know that it helps support a good cause.

Supporting that cause were a total of 2,212 plungers, who raised more than $442,000, according to Maria Hiewsky of Maryland Special Olympics. Adding support of numbers to the worth of the cause were another six to seven thousand spectators — a record for the Polar Bear Plunge.

Hiewsky was herself one of those two thousand-plus. “It was, well … it was freezing,” she laughed. “It was invigorating. That’s the word, invigorating.”

This was Hiewsky’s second year with Maryland Special Olympics and her second year plunging. “Last year was my first year at the office and it was kind of an initiation,” she said. However not all Maryland Special Olympics staffers actually take the plunge.

One staffer who did join Hiewsky was her boss, Tom Schniedwind, coordinator for Maryland Special Olympics.

“I plunged twice: once at 8am and once at 9:55am,” Schniedwind said. “Three of us from the office — for the television cameras, for Channel 13 — did a pre-plunge plunge. There was a skim of ice on the water then.”

There was no trace of ice left on the water as the 2pm starting time approached. Not to say that it was a day for basking in the sun. Plungers snuggled in bathrobes. Others swayed from foot to foot or ran in place to keep the chill from the sand from seeping up their legs while they waited for the send-off.

And wait they did.

This plunger, marking six years in a row, allows that it’s all part of making sure the people pledging their dollars get their money’s worth. Indeed, it wasn’t until well after 2:15 that organizers cleared an aisle down the middle of the beach.

Then, shouts, whoops and roars echoed through the crowd as the governor and his entourage surged forward. Within a minute the masses followed, and the air rang with the sopranoed hollers as near-freezing water touched flesh.

Some plungers merely wet their ankles. Others marched through the surf to waist level and deeper. Some plunged below the water’s surface — a no-no according to the event’s published guidelines, but a real distinction between the hard-core and those merely testing the waters.

Governor Ehrlich made it waist-high, and according to the WQSR DJ had to be helped out by his security detail. If that report is true, the governor might have found — as this writer did on his first plunge — that the first in encounter a human wall several people deep barring their way out of the chilly drink.

Even if Ehrlich, a college football player, didn’t go the whole nine yards, he may well have made history.

“I think it was the first time a governor in the state — or actually the first time a governor in the United States — has ever participated in a plunge,” Hiewsky said. “It was great having the governor there and all of the support he generated for the event.”

— JAK with Sara Kajs

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The Apotheosis of William Donald Schaefer

As the half hour strikes and again the three-quarter hour, in from the cold slip the citizenry of Maryland to fill the House of Delegates. William Donald Schaefer controls this chill afternoon of January 23, and the floor belongs to the people.

“Comptroller William Donald Schaefer welcomes all of his special guests to Annapolis today,” reads the electronic tally board where the delegates’ votes are usually counted.

Around the edges and on the dais ruled by the Speaker of the House, the politicians squeeze in: Gov. Robert Ehrlich, Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, Senate President Mike Miller, House Speaker Michael Busch, Anne Arundel County Executive Janet Owens, newly elected Anne Arundel Del. Bob Costa. They arrive, laughing, to kisses and embraces.

They are laughing because power feels so good.

Nobody knows this better than William Donald Schaefer, who today is sworn in for his second term as Maryland comptroller.

Baltimoreans and Marylanders at large have elected Schaefer every chance they’ve had, from 1954, when they elected him to the Baltimore City Council, to 1967, when they elected him president of the council, to 1970, when they elected him major of Baltimore, to 1986, when they elected him governor.

In 48 years, he has been out of office only three years, when he tried the retired life after his second term as governor. He despised retirement. When the death of the legendary Louis Goldstein in 1998 opened the comptroller’s office, Schaefer ran again. As comptroller, he was elected and reelected. Last November, Marylanders gave him 1,125,279 votes, more than any other candidate for statewide office.

Now, minutes before 1pm strikes, here he comes, smiling, shaking hands, bear-hugging — “King Don,” in the phrase of Robert Childs, who with his wife Joan has come from West Baltimore today to share one more hour of glory with their old neighbor and fellow congregant at Bishop Cummings Memorial Reformed Episcopal Church.

No one here disputes the kingship of William Donald Schaefer. For he has survived to see the bodies of his enemies float past.

That’s the theme taken by young eminence Ehrlich, aflush with power in his first weeks as governor of Maryland.

“We love you for one central reason,” Ehrlich says. “You scare us.”
That is, of course, a joke, of the kind that used to be called kidding on the square. But such jokes are allowed between equals, and as governor, Ehrlich is now the equal of the man he calls “a giant” and whose example he says he followed.

Ehrlich, who notes that “Bob Ehrlich” — as he likes to refer to himself — was not yet born when Schaefer won his first election, has won the right to be brash. Even so, the governor recognizes he had best not stay brash too long. So he takes back his jest, replacing it with the “real reason: You wear your heart where all can see it. People know that if it comes from your mouth, it comes from your heart.”

From Ehrlich’s mouth, William Donald Schaefer takes the oath of office. But from his first words, it is clear King Don will not be upstaged.

“I, William Donald Schaefer,” says Ehrlich.

“I, Bob Ehrlich,” replies Schaefer, who makes an art of timing.

His swearing in lasts a neat 30 minutes, from opening remarks to presentation of the colors to invocation to oath with two sets of remarks to song by the seraphic Morgan State University Choir to benediction. Thus the sworn-in keeps his remarks brief.

In under 10 minutes, he cracks at least six jokes, seven if you count “I, Bob Ehrlich.” He is himself the butt of four or five of those, two explaining why he does not speak at length: He’s been called “boring” at other swearings-in.

Schaefer balances jokes with special thanks to his guests and a summary of not only his achievements as comptroller but the charitable works of his staff. His jokes make reference to his well-reported feud with Gov. Parris Glendening, who takes a glancing blow. His thanks warm the hearts of two politicians in the audience who have not fared so well as he: Cas Taylor, back as an invited guest to the House for which he spoke for until this month and Gov. Marvin Mandel, who after he left office spent a year and a half in prison on a later-overturned conviction for accepting gifts to influence legislation.

Of Mandell, Schaefer says “He was great governor who financed all the things in Baltimore while I got all the credit.”

Then William Donald Schaefer hears Maryland’s new governor speaking sotto voce about great governors still to come.

“I don’t need any prompting,” retorts the speaker.
Soon King Don catches “two people out there looking at their watches.

“I know what that means,” says he, and the clock strikes 1:30pm.


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Farewell ~ Bob Koch 1942-2003

Bob Koch of Galesville was soaring over the sparkling snow-covered peaks of Park City January 16, enjoying the majestic views of pristine blue sky, mountains and meadows. Speed and aerial tricks were part of winter’s fun for Bob and his Utah gang.

Piloting the soaring Yak two-seater was Ed Strauchen, Koch’s friend for many years in the Navy, where they were both military pilots, and at American Airlines, where both had been captains. On the ground, three or four other sporting pilots awaited their turn in Strauchen’s plane.

Instead, the little plane plunged out of the sky. Bob and his friend died at 11:57am in the snow-covered hills.

Bob had flown more dangerous missions than this last flight. He was not one to boast, but in Vietnam he’d returned safely from 150 flights to see his heroism in battle rewarded with membership in the Red River Gang, a distinction earned by pilots who flew dangerous river-corridor missions in Hanoi. Among his pilot friends, he was still called by his nickname from those days, Itchy. His joy in flying continued in his career with American Airlines, where he had flown some 20 years before retiring as a senior pilot in October, 2002.

He had turned 60 on November 5.

You didn’t see as much of Bob Koch’s tough side here in Chesapeake Country, where sailing his 30-foot catamaran, Dark and Stormy, or cruising in his 47-foot Sea Ray, Sally Forth, replaced flying. He was still a daredevil, sublimating with his Austin-Healy, his Mercedes and his Harley.

But at home he was a family man, in love with his wife of 19 years, Sally, and never happier than with his daughters Sherry Whitaker of Boynton Beach, Florida; Diane Nafziger of Naples, Florida; and daughter Kristin Julian Sohr of Hermosa Beach, California.

Bob was also a good neighbor, as glad to convert a new sailor or motorcycle rider as to help out a friend with the many chores that come with owning either such sensitive machines. Tales of adventures his family never knew are coming home as his many friends recall their own special stories.

“We will not only miss Bob the sailor, the skier, the yachtsman, the sports-car tinkerer and mechanic and pilot. We will miss Bob the person,” said friend Peter Bell.

A memorial service remembering Bob Koch will be held at the West River Sailing Club in Galesville at 3:30pm on Sunday, February 2.

—Deborah Bell

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Share-A-Crab, Share-A-Cause

Three hundred bushels of crabs, 3,000 ears of corn, 75 gallons of crab soup and 2,000 pounds of processed beef were not consumed in vain last August. Six months later (barbecue and beer long digested), the approximate $39,000 gross revenue from the Annapolis Rotary Club’s 57th annual Crab Feast is looking to do good through non-profits organizations in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County.

Each year, the Rotary invests the profits from its largest fund-raiser in grants to community projects. Local non-profits must specify projects that improve life for Annapolis area residents.

“We have a committee; we look at all the organizations and weigh their proposals to decide which one should get the money this year,” says Jeff Holland, publicity chair for the Rotary.

A young boy opens wide for an oral exam by Dr. William Smith Jr., D.MD., and dental assistant Denise Lulay, staff members of the Tooth Mobile project, one of last year’s grant winners.
As the March 1 deadline nears, local non-profits are hoping they’ll be this year’s winner. Last year’s winners include the Annapolis Maritime Museum, YMCA, United Cerebral Palsy of Southern Maryland and the Anne Arundel County Dental Van.

The Dental Van (aka Tooth Mobile) drives all over the county, providing basic dental care to low-income children and adults.
But this year’s winners are likely to make different contributions. “It’s a wide range of groups we give to — everyone from Maryland Hall of the Creative Arts to the Annapolis Fire Department,” says Holland.

The decision is announced in April at Annapolis Rotary’s Thursday lunch meeting, with winning groups rising to describe their project. And, of course, get a check.

“It depends on the cause really,” says Holland. One year we just gave it all to one group, the Annapolis Fire Department. The money went to buy a thermal energy device, so there’s a possibility of saving lives.”

More lives will be saved and good will be done as profits this year were up from 2001’s $36,000. Since 1946, the Rotary’s grant has served out over $1 million to the community.

Already looking towards August, the Rotary begins plans for the 58th crab feast. There’s a lot more crabs — and dough — to dish out.

Information? 800/723-8860 • www.annapolisrotary.com

— Sara Kajs

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Way Downstream …

In Calvert County, let’s hope operators of the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Plant are smarter than their calendar. Tens of thousands of “safety calendars” mailed to residents in three counties have three Januarys, three Februarys, three Marches and three Aprils. Maybe it’s their idea of “nuclear winter” …

In New Jersey, Gov. James McGreevey (D) is being likened to Maryland ex-Gov. Parris Glendening for his focus on sprawl. McGreevey last week called sprawl the “root cause” of his state’s problems and offered a plan to subsidize urban development while imposing limits for rural growth …

In Brussels, the European Parliament passed a new law banning nearly all testing of cosmetics on animals by 2009 in European countries. Lipsticks, perfumes and face creams are typically tested on animals for side effects, but animal welfare groups argued successful that more than 35,000 animals die in Europe every year from the tests …

Our Creature Feature comes from the southern African country of Malawi, where people are more than spooked by attacks from rampaging lions that killed four people last week.

People swear that after the attack, the pride of lions disappeared into thin air without a trace. They’re blaming witchcraft, which they’ve traced to a vengeful man who lost his woman to another man. Authorities discount the theory, saying the lions probably escaped from a game reserve after people stole fencing that kept them in.

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Copyright 2003 Bay Weekly
Last updated January 30, 2003 @ 3:13am