When you live in one place for 44 years, as my wife and I did in Easton, you cross paths with many people. You retain emotional contact with them. Then reality sets in.
Two weeks ago, on a brief visit to our still treasured home, we ran into a friend and asked about her husband. He had died, we were told. We knew nothing.
That disturbing revelation drove me to learn about others who had died during our nearly three years in Annapolis. I studied with dread the website for Helfenbein, Fellows and Newnam Funeral Home.
Though not a close personal friend, Tom Fountain, an estate and wills attorney, was someone whom I considered a friend and gentleman of the first order. He was our lawyer, too. He was eminently likable, well respected by his legal peers and clients. A U.S. Navy veteran, Tom approached the practice of law as public service, as I viewed his manner and expertise.
Adrienne Rudge was another first-rate person, one of three daughters of a well-known Easton attorney, Charlie Wheeler. An active board member of Talbot Hospice and Critchlow Adkins Children’s Centers, she seemed preternaturally friendly and engaging. Her presence was always soothing. People gravitated to Adrienne because of her authentic personal warmth.
Stacie (Anastasia) Wrightson was a lovable character, always affable and talkative. I liked her from the moment I first met her. She had graduated from Oldfields School in northern Baltimore County and sat on its board. Since my daughter Kate also was an Oldfields alumna, Stacie and I had much to talk about. She was straight-forward and gently blunt. At the end of each conversation with her, I marveled at her energy and liveliness.
My path crossed frequently over the years with Mike Newnam, a longtime funeral homeowner and civic leader. Mike had a presence, abetted by his height, voice and bearing, the latter developed by his Marine Corps service. He sponsored me for the Elks. He sold us a lovely house adjacent to the funeral home at the corner of Harrison Street and Brookletts Avenue. He buried my in-laws in Baltimore. He was a notable usher at Christ Church, Easton. He conducted himself in a stalwart, professional manner.
We live with fond memories of friends who enhanced our quality of life in the unmatched town of Easton. Some of our encounters were longer and more substantive than others. Still, they all had an impact. They meant something. They still do.
I mourn the deaths of Tom Fountain, Adrienne Rudge, Stacie Wrightson and Mike Newnam. I had no chance to express my sympathy to their loved ones. I suppose this column provides a platform to voice my condolences.
A memorable quotation from Thornton Wilder’s poignant “Our Town” is fitting for this column:
“We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses, and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars…everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has something to do with human beings. All the greatest people have been telling us that a thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it. There’s something way deep down that’s eternal about every human being.”
Easton is a better place because of these four special people.
Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. After 44 years in Easton, Howard and his wife, Liz, moved in November 2020 to Annapolis, where they live with Toby, a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel who has no regal bearing, just a mellow, enticing disposition.