RISING SUN — Emotions were flowing Sunday at the Episcopal Carmel of St. Teresa as the prie-dieu, which belong to Father Mychal Judge, was donated to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in New York City.
Prie-dieu is French and means ‘praying to God.’ The prayer kneeler is a simple piece of furniture with a padded surface on which to kneel, a flat surface for one’s hands and a small shelf to store prayer books and other necessities.
The Rev. Sister Barbara, one of the sisters at the prayer order off Route 1, took a moment to have one last time of prayer using the kneeler before it was wrapped in a blanket for the trip north.
“I feel like I am in communion with all those who have lived and sacrificed their lives for others,” Sister Barbara said, near tears. “He was on his knees administering last rites to a firefighter when he died.”
Father Judge is considered the first life lost when terrorists flew into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. The official chaplain of the New York City Fire Department, Judge raced to the scene and immediately began to pray for the dead and the dying. He entered the North Tower to pray over bodies and was heard praying aloud as the South Tower collapsed. In a biography about the Franciscan priest, author Michael Daly wrote that Judge was heard praying, “Jesus, please end this right now! God, please end this!”
“This is such a compelling, powerful artifact,” said Amy Weinstein, vice president of collections and oral history of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. “It makes me very emotional to see how important it is to the sisters.”
Like the Franciscan order to which Judge belonged, the Carmelite sisters are also an order committed to prayer. Judge’s twin sister Dympna donated the kneeler to the Carmelite order five years ago. Preparing to move to Texas with her children, volunteers were helping Dympna clear out her home in Berlin, Md. and had placed the kneeler in a Dumpster. However someone recognized what it was and rescued it. It was brought to the Episcopal Carmelites in 2016.
Sister Teresa Irene, prioress of the order, said it was fitting that the prie-dieu was handed to the 9/11 Museum on Easter Sunday.
“He went to a new life when he died in those towers,” Sister Teresa said of Father Judge. “Today is the day we remember there is more than death. This is a connection.”
“He was in prayer his whole life,” she said, pointing to the wear in the kneeler, indicating long years of use.
Knowing they were downsizing the convent, Sister Barbara started trying to find a new home for the prie-dieu.
“I started looking for a shrine. The Eastern orthodox Church has already canonized him,” she said. The process for sainthood is underway in the Catholic Church. “Then I took a chance and tried to find someone with the 9/11 Museum.”
She was surprised that Weinstein called her so quickly after leaving a message.
“I will do my best to find a way to display this,” Weinstein said.
Thanks to COVID the museum has not been open for over a year, although much of it is available for viewing online.
With the 20th anniversary of the attacks that took 2,977 lives that day approaching, there is hope that the museum can be reopened is the virus has been contained.
Both sisters agree that Father Judge would appreciate making his prie-dieu a part of that collection.
“I think he would be thrilled,” Sister Teresa said.
“We’re really thrilled to have it,” Weinstein said. “He was someone who spoke directly to God. It says an awful lot about him. This piece is important because of who he was and how he lived his life.”
Coach Dave Spencer became the first tennis coach in the history of North East High School in 1975, when the sport was new to the public schools across the county. Now as he coaches his 100th season, Spencer is still helping students learn the skills they need to improve on the field, with the help of some of his unique do-it-yourself equipment.
“It’s been so rewarding to me to be a part of so many lives over these 100 seasons,” said Spencer.
He retired in 2004 from being a head coach, but he still volunteers in field hockey and tennis.
“I really enjoy seeing someone get better at something,” said Spencer. “Especially when they start not knowing about a sport, to watch the growth of a person is special.”
Spencer describes himself as a “skill and drill” coach, focusing on improving students’ technique and fundamentals. He is known for a variety of unorthodox tactics to help people improve.
The current coach of the field hockey team, Kendie Hudson, said some of his out-of-the-box ideas include creating rebound boards for the team, and having the team alternate between smaller and bigger balls to see how that would impact their play. Many students specifically ask for time to work with coach Spencer because of his positive reinforcement and how he views the sport differently than most people.
“He’s very patient, very kind; he will make you feel good about yourself no matter what, while being instructive,” said Hudson. “As a 27-year-old, even though he’s in a volunteer role now, I look up to him a lot.”
One tennis drill of his had players hold pool noodles in their arms to keep their elbows tucked in when serving, another had students try to hit a shot into the box from outside the tennis court fence. One gadget was a tennis racket, with the head replaced simply with a string with a tennis ball at the end of it to practice serving technique.
Along with his main sports of field hockey and tennis, he also coached junior varsity girls basketball for 15 years. As a head coach he earned 100 wins in all three sports with a winning percentage over 50%.
“You don’t pat yourself on the back. The kids work hard, and it’s really the kids game. It’s always in the end about the kids having the most fun that they can have, with the best skill that they can manage,” said Spencer. “I think that was the most important thing for me. The numbers just kind of appear if you do some of the right things.”
Spencer, though he is competitive, is focused on improving his players. He knows that oftentimes you can play the best game of your life and still lose against a superior opponent but that doesn’t mean you are a failure.
“I’ve walked off a hockey field thinking, gosh, that’s the best we could and I’ve lost. I can say we made a mistake somewhere or we didn’t have the luck or whatever,” said Spencer. “But when you play, the best you can play and you get beat. That’s just to me, it’s a great feeling. The kids don’t think that way but eventually they understand how good they played.”
Spencer said oftentimes as a coach he would have to manage egos and personalities as much as develop athletic skills. He would often use drills that force players to help each other, showing that players can contribute no matter their skill set. In basketball, for example, someone who is bad shooter, can help the team by passing the ball or rebounding.
“If you look to do your best with the skills that you have, you help not only yourself but everybody else,” said Spencer.
One year the field hockey team started with a 1-5 record. Spencer cut up a field hockey stick so every kid would have a piece of it. Then every practice they would have to put their pieces back together to form a new stick, showing that every player has an important role for winning. That team came in second place in the state tournament.
The most recent county champion, Karley Mcilhatton, a 2019 graduate of North East currently attending University of Maryland, still plays tennis with him at least once a month. Like most of his former players Mcilhatton refers to Spencer as “Spence.”
“I think coach Spence just had a very positive impact on a lot of his players,” said Mcilhatton. “I think we just clicked very well.”
Grant Handley, a 2018 North East graduate, joined the tennis team as a senior. He previously played on the Track and Soccer team. He said despite being a senior, who would only be with the team for a few months, Spencer put a great amount of effort into teaching him.
“It was just really impressive how well he knew the game. He would be looking down or he’d be walking around,” said Handley. “He could hear how I hit a ball. And he could tell me what I did wrong. He’s very impressive, and his delivery was always gentle.”
Handley made the all county honorable mention team in mixed doubles.
“He really invested in a senior like me who joined tennis because it looked like fun,” said Handley. “It was so enjoyable. It was the most fun I ever had playing in high school sport. I love soccer, and I respect track, but I really looked forward to tennis practice.”
Spencer worked as a Math Teacher at North East for 38 years. He said he wanted to be a teacher since he was in the 9th grade. Spencer’s parents were raised in an orphanage and ended up working for an orphanage as well. Spencer helped his parents, so he was around other children constantly growing up. Spencer surprisingly never played tennis in college or high school, instead picking up tennis around the same time as he became a coach. He made an effort to learn rapidly even going to the Dennis Van Der Meer tennis coaching camp in South Carolina.
In 1986, tragedy struck when North East student and field hockey player Susan Magdeburger, died in a car accident. Despite dealing with the loss of a teammate, the team made it to the state semifinals, taking her skirt with them to the game as a memorial.
“She was one of those people that would help you do anything,” said Spencer on Magdeburger. “help the team do anything, do anything for the team, you know? And people like that kind of get to you. You can have people in there are great players and they may not get to you. But some people do. “
Magedeburger’s father later paid for Spencer to attend a field hockey training camp, since Susan had always wanted Spencer to learn more about the game.
“It turned out to be not just a camp,” said Spencer. “I was there with the U.S. national team so I got coached by their coach and their players. It turned out to be an amazing experience.”
Spencer served as North East’s Athletic Director for 16 years. The current athletic director, Gary Brown, who took over from Spencer in the 90s, said Spencer’s guidance was necessary in understanding the nuances of the position, such as ensuring equipment like shot clocks and Public Address systems were set up properly before games.
“He thinks things through, you can sit there with him and ask him a question, and you can tell he’s thinking,” said Brown. “He doesn’t say anything at all, until he has the chance to kind of go over in his head, the different variables that may be taking place, and try to think of what might be the best solution.”
Along with his work as a volunteer coach, Spencer teaches Sunday school at Elkton Presbyterian Church and works part time at the Michael M. Coldren Company in North East working on antique locks and hinges. The business is owned by the family of Ben Coldren, who played for the Salisbury University tennis team after playing under Spencer in the early 90s. Cauldron said that out of all his coaches Spencer cared the most.
“It means a lot when you see a coach put in that much effort,” said Coldren. “It makes you want to perform better.”
ELKTON — The first Cecil County Special Olympics softball program in at least 20 years will begin this Saturday, April 11, with a practice at the Pine Grove Sports Bar fields in Elkton at 11 a.m.
Pat Cullinan, the director for Special Olympics in Cecil, Harford and Kent County, said he chose softball partially due to personal experience, since he started and ran a similar program in Harford for 19 years. Slow Pitch Softball makes for a good starting sport, as the slow pace of play makes it accessible to most special needs athletes.
“The easiest sport that we have for anybody to play, regardless of athletic ability is something like Bocce, where all you’re doing is rolling a ball in front of you,” said Cullinan. “Softball, in my opinion, is not that much further down the road in terms of what it takes — basic hand eye coordination, running ability, catching ability, hitting the ball — those things are generally pretty easy.”
His coaching will focus primarily on the fundamentals of the game, to help place athletes on teams based on ability, from beginner to advanced. If an athlete can’t hit the ball from a pitch, Cullinan will put a ball on a tee to work on their swing.
“We start very slowly with the four basics: hitting, running, throwing and catching. If they progress, we can put them on a team,” said Cullinan. “If they don’t, we have a skills competition where we’ll measure throws, time them running around the bases, and throw them balls to see how many they catch. Anybody from eight to 80 of any ability is able to play.”
The teams will follow all Special Olympics COVID-19 regulations, wearing masks and abiding by social distancing. Athletes also need to fill out a medical registration form.
Once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, games will take place between Cecil County teams and other counties such as Harford. Cullinan said if there is enough interest he would like to expand the program from a traditional, where the only participants are those with intellectual disabilities, to a unified program, where general population athletes play with Special Olympic Athletes. The program is open to people with physical disabilities, but Cullinan said they should meet with him to see if it would be feasible for the athlete to play the sport.
Special Olympics Fitness Days, a weekly Saturday event where athletes work on their conditioning through stretches, walks, and games like Hopscotch will continue at the Cecil Community Center Park in Rising Sun. The Fitness Days, which began on Feb. 27, marked the organizations’ first community event in Cecil County in six years.
Interested volunteers or athletes can get more information by emailing Cullinan at email@example.com.
RISING SUN — A man is facing criminal charges after he allegedly desecrated the grave of his ex-girlfriend’s mother in a Rising Sun cemetery on Easter Sunday because he had been jilted, according to Cecil County District Court records.
During a police interview after his arrest, the suspect — Dwayne Earl Young, 60, of York, Pa. — admitted to knocking over stone grave markers, shattering vases and pulling flowers from the ground at that burial site in Brookview Cemetery, police said.
Young told the investigator that he desecrated the grave because he “lost his cool” after learning that his girlfriend, with whom he had a relationship for the past 10 years, purportedly had been unfaithful to him with his “best friend,” police added.
“Young did admit to damaging her mother’s gravesite out of rage and was sorry for his actions,” Rising Sun Police Department Mpo. Daniel Stickney alleges in his written statement of probable cause contained in court records.
Stickney started his investigation at approximately 4:15 p.m. on Sunday, when he was dispatched to Brookview Cemetery on Cemetery Lane after receiving a complaint concerning destruction to a burial plot on that property, police reported.
The complainant showed Stickney the damage that had been done to her mother’s gravesite and then maintained that Young, whom she described as her “ex-boyfriend,” had targeted that burial plot “out of retaliation,” according to charging documents.
As the officer explained that it would difficult to prove that Young had desecrated the grave, without security camera video or eyewitnesses, the woman told Stickney that her ex-boyfriend had left the cemetery in a white Toyota 4-Runner with Pennsylvania license plates moments earlier, police reported.
Stickney recalled seeing a man driving a vehicle matching that description when he pulled into Brookview Cemetery, in response to the destruction complaint, and remembered that he had last seen it turning into nearby Veteran Community Park, police said.
The officer told the woman that he would attempt to locate the Toyota in question and speak to the man who had been driving it, police added.
Stickney spotted the Toyota in question, which was making a left turn onto nearby Kirks Court, as the officer was preparing to drive off the cemetery property, court records show.
After activating his patrol vehicle’s flashing lights and other emergency equipment, Stickney attempted to stop the Toyota — and that led to a brief police chase, according to court records.
“(The driver) accelerated at a high rate of speed, making a left onto Park Circle, where the operator left the roadway and fled through numerous yards of residences that back up to West Cherry Street. The operator who failed to stop operated in such a reckless manner that I did, in fact, break the vehicle pursuit,” Stickney outlines in his written statement of probable cause.
A short time later that day, Stickney spotted the Toyota in question turning into a restaurant parking lot in the 300 block of East Main Street in Rising Sun, police said. The officer arrested Young there and then drove him to the nearby RSPD station for processing, police added.
In addition to confessing to the desecration of the gravesite, after waiving his right to remain silent, Young acknowledged that he had failed to stop for Stickney earlier that day, explaining that “he did not realize that the vehicle that was chasing him was a patrol vehicle and (that he) was just happy that nobody was injured,” court records allege.
Young is charged with destroying a funerary object, which is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine, and destroying graveyard plants, an offense that carries a maximum two-year sentence, according to court records, which further indicate that Young is scheduled for a June 10 trial.
Stickney also issued Young two traffic citations charging him with reckless driving and attempting to elude a uniformed police officer, both of which are connected to the purported police chase, court records show.
Young spent one night in the Cecil County Detention Center without bond, before gaining his pre-trial freedom on Monday by posting a $2,500 bond after his bail review hearing earlier that day, according to court records.