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Celebrating a centenarian: veteran and pastor George Reynolds

ELKTON — When you reach the century mark you should have lots of stories to tell.

Elktonite, U.S. Navy veteran and pastor George Reynolds told a lot of them Saturday during a party marking his 100th birthday held at the Elkton VFW Post 8175.

“Thank you for all the nice stories,” Reynolds told friends and family seated around him. “I’m sure half of them are right.”

He also shared a lot of memories of growing up in Elk Mills, joining the US Navy in 1941, and spending much of his adult life immersed in archaeology, history and UFOs.

A number of notable Cecil figures were in attendance to show their respect. Del. Kevin Hornberger brought greetings from the Maryland General Assembly, Jackie Gregory represented Rep. Andy Harris, and Cecil County Executive Danielle Hornberger spoke on behalf of the county, each giving a proclamation.

Charlie McCoy, commander of the VFW Post, spoke on behalf of Elkton Mayor Rob Alt. He read aloud a proclamation that declared Sept. 10 would forever be known in town as George Reynolds Day.

Although born in Glasgow, Del., Reynolds moved to Elk Mills when he was 2 months old so he considers himself a Cecil Countian through and through. Even after a 6-year stint in the Navy, he came back and built his own home in the Elkton area known as Barksdale.

Reynolds recalled that his childhood was tough.

“I remember my worst Christmas and my best Christmas,” he said of his childhood. The worst was during the Great Depression.

“I rushed down the stairs and there was only one present,” he recalled. Excited, he tore open the package to find a toy shotgun with cork ammunition. “I laid on the floor and aimed and shot that gun. It hit a Christmas ornament on the tree and broke it.”

His father erupted in a rage.

“He grabbed the gun out of my hands and smashed it on the floor and broke it,” George recalled. Then he beat George with a razor strop. “It was horrible. I didn’t understand why he was so upset.”

Several years later he would have a Christmas he remembers as the best.

“I got a Lucky Lindy cap and goggles,” he said, referring to the iconic aviator, Charles Lindbergh. “I also got high-top leather shoes with a pocket on the side and the pocket had a pen knife in it.”

In spite of his hard upbringing, which got worse around age 11 when his parents split and his mother sent him to work on neighboring farms, Reynolds does have happy memories of growing up in Elk Mills.

“We played a lot of marbles, hide and seek and fox and hounds,” he said. “The 4th of July we always had root beer, firecrackers and flags waving.”

Reynolds worked until he was 17 at the farm where the Cecil County Farm Museum and Regional Agricultural Center stands today. He joined the Navy July 23, 1941, primarily to get an education. The Navy sent him to Dearborn, Mich. for engineering. May 1942 found him sailing the North Atlantic aboard the USS Beaver.

“We were sailing as a convoy with freighters and oil tankers heading for Scotland,” he said. The AS-5 on which he was sailing was armed with 20mm anti-aircraft guns and 5-inch cannons. It was also carrying more than two dozen torpedoes.

Reynolds recalls that, one day during the voyage, an announcement came over the ship’s PA; stating that training drills were over.

“No more practicing. The next alarm is real,” he said of the ominous message. “If one goes off, they all go off.”

He said the captain then informed his crew that, should that happen, “there won’t be enough left to feed a seagull.”

One time up in the crows nest, Reynolds saw an approaching German submarine, but because of an ongoing battle he was having trouble being heard.

“The whole ship is vibrating and the ocean is on fire and I’m screaming,” Reynolds said. In that moment he saw another ship on fire, with a part of the hull in a cross shape, white hot and glowing. He calls it his “I found Jesus in the North Atlantic” moment. Now a pastor, he was an agnostic at the time, praying fiercely for protection.

“Get me back on land and I’ll work for You,” he said of his terrified prayer. “I accepted God right there.”

While he misses the bygone days of a bustling downtown Elkton before US Route 40 was built, what Reynolds misses most is the community and manners of old Elkton. He also fears the loss of the county’s history.

“We need more money for research,” he said of Cecil County’s history. He feels the county is missing opportunities to get grants. “Our people will not back me on historical restoration. It’s one of the big problems I’d had in Cecil County.”

It goes back to the petroglyphs that were removed before the Conowingo Dam was built, which were dumped in Baltimore, to losing battles over Holly Hall and other historic structures. As a Navy man, Reynolds is happy to see Bainbridge being re-developed and he once tried to get the CIA to consider the Port Deposit property for its new headquarters. “Bainbridge would have been perfect. You could come in by water, rail or road.”

When he was in high school – where Elkton Middle School is now – Reynolds learned about the nine planets and wondered why God would only put life on Earth. That train of thought has since led to being active in the investigation of the sightings of unidentified flying objects. He remains active in the Maryland UFO Network.

After passing the 25-year mark at Aberdeen Proving Ground in the Ballistics Research Lab, Reynolds took a retirement offer. With six years in the Navy also counting, he left APG in 1972 and went back to school, this time to become a pastor. These days he works as a supply pastor when needed.

He may be 100 years old, but Reynolds is a teenager when it comes to technology.

“I like YouTube. You can look up anything on YouTube,” he said of the online encyclopedia of audio and video clips. “I love computers and cellphones and iPads.”

And he’s also on a mission to save the American chestnut tree. Reynolds hopes to collect seeds and start seedlings to rebuild the population.


News
Rising Sun adopts Rental Registration and Inspection Program

RISING SUN — While Rising Sun has lots of great landlords, the mayor and commissioners agreed Tuesday night to adopt a Rental Inspection Program to address neglectful owners of residential rental properties.

“Although there are some wonderful landlords in Rising Sun there are also some who are just collecting the rent from their tenants,” said Calvin Bonenberger, town administrator.

The passage of Ordinance 2022-03 carried three amendments to the town’s Property Maintenance, Minimum Housing and Quality of Life code including the addition of a Chapter 9 for the Rental Registration and Inspection Program.

Bonenberger said the Rental Registration and Inspection Program has been in the works for several years and goes beyond unkempt yards and high grass.

“When you are a landlord you are a business owner,” he said, noting that – like other business owners – there should be rules to follow. “By having these rules in place it will be a better use of taxpayer dollars,” Bonenberger added, noting that the town has spent thousands only to end up collecting a $25 high grass fine.

Bonenberger displayed several photos showing sagging floors, dangerous water repairs, unsafe steps and mold he has found in rental units. Saying the town will work with willing landlords, he pointed to the sagging floor and showed that the owner was only required to shore up the floor instead of enduring costly foundation repairs.

“A lot of this is common sense repairs, not engineering,” he said. “We are trying to keep the property still functional but in a safe and better manner.”

“We can address that through creation of a rental inspection program,” he said.

According to Bonenberger, having the inspection program would help tenants and their neighbors.

“If the owner of a property wants to live that way that’s their business. But this is a rental situation,” he said. “You have to wonder how many more are out there.”

The ordinance goes into effect 20 days after passage.

Rising Sun tried to pass similar legislation in 2016 but got blowback from landlords over language in that measure which would have required inspections when tenants changed or when the property was sold.


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