Valor Awards shine a light on our local heroes

There has been a lot of talk lately about award presentations and the esteemed “red carpet.”

And while that has made for great theater in Hollywood and other locations, this community held perhaps its best awards event of the year last week — the 11th Annual Joshua M. Freeman Valor Awards, presented by the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce.

For those unaware, each year local law enforcement, fire departments and emergency medical response members are recognized for their efforts in front of their peers, supervisors and general public. Each department has one individual nominated by his or her supervisor, and each winner of a Valor Award has a moment in the sun to be honored.

In short, this is a spectacular event on many levels.

For starters, even though these individuals often toil in anonymity throughout the course of the year, and do so willingly, it is nice to see them recognized for all they do to keep us safe. It is also a great way to shine the light on all our local responders, and to remind people in the public that, though our community seems safe and quiet, there are life-threatening situations that occur, and our protectors and responders jump into the midst of that danger to protect the rest of us.

It is also good for the departments themselves, not just in terms of getting good PR for the work they do, but because it also lets the public see behind the curtain, so to speak. For our volunteer fire departments, that can potentially be a boon to fundraising efforts.

This year’s Valor Awards were filled with tales of heroism and competence, selflesness and honor — just like every year before this. It is a reminder to all that we are surrounded by day-to-day heroes who run into circumstances the rest of us would be running away from, and they do it without a second thought.

We are fortunate to have these brave people protecting us.

The safety of home is not always all that safe

Date Published: 
February 27, 2015

There aren’t many things that genuinely frighten me.

Having come to terms with my inevitable mortality many years ago, I’m not one to sit and worry about my impending death late at night. It’s a good quality to have in that I’m more easily able to enjoy the things happening around my life at any given time, but it’s a resounding negative in that my diet and general concerns for my health don’t always take the priority they probably should.

Regardless, the things that terrify me to my core can really be counted on one hand: mice, Susan Lyons on the wrong day, missing deadline, a guy named Mini hitting a ridiculous gutshot straight on the river and something happening to my family.

That’s about it.

Now, the one concerning the welfare of my family can take on many faces. I worry about the fact that many of my family members live far away enough that I couldn’t get to them at a moment’s notice if something happened. That comes in pretty handy when it comes to unexpected visits from family members while I’m watching the Food Network in my undies, but it makes me feel very helpless when bad things are happening to them, or near them.

Of a more pressing concern, particularly since the birth of my super-wonderful-fantabulous daughter, Riley, 3-and-a-half months ago, is here at home — supposedly the place where one should feel the most safe and secure. But we all know the statement that most accidents take place at home and, indeed, I have had my share, ranging from breaking my foot two years ago because I couldn’t safely navigate the walk from my bed to the bathroom, to doing a complete face-plant walking out to my car one icy morning last week. On the bright side, the hot coffee that spilled out of my cup and on to my neck felt quite comforting before that searing pain began to...

But I digress.

My original point was that the mention of “home” is supposed to bring with it feelings of warmth and security, accidents notwithstanding. That is one of the reasons I feel a shudder rush through my body every time I open an email from one of our law enforcement agencies with the term “home invasion” in the headline.

Really, are there many more frightening thoughts than the image of a stranger bursting into the sanctity of your home? I’ve never seen one of these press releases continue to report that the invaders were the Swedish women’s beach volleyball team looking to take an overweight bald guy as their pet. No, it’s always somebody stealing property, causing bodily harm to the inhabitants or worse.

And that’s terrifying to me.

Of course, some of these home invasions go on to very different directions than the norm. There was one in Connecticut this past Monday, for example, that particularly grabbed my attention.

According to a story, Mathew Yussman came home from work on Monday, expecting to see his mother, who was inside the house. Instead, two masked men forced their way into Yussman’s home as he opened the door, tied him and his mother up, and then strapped explosives to them, according to the police report.

Their instructions to Yussman? Go to the bank where he worked as chief financial officer, clean out the vault and return home with the cash.

Yussman reportedly called another bank executive he knew on the drive to the bank, who in turn called 911, according to a story in The Bristol Press. Police then evacuated the bank, locked down schools in two towns and shut down a main highway, before ultimately having a bomb squad remove the device from Yussman as he sat in the car.

The device was found to be not dangerous, and Yussman told police that his mother was still tied up at the house. When police responded to the home, she reportedly walked out of the house, telling police that she had freed herself after the suspects fled.

This is frightening on any number of levels, for sure. And, yes, some of these details make me wonder how legitimate this story is, i.e. the mother freeing herself, the bad guys leaving before any money came back, nobody going with Yussman to the bank so he wouldn’t alert anyone, etc.

However, if we take the story at face value, it’s certain to leave an impression. We live in a society that all-too-often leaves the “human” out of “humanity.” When some people see others as prey or personal ATMs, it is much more than a crime against the law, it is an affront to the basic tenets that allow us to feel human — to feel secure.

And that is indeed frightening.

Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor — February 27, 2015

Reader: Let’s get behind Relay for Life


Many changes take place in our daily life — however, one constant is that many people are battling cancer and many others are supporting their loved ones each and every day. These realities make dollars donated and hours volunteered to the American Cancer Society Relay for Life of East Sussex/Coastal Delaware so important.

Local volunteers are a huge part of the nationwide effort to save lives and create a world with less cancer and more birthdays.

Plans are currently under way for the American Cancer Society Relay for Life of East Sussex/Coastal Delaware, set for Friday, May 15, at Beacon Middle School in Lewes.

Money raised at Relay for Life helps the mission of the American Cancer Society to help people stay well and get well, find cures and fight back against cancer. Relay for Life also makes it possible for the American Cancer Society to provide helpful information on cancer, treatments, support services and more 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at 1-800-227-2345 and

Now is the time for individuals, families, groups, churches and businesses to help finish the fight against cancer through Relay for Life. Celebrate survivors. Remember loved ones no longer here. Fight back against this disease. Form a team and volunteer for the American Cancer Society Relay for Life of East Sussex/Coastal Delaware today. Call 1-800-227-2345 or visit for more information about local opportunities.

Brian Baull, Publicity Chairman
American Cancer Society Relay for Life of East Sussex/Coastal Delaware

Road construction will be over soon enough


After reading the article about “Business owners voicing frustration with project,” I had to wonder where these business owners have been for the past year. Although I am not a business owner, nor have I attended any of the Construction Advisory Group meetings, as a resident of Ocean View, I knew that Route 26 was going to be closed in two locations for several months, long before it happened.

I think all agencies involved have done an outstanding job of communicating with the public and business owners, about what to expect with this project and when. Knowing well in advance of the planned closing of Route 26 during the off-peak time of January through March, should have allowed business owners to plan accordingly.

This is the middle of winter at a beach resort town, so most of the traffic on Route 26 is local residents, with only Presidents weekend possibly seeing an influx of out-of-town traffic.

The locals know how to get to the business they need to, and I wonder how much activity the art gallery has had in past years during January, February and March? Even the restaurant business this time of year slows down. Knowing what was happening this year, they should have planned to be closed for a period of time or have reduced their hours in order to reduce expenses.

We are halfway through this closure, and we should be thanking all who are involved in this project that it is going well and on schedule, and that Route 26 will be open to through traffic in time for spring visitors.

Frank Mack
Ocean View

Middendorf, family celebrate 90 years


“Wow! It’s finally here!”

Marian Middendorf turns 90 years old on Feb. 8. Born Feb. 8, 1925, she is the mother of 12 children, and that’s not all! Besides raising her large family, she also has 18 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. Being married to Bill Middendorf for 68 wonderful years is only one of many accomplishments.

Let me give you several examples: First, she saw each of her children through the school years and graduated college. She raised her family in Washington, D.C., and moved to Bethany Beach when her husband retired in 1987. You’d think she would have never wanted to retire but instead, it was like getting a “second wind”; she really “kicked into gear.”

She became very active in St. Ann’s Catholic Church, by washing altar linens for the priests. She was involved in baking delicious pies for the annual bazaar. When anyone needed a ride to an appointment — a doctor’s visit or such — she would drive.

You know something — only up to a couple of years ago, she attended daily Mass as a Eucharistic minister, and after mass she provided milk for the coffee gatherings, which followed immediately after.

Her volunteer activities were not limited to church only. For years she worked in the sorting department at ACTS, the thrift store, delivered Meals on Wheels and mentored at the elementary school in Frankford. Finally, after three years of being caregiver for her husband, Bill Middendorf, the women in her family put it bluntly to her by telling her, “Now, you must retire.” So, she was given a gold watch and a tiara at a party given in her honor.

Two things I’d like to mention: first, at 45, while raising her unusually large family, she enrolled in and went to “flight school”; secondly, when she was only 86, she took a ride in a hot air balloon with her daughters who lived in Albuquerque, N.M.

Michael Middendorf
Ocean View

Reader voices her opinion on aquaculture


If you live in Delaware, vacation in Delaware, or use the Delaware Inland Bays, please read!

As many of you know, the State of Delaware and DNREC have been trying to establish commercial oyster and clam aquaculture on the inland bays.

Many of you probably think this is a great thing. You have been sold on how this will improve the water quality and help the environment. You’ve seen the picture shared around the internet of the dirty water in a fish tank with oysters, and three hours later it is clear. You’ve heard that a few waterfront property owners don’t want it because it is a NIMBY and will spoil their views, but that is their problem because this is going to help the environment and benefit everyone.

I am one of those property owners, and I urge you to look into this a little bit deeper to understand what this is really about. This is not about beneficial oyster reefs cleaning up the inland bays; this is about industrial farming on our public waterways that will harm our area far more than the small economic benefit of the few jobs and business that may be created by aquaculture.

There are watermen communities like Lewes and Chincoteague, and there are resort communities like Ocean City, Bethany, Fenwick and Rehoboth. The inland bays are surrounded by resort communities. People come here to vacation. People move here because they want to be here, not normally because they are following a job. People save up their whole lives to buy a retirement home here and enjoy the rest of their days.

Why do they come? The beaches and bays of this area are beautiful. The inland bays are great places to kayak, windsurf, waterski, fish, crab, clam and boat, or just to enjoy the natural beauty of the water. The recreational opportunities and aesthetic natural beauty of our bays and beaches are the underpinnings of the local tourism industry and real estate boom.

These two “industries” are responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars being pumped into Sussex County in tourism revenue and construction. Beach Cove, where I live, is conservatively surrounded by well over $100 million in private residences that people built and bought to be able to view and use Beach Cove. I already know of at least one home sale that has fallen through over these proposed farms.

I know many of my friends own or work at businesses that rely on tourism: restaurants, shops, short-term lodging, charters and recreation. Still more work in real estate and construction. Whether you make a living hammering nails or you make a living writing mortgages or doing real estate closings, you know where your bread is buttered. Despite us locals occasionally griping about the tourist hordes who descend upon our area, most of us rely directly or indirectly on them for a living.

We need to be careful we don’t screw up the reason why we are here. Some would argue that raising oysters serves just that purpose. We’ll clean up the water and things will be so much better. But commercial aquaculture is a jobs program. They don’t want to put these farms in the back bays where the water doesn’t get flushed much by the tides and where the nutrient buildup really is. They want to put most of these sites right along Coastal Highway where people live and play.

Why there? Because you can’t sell shellfish for human consumption that are harvested from the “red zones.” The waters especially in Indian River that are along Coastal Highway are the cleanest in the bay. There is no ongoing construction runoff. There are no farms. Our cove borders a state park and a nature preserve to the south and uninhabited marshes to the north, and they have allocated a large percentage of plots (27 acres) to be right in our cove.

In my opinion, commercial aquaculture really isn’t appropriate anywhere in the inland bays. They are too small, and they are used for recreation. I’d love to see and would absolutely support establishing oyster reefs throughout the bay, not with an eye on commercial harvest but with the real purpose of helping water filtration where it is needed most.

An oyster reef doesn’t have to take up acres, and sits underwater and doesn’t interfere with most existing uses. An oyster farm has most of its equipment at or just below the surface in baskets. It is not an unobtrusive use! They have to be tended regularly to prevent the buildup of growth on their shells. This may involve power-washing or tumbling the oysters weekly. It is noisy and smelly.

You can’t waterski over an oyster farm, and God help you if you fall off a windsurfer onto an oyster cage just below the surface. If oyster farms belong anywhere, it is away from waterfront communities and recreational areas.

Beach Cove is used extensively for recreation. It is loaded with crabs and clams. It is a bait nursery. It is very shallow on the north side, but the south end gets around 6 feet deep at high tide and is a favorite waterski spot for residents and visitors alike. I personally windsurf there year-round, and many people come back there to ski because it is calmer than the larger bay. My wife and I used to waterski here as teenagers, long before we ever owned a home along the cove.

Kayakers and paddle-boarders come back into the cove to paddle up into the streams going back to Fresh Pond State Park and James Farm Nature Preserve. It is a beautiful area. The 27 acres designated for oyster farming effectively take up almost all the navigable water in our cove. There will be no more waterskiing, windsurfing or kayaking in those areas, and the natural beauty will be blighted by acres of floating cages with white PVC pilings and float tubes. This is public-access water that will be leased to private individuals.

Please don’t be tricked into supporting this because you think this is really good for the bays. There are other ways, better ways, to introduce oysters in the inland bays that will truly help the environment without turning our public recreational waters into farms for private use.

Educate yourself on this issue if you think you know a little about it. If you have ties to the CIB, get them to publicly ask for these sites to be moved. Bring it up with Sen. Hocker and Rep. Gray and any of our other local politicians. Feel free to share this letter, especially with anyone who posts that fish tank photo and talks about how great this will be. Thank you!

Sandy Smyth
Ocean View