Volume XI, Issue 45 ~ November 6-12, 2003

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Howard Shenton, 1919–2003
Charlie Walton, 1916–2003
by Sandra Olivetti Martin and Barclay Walsh

The 21st century will not give us men of the mold and mettle of the generation we are fast losing. Even as the leaves fall, two more have left us: Howard Shenton of Shady Side and Charlie Walton of Fairhaven.

Both lived long years, into their 80s, as if time were making up to them in late years for early hardships.

Growing up in the Depression, both knew privation. But the lives they made for themselves were rich and abundant.

From Depression they graduated to war. Howard Shenton served six years in the South Pacific as an ordnance officer. Charlie Walton served at home, patrolling the streets of D.C. as an air warden.

Both were sons of cities — Baltimore for Shenton, Washinton for Walton — who settled in Chesapeake Country, which seasoned them with a special salty savor. On the Bay, each earned the title captain. On its shores, both took roots and grew into elders of their communities — so gradually they probably did not themselves notice, though family and friends did.

Among those who notice how tall and wise Cap’n Shenton had grown is Barclay Walsh, his newest neighbor:

We met Howard Shenton the day we found Shady Side, she writes, the day we decided to buy Miss Hazel’s house, right next door to Howard and Glorious.

In marrying Glorious — who had her eye on him since they were 10 — Howard joined one of the best known families in Shady Side: the Andrews, famous for their early-century resort hotel and their matriarch who lived to 108, Miss Ethel, his mother in law.

Howard was on his riding mower in a white broad-brimmed hat and we managed to wave him down when he hit the marsh end of his lot and turned back toward us. Howard and Glorious invited us right into their home, strangers as we were, and suddenly and unexpectedly Shady Side became our home, too.

Howard was a big man, but he wasn’t a big talker. Our first glimmer of Howard’s storied past was an azalea bush — an orange azalea bush of some seniority. Glorious explained, as Howard stood silently by, that the shrub was given to them by a woman whose son Howard had saved from drowning. ‘You pick any azalea you want,’ she told him. And he chose the most beautiful one.

When Cap’n Howard did speak up, it was rescue stories he was likely to tell. After the war, he went to work for what’s now Maryland’s Natural Resources Police and rose to the top of its ranks. In his years on the water, he saved many lives, sometimes with the help of Glorious and his beloved Lab, Gunner. Of course the Bay still took lives, so Capt. Howard invented a dredge for bringing back bodies [“Recovering the Lost,” Vol. VII, No 2; Jan. 14, 1999].

You could count on Howard, and we did.

Charlie Walton was a captain of a different sort. A telephone man in his working life, he earned the title purely unofficially in recognition that there was nobody — even in water-loving Fairhaven — as crazy about boating as he was. Any kind of boating: sailing, racing, motorboating, fishing, boat building and model making.

Though Cap’n Charlie had nine children (and scads of grandchildren), they were grown by the time of his wife Gertrude’s death in 1984, leaving him accountable to only himself. In pursuing his love of boats and the Bay, Cap’n Charlie came about as close as anyone south of Eastport to achieving that community’s standard of citizenry as defined by Them Eastport Oyster Boys. Cap’n Charlie indeed had a good hat, a good boat and a good dog.

At 79, Cap’n Charlie bought a new boat that he christened Last One. By then, he’d already outlived his expectations, for this Parker 25 was his second Last One. “I told my kids, ‘you know I’m not gonna live forever. I might as well spend some of your inheritance,’” he told Bay Weekly [“This 79-year-old Ulysses Can’t Resist that Old Siren Song,” Vol. III, No. 41: Oct. 12, 1995].

“Dad worried about what would happen to his boat if he died before it’s paid off, so he’s made us kids promise to take over the payments,” said daughter Peggy Carr.

The Last One has a new owner, but Cap’n Walton’s dog is on watch all about the neighborhood for her only one.

The 21st century will not make men like these, but its own generation is in the making. In Bayside communities boys and girls walk in the sandy footsteps of Cap’n Howard and Cap’n Charlie, taking to the Bay for swimming, crabbing, fishing, sailing and nowadays kayaking.
What more could the upcoming ones want than to remember how they stand in line behind these oldtimers.

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Last updated November 6, 2003 @ 2:07am.