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Ethel Murray, 'the boss' remembered

ELKTON — In the Maryland General Assembly, she was something. But at State Line Liquors, Ethel Murray was the boss.

“She was a great mother, a great business woman; I don’t know how she balanced it all,” said her son, Robert Murray. “She was a force. She has an impact on so many people.”

On July 14, former Maryland District 35B Del. Ethel A. Murray died in Florida. She was surrounded by friends and family and passed peacefully. Murray was 87.

Murray served in the House of Delegates as a District 35B representative from 1983 through the early-90s when she was defeated by David Rudolph in the 1994 election.

In her 12 years as a legislator, the mother of six also provided for her constituents in Cecil County.

“She did so much,” said Judy Cox, former mayor of Rising Sun and public relations person for Murray during her time in office. “Her goal was to help the less fortunate in every way that she possible could.”

It is believed that Murray was the first woman delegate from Cecil County — though there were several representatives and local women leaders in the county and throughout the state.

Robert, reflecting on her first primary election in the 1980s, remembers driving around with his mother visiting residents in the county on her campaign trail. In 1983, she was one of 13 candidates.

”Here’s this woman, the only woman on the ticket.... it was close. You spread out 13 people and one of them is a woman. In this county, back then, it was very conservative,” he remembers, adding that people were iffy about electing a woman into the delegation.

”She won by 13 votes,” he said.

He attributed his mother’s win, not only to her hard work but also her “great rapport” with people.

***

Murray, truly a representative for Cecil County in the House of Delegates, showed up for public safety continuously throughout her career. Cox remembers her pushing for the relocation of the Rising Sun firehouse, the country music festival at Fair Hill — and a plethora of other things.

In supporting the region, Murray was instrumental in bringing Medevac to the Eastern Shore, and was also the first to award the Length of Service Award. This program provides benefits for retired volunteer firefighters or emergency service personnel.

From the archives of the Cecil Whig, Murray can be supporting several bills that pushed for the betterment of the community.

In 1992, there was a lot of debate about holding off on adding Keno machines to the state’s lottery offerings. Then Gov. William Donald Schaefer prevailed and Keno has remained a part of Maryland ever since.

[ Schaefer] claims keno is necessary to balance the state’s fiscal 1992–93 budget. But members of the General Assembly — the body which may soon decide to game’s fate — don’t seem to agree.

If the Cecil County delegation’s mood is any indication, Maryland keno face is a dubious future indeed.

“I can understand the governor’s point of view,” said Del. Ethel A Murray (D-Cecil). “But I wonder whether or not a budget should be balanced by a lottery game. I think we should look at something else. “

Both Murray and Franks see keno as a completely fiscal issue. Although they don’t support it, they don’t believe the game is morally wrong.

Nearly 25 years ago, the Ku Klux Klan was pushing to march down the streets of Elkton. In a way to tamper the hate group’s movement in Cecil County, the local delegation proposed an anti-mask law to counter the movements of the hate group within the county:

Maryland may soon prohibit people from hiding behind a mask or hoods in public places.

Under legislation introduced by Delegate Ethel A. Murray (D-Cecil) and several members of the Baltimore City Delegation, the person would be committing a crime by “wearing a mask, hood, or device … To conceal his or her identity. “

“I know there are some constitutional questions with this kind of bill,“ Murray said. “But I definitely think it’s worth serious discussion. We may end up with a different bill in the end. We must start somewhere.

“I don’t want to curtail anyone’s free-speech rights,“ she added. “But, personally, I don’t think this bill does that. You should have the freedom to say what you want. But you should have the courage to reveal your identity.”

Several months after the introduction of the mask law, Murray was wrapped up in an expensive traders fee legislation conundrum when a letter from former Commissioner A. Marie Cleek to Murray came to light. The letter stated Cleek “had no problem” with the “last year with a larger than expected traders license fee increase,” the Whig reported in 1993.

Changes were meant to be made that would lower the level of the fees, but that didn’t seem to make it into the final drafts of the legislation.

“I don’t think you can really put any blame on anyone for this,” Murray said. “We all thought the fees were too high. This thing just slipped through the cracks. It was introduced late in the session. And the General Assembly was very busy in 1992 taking care of budget problems.“

***

According to former aides and employees, Murray did all her own legislative research — and all before the office opened.

Though she may have “worked more than she really needed to”, Cox opined. Murray wouldn’t have been herself if she didn’t.

“She got up before anybody else, before day light,” Cox remembers.” . … She didn’t quit working. Even when she wasn’t in the legislative session, she was busy doing [work for the delegation].

“She wrote almost all her own letters, and did all her own work,” Cox said, adding that legislative aides take on the brunt of this type of work.

Though her hours were mostly filled in her research, Murray is remembered for always having time for her constituency.

“I don’t ever remember her turning down a phone call or a visitor,” Cox said.

Cox went on to say that current candidates for county government are reflective of Murray’s spirit.

“Danielle Hornberger reminds me much of her,” Cox said. “They’re interested in what’s best for the people, not what’s popular but what’s best.”

Murray sought out the “happy medium,” Cox said.

“You can’t always do what you want to do, you have to do what’s best for everybody — and that’s the way she was,” Cox said. “I am going to miss her.”

In addition to being a pillar in state government, Murray was well known throughout the community as the owner of State Line Liquors — which is still family-owned and operated.

Murray attended school at St. Rose’s RCS, Xavier’s School, and Catherine McAuley High School. She married John “Jack” W. Murray, Jr. and moved to Elkton to begin their lives together. They were married for 55 years.

While in Maryland, Ethel worked as a secretary for Getty Oil in Delaware City and at Jack’s family’s liquor/grocery store, E. May Murray’s on Bridge Street. Jack and Ethel eventually purchased the store and moved their business out of town, known today as State Line Liquors, where she is often referred to as “the boss.”

Robert Murray, who still lives in the area, remembers his mom this way:

”She was a good, compassionate woman,” he said. “She would sit there and talk to people, and she was known for that. She wasn’t a politician, she was a representative. She always hated that word [‘politician’], but she understood the game.

”She worked hard for people.”

And, from memory of former employees, she could be hard on people — though many will call her the best boss they’ve had.

Robert recently bumped into a former employee of State Line, who called her the “toughest boss” he ever had. This isn’t the first time State Line workers have said this to Robert.

”They all come back and say, ‘Thank God for Ethel Murray,’” Robert told the Whig. “Even though she was hard and tough on them, they say that they all became better people because of her — and that’s just an incredible compliment.”


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Local districts take lead in MD schools' reopening

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Salmon said Wednesday, July 22, all 24 school systems will have flexibility in deciding, with their local health departments, whether their students return to school virtually or in person this fall.

Salmon said nine of Maryland’s school districts have already decided to go virtual for the upcoming school year. She named Baltimore City, and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Charles, Howard, Harford, Montgomery, Washington and Prince George’s counties as being among those that have rejected the possibility of in-person instruction.

A lot of those systems, Salmon said, “are in the metro area, where we do see the higher number of cases.” The remaining jurisdictions, which include all Eastern Shore systems, are “still in the process of making decisions” and have until Aug. 14 to finalize and submit their plans to the State Department of Education for review, she said.

“We all struggle with decisions about what’s the right timing for things,” Salmon said of her stance on school re-openings. “My hope is, wouldn’t it be great if we had a vaccine and the situation changes? And maybe, because we were so apt at going out (into virtual learning) pretty quickly, maybe we can get our kids back.”

Salmon said she’s “always hopeful about many things” and she’s “hopeful we can get back to school during the school year.”

“We’ve always been working toward the goal of safely reopening,” she said.

While Salmon is leaving decision-making up to individual school systems, those that choose to resume in-person instruction will have to play by the rules, she said — which are outlined as “guardrails,” and include the wearing of face coverings by all students and staff.

In a previous meeting of the Cecil County Board of Education, held earlier this month, CCPS Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Lawson said the district was waiting for the the state to provide its “guardrails” before reaching a final decision relating to what school will look like in the fall semester.

The Maryland Department of Health and the Maryland State Department of Education will require adherence to the following guidelines concerning the wearing of face coverings among students and staff during a school day:

  • School staff must wear cloth face coverings while in the school building, on school grounds when not contraindicated due to a medical condition, intellectual or developmental disabilities, or other conditions or safety concerns;
  • All students, school staff and bus drivers must wear a cloth face covering while on a school bus when not contraindicated due to a medical condition or developmental or safety considerations;
  • Other adults must wear cloth face coverings when they must enter the school building or grounds for essential functions;
  • Students, especially students in middle and high school, must wear cloth face coverings in the school building and on school grounds as much as possible when not contraindicated due to a medical condition or developmental or safety considerations;
  • The use of cloth face coverings is most important at times when physical distancing measures cannot be effectively implemented especially when indoors;
  • Local education agencies should examine the structure and schedule of the education program to identify when physical distancing may be a challenge;
  • Cloth face coverings should not be worn by children under two years old and anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance.

Before school systems can make the leap to reopen, though, they must meet a series of benchmarks ahead of their reopening, Salmon said.

Those benchmarks include identifying learning gaps and instructional placement of students, maintaining certain educational standards, adopting and following cleaning and sanitation procedures, ensuring safe transportation for students, developing a system for tracking attendance and following state guidelines for athletics and activities.

School systems also will be required to follow state health protocols for responding to any confirmed COVID-19 infections among students and staff.

Among those protocols are establishing a process for parents to notify the school when they detect their child has the virus, establishing a timeline for retrieving ill students or staff from school grounds, and outlining contact tracing procedures in coordination with the local health department.

According to an MDH document detailing the anticipated protocols, schools also will be responsible for providing written notification and next steps suggestions to all of a positive student’s or staff member’s suspected contacts. Reactionary steps in the face of a confirmed coronavirus infection could result in a student —and his or her close contacts — having to temporarily return to distance learning, the document states.

If a person develops COVID-19 symptoms during a school day, the school is expected to “isolate the person in a designated isolation area” and the person should be vacated from the school premises “as soon as possible.”

Local health departments, the MDH document states, have the authority to reissue a school closure if an outbreak occurs.

Despite looming uncertainty surrounding the 15 school systems’ reopening plans that remain unannounced and undecided, Salmon voiced an optimistic view of students’ potential to return to school buildings, either full time or in a hybrid capacity, within the approaching school year.

She said she wants to “get our students back to school as soon as possible for in-person instruction and this should be the driving goal and the basis for all of our decisions.”

“What happens in school buildings is an essential part of our children’s development on so many levels: academic, social, emotional and nutritional. These can never be fully replaced by a virtual environment,” Salmon said, though she acknowledged, “the imminent safety and health of students and staff must always be the first priority.”


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Zoo rebounding from fire; but faces steep price tag

RISING SUN — Plumpton Park Zoo is looking at a hefty price tag to get its Bird & Reptile House back in order after a fire a week ago that killed six animals.

Eight others were rescued.

Cheryl Lacovara, director of the zoo on Telegraph Road. in Rising Sun said a Newark, Del. company gave her an estimate of as much as $75,000 to restore the single-story wooden structure from which 8 animals were successfully rescued.

“They said the (one side) of the snake enclosure would have to go down to the studs,” Lacovara said Thursday. “Behind the snake enclosure could be cleaned, sealed and painted.”

Nicholas Lacovara, co-owner of the zoo along with his wife, Cheryl, said investigators from the Office of the Maryland State Fire Marshal told the couple that the fire started in a light fixture inside the enclosure of Fluffy, the ball python.

“The ceramic housing for the bulb is covered in melted, charred plastic,” he said. Fluffy was one of the casualties of the 8 a.m. blaze that filled the building with thick, black smoke.

Also lost was Jewel, the macaw ambassador of the zoo that was often taken to public appearances such as SunFest; Journey and Justice, a pair of hyacinth macaws, the African gray parrot, and smaller snakes.

A Burmese python, red tail boa constrictor, alligator, bearded dragon, tortoise, tarantula, pixie frog and two red-eared sliders made it out safely.

“Everyone is doing nicely,” Cheryl reported of the survivors. “They all look good and are getting a round of antibiotics just in case.”

Businesses and individuals have already shown support for Plumpton Park with donations and fundraisers launched to help.

Granite Run Taproom on South Main Street in Port Deposit is giving dollar bills collected at the bar through the end of August to the zoo. Benjamin’s Store on Rising Sun Road in Rising Sun is offering a percentage of all deli sales to the zoo. Circle Back Ranch on Telegraph Road in Rising Sun is hosting an online auction for one of its refinished furniture pieces on behalf of the zoo. Britain Hill Venue & Vineyard in Quarryville, Pa. is hosting a fundraising event Aug. 30.

“A couple from Conowingo showed up at the zoo and said they are raffling off a bushel of steamed crabs,” Cheryl said, adding, “It’s heartwarming that the community is behind us.”

Donations can also be made through the Plumpton Park Zoo website and Facebook page.

The fire marshal’s office estimated the loss of the structure alone at $150,000. The Lacovaras, on the other hand, feel the loss of the animals profoundly.

“We’ve had a lot of phone calls from people wanting to donate animals,” Cheryl said. There is no hurry, however, to get replacements.

“All were rescues,” Nick added. He said when the building is restored it will be larger inside. “We will have the capacity to take animals to replace the ones that were lost.”


This sign, part of The Civil War Trails signage, tells visitors about the “Obstinate Recruits” at the mule school located at Perry Point.


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Man stabbed to death near Elkton; investigation continues

ELKTON — An investigation is continuing after a man fatally stabbed a rival who attacked him outside a home near Elkton on Tuesday night after threatening to kill him, according to the Maryland State Police.

The two men are linked by a woman, with whom the stabbing victim had had a “long-term relationship” before the man accused of stabbing him to death started dating her, police reported. That woman was inside the home when the attack and the fatal stabbing occurred.

Investigators identified the person killed as Glenn A. Culley, 56, of Elkton. Paramedics pronounced Culley dead at the scene of the stabbing in the 100 block of Cherry Hill Road, off Route 213 (Singerly Road), north of Elkton, police said.

MSP officials identified the man who allegedly stabbed Culley to death only as a 63-year-old Newark, Del. resident, who was released from custody without charges amid the ongoing investigation.

“Maryland State Police are investigating the circumstances surrounding the death last night of a Cecil County man who was stabbed after he allegedly threatened to kill and attacked the man who stabbed him,” an MSP spokesman said Wednesday morning, before explaining, “He has not been charged at this time, pending the results of a Grand Jury hearing to determine if criminal charges are warranted.”

Law enforcement officers and paramedics rushed to the Cherry Hill Road residence shortly after 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, in response to an emergency dispatch regarding a stabbing, police said. After arriving, police added, MSP troopers spoke with a Cecil County Sheriff’s Office deputy who already had detained the suspect in the fatal stabbing.

Detectives with MSP’s Homicide Unit were notified and went to the residence to conduct an on-scene investigation, police noted.

The preliminary investigation indicated that Culley had “previously threatened to kill the man (whom) he assaulted” outside that Cherry Hill Road residence on Tuesday night.

“Through interviews and witness information, investigators learned Culley had come to the residence late (Tuesday) morning. He reportedly was yelling outside the home and demanding money from the woman inside. He also reportedly threatened to kill the man who was also inside the home,” An MSP spokesman reported.

Culley left after that incident, but he returned at approximately 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, at least nine hours later, police said.

Based on the preliminary investigation, Culley, upon his return, drove his truck across the yard of the Cherry Hill Road residence and up to the house, police added.

“He banged on windows of the home and demanded money from the woman inside, while threatening to kill the man. When Culley went to the rear of the home, the man (who had been) inside went outside and confronted him. Culley again reportedly threatened to kill him, before charging the man and knocking him to the ground. While being assaulted by Culley, who was on top of him, the man allegedly pulled out a knife and stabbed Culley,” an MSP spokesman outlined.

During a court-approved pat-down search of the man who allegedly stabbed Culley to death, MSP investigators found a “large folding knife” in the suspect’s pocket and confiscated it, police said. Technicians with MSP’s Crime Scene Unit transported that knife and other evidence to the agency’s Forensic Sciences Division laboratory, after processing the scene, police added.

MSP investigators obtained “multiple search warrants for the scene,” including one that allowed them to check Culley’s vehicle.

Cecil County State’s Attorney James Dellmyer also responded to the scene late Tuesday night, after receiving notification of the fatal stabbing, and he was briefed by MSP investigators, police reported.

“State’s Attorney Dellmyer determined (that) the investigation will be presented to the members of a Cecil County Grand Jury, who will decide if criminal charges will be filed,” the MSP spokesman said.


This surveillance photo shows a suspect brandishing a handgun while robbing the Rock Springs Store & Deli near Rising Sun at about 6 p.m. on Tuesday. He and his accomplice, also a man, remained on the loose Thursday.