Woman of Wonder: Mildred Morris
Honored by: Granddaughter Margaret C. Collier
As I approach my sixtieth birthday and reflect back on my life up to this point, I find that my grandmother is much on my mind, even though she has been gone for 37 years. My memories of her are very vivid. I attribute my strong recollections to her unique inner strength of character and her singular resoluteness about life in general. One of her favorite expressions was “Life is like a bowl cherries but watch out for the pits!” She made a difference in my life and is certainly responsible for much of my own success today.
Born in 1904, my diminutive grandmother lived her life in the Queen Anne’s County area of Maryland on a farm. She was so small at birth that she was christened by many with the nickname of “Ducky” because she was the size of a small duck or so the story goes.
Small or not, she was a pistol, as my grandfather used to say, and she raised four children through the Depression era, World War II and the ensuing decades with all of the problems and joys of any other family.
She was a strong person who lived her life in such a manner as to profoundly influence all of us in different ways. She was not one to brood about things, she simply took the attitude that if it needed to get done, let’s just do it!! Once her mind was made up, it was singularly on track to complete the task. It was to me one of her most endearing and enduring characteristics. I admired the structure of her life and even as a little girl, I was resolved to pattern my life after hers as much as possible. It may seem old fashioned these days but her weekly division of chores worked then as it works in my life now. Certain days of the week were designated for laundry, for cleaning, for grocery buying, for bill paying and for seeing the family. I loved spending time in her old summer kitchen, slurping freshly perked Maxwell House coffee out of depression era cups with deep saucers.
All through college in Baltimore, she was one of the first people I would go see when I went home for a weekend. She loved to hear about my “adventures” in the big city. She would slip me a few dollars or give me home-baked goodies to take back on Sunday afternoons as I climbed back on the old Greyhound bus that would see me gone for another week. She had knack for knowing when I needed a dollar or two, which in those days went far. She paid cash for just about everything. She was a saver of nickels, dimes, quarters and pennies. Every Christmas was paid for with change. . When she passed, hundreds of dollars in change was found around the house in different types of jars.
My grandmother was a heroine in my eyes. She may never have done anything to make headlines in a newspaper but she was a devoted and selfless woman who raised her family with love and encouragement and she set an example for all of us to live by.
The basic values she passed on to all of us will never go out of style.
Woman of Wonder: Jane Lamar-Spicka
Honored by: George F. Spicka
I was once asked, “What did Jane do?” Well, what didn’t she do? She was born on July 18, 1947, to Ray and Marjorie (Wallace) Brown in Silver Spring, Maryland. She grew up in Wheaton, MD. Since her mother was the pianist and organist for Wheaton’s Hughes Methodist Church, she grew up surrounded by music. During her own piano lessons, it was discovered she had a better then average ear, when she was able to play back the tunes her instructor would play, without looking at the music. We met in1966, both being music majors at the University of Maryland, College Park, and both being in the Chapel Choir. With her being the shortest alto and me being the shortest tenor, we were always in close proximity to each other at rehearsals. First we became friends. Then we started dating, and as they say, the rest is history. We shared common interests in popular music: The Animals, Beatles, Temptations, Wilson Pickett, etc. Besides being a vocalist, she also played folk guitar and piano. In the early 1970’s, while maintaing a residence in Baltimore, Jane and I toured for eight years with a variety of lounge and show bands. The venues often would feature artists like the Everly Brothers, Bobby Rydell, and Tony Orlando and Dawn. In our travels, Jane met up with popular artists like Quicksilver Messenger, Joe Walsh (the Eagles, James Gang), and rock guitar legend Carlos Santana. It was during this time that she developed her outgoing stage presence. She also began to study and play bass, which was to become her main instrument.
In 1976, we settled in Silver Spring, MD, where we stayed for eleven years. During that period, she sang, and played bass & keyboards with several jazz, rock, country and variety bands, and worked as a solo vocalist/pianist in lounges. She also took classes in the jazz music program at Montgomery College in Rockville, MD, under the direction of Bill Potts, as a jazz performance major on bass. In 1987, we moved back to Baltimore and she earned a degree in jazz performance from Towson University, where she studied with Drew Gress. In the early 1990’s, she began to write the monthly Jazz Sessions column for what was then Maryland Musician, now Music Monthly Magazine. Through her work, she interviewed and met dozens of musicians, including legendary bassist Stanley Clark. She recognized the unsung talent in Baltimore’s jazz scene and the potential for Baltimore to become recognized as a city that supports the jazz arts. With this mission in mind, she provided many aspiring regional jazz artists with the first public acknowledgement of their efforts and work. As a performer, she was a favorite at Fells Point’s Cats Eye Pub where she would sing a mix of standard and original jazz. Fellow jazz artists would come to listen and sit in with her group. The Sunpapers’ writer Kevin Brown wrote about her, calling her “Fells Point’s undisputed jazz queen.”
Our original music group, Jazz Street Station, did numerous concerts that included venues such as the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Blues alley, and Oregon Ridge Park. The high point was our debut CD, “Jazz Street Station – the Rhythm of Love” which was selected for the 1994 Grammy nominations ballot. As Washington Post music critic Mike Joyce wrote Jane had “an agile voice well-versed in Afro-Caribbean rhythms and tricky harmony.” She was also active as a composer/performer member of The Baltimore Composers Forum. As a member of The Baltimore Songwriters Association, Jane presented her original material on a regular basis. She was awarded a Jazz Studies Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts. One of her original jazz songs, Watcha-Ma-callit, was featured on a soundtrack for the film, October 22. Another song, Go Home, a country two-step, received extensive airplay in Western Europe. Then there was her acting - Her early experiences included performing in the musical, “Carrousel,” as Carrie Pipperage in community theatre in Wheaton, MD, - playing the role of a singing "Roaring '20's" Flapper for Showbiz Productions entertainment agency – and portraying a singing guitar player in a movie about the restaurant industry that was filmed at the Princess Resort Hotel in Milwaukee, WI. In the early 1990’s she performed in Etheria, an original rock opera by Jeffery Sponsler, as Thalia, leader of the planet Etheria. This production was first held at the Arello Theatre at Johns Hopkins University, and the following year at Fells Point Corner Theatre. Her next role was in “Deep Secrets” an original musical by Rita Pearlman and Linda Bergman, where she played the part of Genevieve, the corporate shark. She also worked as the choral director/part writer.
All this came to a sudden end when she suffered an injury to her sciatic nerve. It was so severe that she couldn’t walk for six weeks. Still, she was determined to go on. Gradually, she returned to performing and song writing and started the original music country-rock group, Jane Lamar and Snidley’s Daughter. After hearing her song, Holding Out For Love, Bonnie Raitt was so impressed, that her manager called and spoke to Jane about it. She even returned to writing and Urbanite Magazine published her piece, For the Love of Van. But her greatest efforts were put towards acting with the Fabulous 50+ Players. Under the direction of Harriet Lynn, Jane performed in productions featuring the music of Cole Porter (Red, Hot and Cole), Rogers and Hart (Sing For Your Supper), Kurt Weill (Berlin to Broadway), and “Camp”, an original musical by Chuck Knauf. In related activities, she participated in Black Box Theater improvisations, Jackie Dunfy’s “Golden Girls Revue”, and toured playing the role of Santa’s helper “Elfis” during the holiday season with Dick Holmes and Ann Henry. Jane had another set back when she injured her head in August 2003. Like before, she rallied and returned to performing, songwriting and acting. If anything good can be said about Jane’s sudden passing, was that she was in a time of good spirits. So many things were looking up for her. As so many of her friends said, “Jane was one of a kind.” All will miss her friendly nature and spirit.
View Jane Lamar-Spicka’s musical talent in action by viewing the videos below. These clips were featured on a 1967 live recording session that was broadcast on the cable TV program “D.C. Outlet.” The first selection, Anytime, was the lead feature in the video “Music From America” that was sent to hospitals in the Soviet Union at the request of patients who wanted to hear American jazz.
Anytime – 5:00
Jamaican Moon – 6:43
Whatchamacallit – 5:39
They Are You – 3:32
Emerald Raindrops – 5:09
Woman of Wonder: Margery Stulman
Honored by: Blanche Cohen Sachs (as submitted to The Beacon)
Of the many elder women I know, I most enjoy the delightful company
of Margery Stulman. Margy participates in the same writing class I
am in at the Myerberg Senior Center. Her writing and thoughts show
wisdom of years, yet always exhibiting a positive and cheerful
attitude. A remarkable, independent person whose sweet disposition
and friendliness add charm and magnetism to her being. Though
petite, she presents a giant personality.
Margy also participates in water color art classes. In summary, it
is an opportunity and a great pleasure to be in her company.
Woman of Wonder:
Grandma Edna - Edna Lawrence
Honored by: Serena Mills-Thornton (as submitted to The Beacon)
Grandma Edna is a Historian, Genealogist, author and editor, and a volunteer for the PTA at Thurgood Marshall Middle School. She is a member of the National and the Local Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, Inc., and has a deep condern for the educational needs of the African-American Community. Her passion is for the children, and she feels that our communities must embrace the old tradition: "It Takes A Village to Raise A Child."
Grandma Edna set out between 1995 and 2000 to gather historical information. She visited her own genealogical roots, learning that this plantation (owned by a Francis Epps) was one of the earliest slave plantations in Virginia's history.
Woman of Wonder: Esther Cohen
Honored by: Harriet Lynn (as submitted to The Beacon)
I met Esther Cohen in August 1981. Esther already at that time was
retired and widowed. I was directing the first senior theatre of the
JCC in Baltimore, MD. Our longtime friendship grew out of that
"chance" meeting. Her presence in the workshop, rehearsals, and
performances demonstrated she was in a class by herself. Her
creativity, wit, eloquence, intelligence, humanity, humor,
generosity, leadership qualities and desire to be an active
participant in the program and in life itself was obvious and admired.
Esther was born in Baltimore, MD, of Jewish immigrant parents and
took care of her sick mother. These early experiences helped shape
her life. She learned to do for herself early on and at times harsh
circumstances were dealt her. Esther personifies a true survivor.
She was a "working woman" when most women of her era were in the role
of mother and raising children. With no child of her own, even after
two marriages, Esther managed to have and continues to this day to
"adopt young people" and make friends with people of all ages. It is
her gift. She has touched the hearts and minds of so many and has
been an inspiration to legions. Having to be self-reliant most of
her life, she asks little of anyone and is most charitable in lending
a kind ear and a willing shoulder to lean upon. It is time for her
to be returned the favors.
It has not been easy for her by a long shot. Time has taken its toll
and Esther faces an even more difficult threshold; the loss of
independence with a body that is failing her. After living
approximately one year in a nursing home that offers her safety, but
robs her of "running her own show," it is a difficult compromise for
Esther. Now she must trust others to be there for her when needed.
This transition with acceptance at her age is most difficult, but it
is especially for one whose mind is still quite agile and wanting to
continue to "call the shots".
While struggling with the loss of independence, Esther is shrewd
enough to realize there are benefits for "letting go" and accepting;
no easy task to do so for a woman of such self-reliance and
independent spirit. Esther, after all the years of managing her
life, remains true to herself and fights to take command of her life
despite the challenges she faces daily. She will make the best of
each day that on one hand is more simple and on the other more
complex. She is not afraid to share the pain, fear, frustration and
anger about the realities of becoming older in a society that often
gives lip service to elders.
Over the years, she has taught me so much about life by example. One
particular lesson is to have determination to live the life you want.
Esther is a champion and had little to count on except herself for
much of her life. Esther was 90 year old on March 3, 2007
Woman of Wonder: Dena Catherine Paschal Snyder
Honored by: Lisa Paschal Snyder
Dana Snyder is turning 15 this year and I find her an inspiration! I
admire her intelligence and am touched by her kindness. Dana has
consistently refused to play the game of popularity that so manly of
her peers engage in; focusing instead on being liked - or not liked -
for who she is. Dana has a strong sense of self and an unusually
healthy body image; taking pride and pleasure in what her body
enables her to do. She is an avid horsewoman who realizes that her
ability to control her horse is directly related to her own strength.
Dana is that rare teenage girl: she is nice. She is funny. She is
smart. And she is real.
Woman of Wonder: Mrs. Marietta Scully
Honored by: Carolyn Bruna
The Woman of Wonder whom I honor is Mrs. Marietta Scully, friend, neighbor and inspiration. I have known Marietta for 9 years and she has been both a support and an inspiration for me throughout this time. She has supported me through difficult times as I care for my mother in my home and she has supported an encouraged me in exciting and eventful times as I work in the field of cable TV hosting "It's A Woman's World." Marietta took care of her own ill husband for many years and has always kept my spirits up as we waited together for my mom to return from dialysis. She has suggested names of achieving women for me to interview, collected articles of possible interviewees, and has been a loyal viewer of my show. She had been my confidant, consultant, and idea person. I have always admired her and respected her strength, stability, independence, and forthrightness, and, oh, yes, that sharp memory, especially for names.
If only I could remember all those stories of the exciting times and people that she encountered in her life. She knew important people, like when Eleanor Roosevelt called at her house and said to tell her daughter, who was staying with Marietta's daughter overnight, not to call before noon because she was going to sleep in. Marietta always has time for me and since I have a small family, she has taken over a special part of my heart. In her illness right now she is a model and inspiration in accepting life's lessons with a positive attitude.
I want nothing more than to have her as my inspiration and mentor.