Chesapeake Bay's Independent Newspaper ~ Since 1993
1629 Forest Drive, Annapolis, MD 21403 ~ 410-626-9888

Volume XVII, Issue 49 ~ December 3 - December 9, 2009

Home \\ Correspondence \\ from the Editor \\ Submit a Letter \\ Classifieds \\ Contact Us
Dining Guide \\ Home & Garden Guide \\ Archives \\ Distribution Locations \\ Advertising


Stories of Lives and a Death

A preview of this issue and a tale from times past

Stories about what people do are stories I seek out. Give me lots of how, too, please, and especially why. Perhaps it’s because I grew up in a family so small that I lacked comparisons. Though, on the other hand, I was surrounded by interesting adults who blithely took high-stakes risks to get what they wanted.

Whys are just so compelling that there’s always room for more.

We found room for a trio of stories about what people do, and why, in this week’s paper.

You’ll meet Ami Hazell and find out why, and how, she spends weeks every year building gingerbread houses.

You’ll meet Bay scientists Walt Boynton and Michael Kemp and learn how they were inspired to figure out how all the pieces of the Bay work together.

And just in time for lots of holiday festivities in our capital city, you’ll meet Russell Rankin and discover how eCruisers came to give free rides downtown.

This week, another person’s story is on my mind. Indeed illuminating my mind the way movies light up the screen, with each scene calling forth another.

Her name is Pat Smith, and it’s because of her that I do what I do.

There’ll be no more scenes in Pat’s story, for she died on Thanksgiving. She lived six years after her diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer, which I’m told is usually a speedy killer. Hers showed its speed only at the end, though it never made comfortable company. Pat died just short of her 72nd birthday.

Which is astonishing, because the scenes playing in my mind star her as a young woman.

Pat is 33 for me forever, an older woman (than I was then) and a powerful one, for all her small stature. Powerful was how she was described before we met, and the description fit.

She played the piano, she wrote and she drew. I can see her practicing Scott Joplin (I remember just where her upright piano stood, and the way afternoon light fell on it), and I can see her pen drawing of the cross section of a two-story house that advertised our magazine class, with one or another aspect playing out in each open room. She had odd and fascinating absorptions, like false-graining two walls of floor-to-ceiling bookcases her husband, Larry, had built in their handsome but run-down Victorian house.

Pat was awesome professionally, too. She had her master’s degree in both English and French (mine was only in English). She’d worked as an editor at the National Council of Teachers of English, which set the standards for people like me, a newly ex-instructor of English in a community college.

But we were both stay-at-home mothers when we met, in a new town having left behind our jobs and friends and the cities we knew.

While our two five-year-olds were at morning kindergarten, Pat and I set up shop in a sunny east room upstairs in my big, beautiful haunted house across a busy street from hers. She had a contract to edit the Journal of the Illinois State Constitutional Convention, and she took me on as her apprentice. My baby learned to crawl down the wide hallway as I learned proofreading and my way around the Chicago Manual of Style.

There was no flash in that job; the goal was consistency, and it was painstaking, slow work, just the kind Pat liked.

“Don’t you want your work to matter?” I asked her.

“No,” she said. She just liked doing the job.

About the time we finished that big job, another wife-of had the bright idea of a women’s poetry collective. Women were getting liberated then, and women from 18 to 69 joined in making Brainchild. Of course we were going to publish, and as Pat knew how to do that, she and our founder Peggy Knoepfle and I became the editors.

From there Pat and I created that magazine production class for the innovative university that had drawn us all into a new orbit …

And here I am, and here is Bay Weekly and here are you, reading about Pat, all these years later.

Pat is no more. But she once was. She was powerful, gifted and beautiful, and she made things happen.

Sandra Olivetti Martin

editor and publisher; [email protected]


© COPYRIGHT 2009 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.

from the Editor