Photo of my father (John D. Willard V) and his sister (right edge of photo) fishing at Willard and Sons’ Boatyard on Mill Creek in Annapolis Maryland.
“Emily, in those days the creek was full if life and Jody and I spent lots of time fishing and crabbing. We even caught eels and Dad would skin them and Nona would make eel cakes.” – Auntie A
My grandfather, great-grandfather and great-grandmother (Nona) all lived in the family house at the Boatyard. My dad and aunt would come spend the summer with them.
*Personal Note: Why is having a home and a community rich with family history so important to me? Why do I feel so connected to a place, a piece of land, even though I was rather young when we lost the Boatyard, and all of the magic seems to have faded? For many reasons, but here is one:
Honesty and integrity – as cliche as it sounds – are important parts of our family. I hold on to these as guides in my life, and am often reminded of the people my grandfather and great-grandfather were even long after their death. On many occasions, when people find out my last name, they have worked with either my father, grandfather or great-grandfather in some capacity and know them as good people. I am constantly learning the ways my family has positively impacted the community – and feel more connected to them and as part of a team doing good – and that I am carrying on a legacy.
Just the other day, after giving a talk to the local Rotary Club of Annapolis about a prestigious fellowship for which I was selected, an older gentleman approached me to congratulate me. He shared that his first job at the age of 16 was working at Willard and Sons’ Boatyard in the late 1950s (before my father was even born). He said that he was proud of me, and so happy to see that I am doing well, and doing good, important work. It was as if my grandfather and great-grandfather were speaking from the grave, saying that they were proud of me, too. It is clear to me that they must have created a community in which this man was a part of – a community of caring and support, and now this man was giving it back, continuing the relationship and the community, 60 years later.
Looking back at family history, one can see that entire lives are left to simply be a name on a piece of paper, in a long list of others, with a date of birth, marriage, and death. However, it is in each other, that we continue to live.