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Spring/Summer 2017

Middletown Life



Stefanie Roselle of Social Butterfly - Page 44

Inside • Keeping history alive in Odessa • The show goes on at Middletown High School • Jerry ‘Crabmeat’ Thompson’s world of music

Complimentary Copy | Spring/Summer 2017 | Middletown Life


Spring/Summer 2017

Middletown Life Table of Contents 10

Baking up a business


The fine art of putting on a show


History’s stewards


Q & A with Stefanie Roselle, CEO of Social Butterfly


Middletown’s modern-day troubadour


Middletown Family YMCA


The working photographer


Middletown Life Photo Essay


The brothers of Middletown



10 Cover design by Tricia Hoadley Cover photograph by Jie Deng


Middletown Life | Spring/Summer 2017 |

The promise of the future Letter from the Editor:

88 32

As this spring 2017 issue of Middletown Life arrives in homes, many local residents will be following news about Chris Godwin very closely. Godwin, a record-breaking football player for Middletown High School who became a standout wide receiver at Penn State, is now on the cusp of a professional football career. He is expected to be taken early in the 2017 NFL Draft, which takes place in Philadelphia in late April. Godwin’s future is very bright, indeed, and he exemplifies how people in the growing Middletown area are accomplishing extraordinary things. Along the way to an NFL career, Godwin developed a special friendship with eight-year-old Hayden Schlenner, a third-grader at Old State Elementary School, and we explore how Godwin impacted his friend’s life. In this issue, we shine a spotlight on a number of different people who have made a difference in the world around them. There’s Jerry “Crabmeat” Thompson, Middletown’s modern-day troubadour. And then there’s Tammy and Amanda Nichols, the mother-daughter duo behind two Middletown bakeries. On the cover of this issue is Stefanie Roselle, a former Philadelphia Eagles cheerleader who is now the CEO of Social Butterfly, a Middletown-based company that creates and maintains an online social presence for more than 40 clients statewide. We talk to the director of Middletown High School’s theater program and the photo essay captures the moments before the students took the stage in the school’s latest production, “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” We also profile Joshua Meier, a recipient of the 2016 Individual Artist Fellowship in Photography from the Delaware Division of the Arts, who recently had an exhibition featured in that organization’s Mezzanine Gallery titled “[Un]Ravel.” Meier is also the head of photography at St. Andrew’s School. We also look at how the Middletown Family YMCA is filling a need in the community—a fitness facility for children, adults, and seniors. We hope you enjoy the stories in this issue of Middletown Life and, as always, we welcome your comments and suggestions for future stories. We’re already looking forward to starting work on our fall issue of Middletown Life, when we will bring you a new collection of stories. Sincerely, Randy Lieberman, Publisher, 610-869-5553, ext. 19 Steve Hoffman, Editor, 610-869-5553, ext. 13 | Spring/Summer 2017 | Middletown Life


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—————|Middletown Business|—————

Baking up a business 10

Middletown Life | Spring/Summer 2017 |

Tammy and Amanda Nichols are the mother-daughter duo behind two Middletown bakeries By Pam George Staff Writer


hen Wendy Godfrey of Middletown needs a cake, she heads to Half Baked Patisserie on Main Street – especially if it’s her own. On the afternoon of her big day, she watched as owner Tammy Nichols and baker Brittany Snyder made a fondant “Happy Birthday, Wendy” banner for a sheet cake festooned with flowers. “I’ve been coming here since the day it opened,” Godfrey said. “I come for every birthday and holiday.” And sometimes she visits, well, just because. The array of up to 18 flavors of cupcakes, brownies and macaroons is too tempting to resist. Tammy and her business partner, her daughter Amanda, have looked at Middletown from both sides Continued on page 12 | Spring/Summer 2017 | Middletown Life


Half Baked Continued from Page 11

now. In 2013, they opened Half Baked Patisserie on Main Street in downtown Middletown. In November 2016, they opened Half Baked Café in the Town of Whitehall, a master-planned community near St. Georges High School. Downtown, Half Baked is part of the revitalization. In the suburbs, it is an innovator. The downtown Middletown business was meant to be, Tammy said. As a child, Amanda was continually in the kitchen. “Baking came very naturally to her,” Tammy recalled. Amanda studied the culinary arts at Middletown High School and at the Art Institute of Atlanta. Whenever she came home, the women treated themselves to lunch at E.’s on Main Street. “We would sit in the corner by the window and talk about where she might want to open up a bakery,” Tammy said. They agreed that a location just like E.’s would be ideal. One day in May 2012, Tammy popped into E.’s to get


Middletown Life | Spring/Summer 2017 |

some soup and saw a notice on the window that the shop was closing in June. Amanda was graduating from college that same month and moving back to Delaware. “I saw it as a blessing,� said Tammy, who was going through a divorce. “It was given to us as a fresh start.� She called Amanda with the news. Amanda, who was pregnant at the time, was initially reluctant. “This is God above, handing this to us,� Tammy told her. “This is where you sat and said you wanted to open a bakery.� Tammy got down to work. She called friends and family for help. She scrimped and scraped to raise the necessary funds. She found old

Amanda Nichols received a degree in Culinary/pastry Arts from the Art Institute in Atlanta, Ga.

Continued on page 14

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Half Baked Continued from Page 13

jewelry store cases in which she could display the baked goods. In Atlanta, Amanda began saving money from the part-time jobs she held in college. She developed her recipes and kept them in a notebook. “My entire business is in that notebook,” said Amanda, who panicked on the occasion that she misplaced it. The shop, which opened in March 2013, is a family affair in several respects. Tammy’s other daughter, 13-year-old Jailyn, helps out; and Amanda’s daughter, E’Veah, who will be 5 in August, is often in the store. The group effort is needed, considering that Amanda also has a full-time job at Cantwell’s Tavern in Odessa, where she is the executive chef. Depending on the catering and wedding cake orders, she comes in to Half Baked from about 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., before her shift at Cantwell’s. If needed, she is back at 8 p.m. It’s not unusual for Continued on page 16


Middletown Life | Spring/Summer 2017 |

The shop is a family affair. | Spring/Summer 2017 | Middletown Life


Half Baked Continued from Page 14

her to still be there at 2 a.m. As a business, the bakery has sold goods to Cantwell’s, which caters events at the Historic Houses of Odessa. The shop also has a baker, who is on site six days a week, and a cake decorator. Finding a skilled decorator can be challenging. “We always want to hire the best of the best,” Tammy said. That is particularly key given that last year, Half Baked did cakes for more than 100 weddings in nine months. “I want to grow that side of the business,” she said. Jennifer Cabell Kostik, who ordered a threetiered cake with a red velvet top layer for her wedding in October 2015, got to know Half Baked through its cupcakes, arguably the bakery’s most popular item. “The cupcakes are delicious,” she said. On a recent afternoon, cupcake flavors in the downtown location included German chocolate, Continued on page 18

Half Baked offers a continually-changing display of cookies, cupcakes, cakes, and of course, brownies.


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Middletown Life | Spring/Summer 2017 | | Spring/Summer 2017 | Middletown Life


Half Baked Continued from Page 16

red velvet – decorated with tiny red hearts – carrot cake, the popular chocolate-salted caramel and wedding cupcakes, whose icing was studded with pearl-like beads. Vegan and gluten-free cupcakes are also available. There are even “pupcakes” for pooches. “People want something that they can’t just find anywhere,” Tammy said. “Our cupcakes are hands-down the best in the state. It’s not just frosting and cake. When Amanda develops a recipe, she develops a complete flavor profile. If we have a Payday cupcake, when you bite into that cupcake, it’s got to be the perfect balance of peanuts, caramel, frosting and cake. Not all of them have the same amount of frosting. Most of them are filled.” She typically has up to nine cupcake flavors at the café, which has indoor and outdoor seating. It’s the first retailer in the Town of Whitehall. “The one and only,” Tammy said. “It was an opportunity for us to reach this side of town. The communities on this side don’t have a café for sandwiches, beverages or a hot cup of coffee, except for in the 896 area. They don’t come into the downtown area.” Half Baked is admittedly getting in during the early stages. “There is no question that it is a bit of chicken-and-the-egg when it comes to retail and restaurants,” said Chris Grundner, chief operating officer of the Wilmington-based Welfare Foundation, which owns the 2,000-acre property on which the Town of Whitehall sits. “Residents will be attracted to live close by businesses, but those same businesses might struggle to survive before enough residents are in place to support them. We’re committed to working both residential and retail tracks simultaneously.” Tammy will add more items as the traffic increases. She and Amanda have considered bringing their baked goods to farmers’ markets, but for now, they’re concentrating on making the Whitehall location as successful as the downtown site. They’re on a mission to make Middletown just a little bit sweeter. To contact Staff Writer Pam George, email 18

Middletown Life | Spring/Summer 2017 |

The Half Baked Patisserie decorates cakes for every occasion.

The Half Baked Cafe is open Thursdays through Saturdays. | Spring/Summer 2017 | Middletown Life


——————|Middletown Arts|——————

The fine art of putting on a show

At Middletown High School, getting on stage teaches valuable life lessons 20

Middletown Life | Spring/Summer 2017 |

By John Chambless Staff Writer


n the auditorium of Middletown High School last month, the buzz of a dozen conversations, the drone of an orchestra tuning up, the shouted directions on stage, the bubble of laughter and the zing of energy was familiar to anyone who has ever been part of putting on a show. The first full dress rehearsal for “Thoroughly Modern Millie” at the school was typical of theater being made anywhere – semi-organized chaos, with dozens of people on stage and behind the scenes pulling together toward the moment when the lights come up and the audience sees the result of months of hard work. Sitting in the empty auditorium before rehearsal started, Michael Husni was showing the relaxed confidence of a man who has been on stage many times, and has gotten through just about any crisis a teen actor has brought to him. And he was still smiling. Husni grew up in Middletown and remembers his middle-school stage debut in a scene from “Romeo & Juliet.” “I was an awkward seventh grader, playing Romeo,” he said, smiling. “I’ve never had a fear of being on stage. That’s why my parents pushed me towards it. I was the kid that would be out in the middle of the dance floor at weddings. I don’t even know if it’s confidence – I think I just don’t care what people think,” he added, laughing. On the stage as a freshman at Middletown High School, Husni showed the same kind of confidence, appearing in classic shows such as “Mame,” “Guys & Dolls,” “West Side Story” and “The Music Man.” “Voni Perrine, who is the assistant principal here now, was the musical director back then,” Husni said. “Amanda Chas and I are both Middletown graduates of varying years. Voni was very happy to see that we could take over the program.” Continued on page 22

All Photos unless otherwise noted by John Chambless

Left: Michael Husni attended Middletown High School and is now helping stage several theater productions each year. Opposite page: Musicians practice in the pit as rehearsal begins. | Spring/Summer 2017 | Middletown Life


Theater Continued from Page 21

Husni went to the University of Delaware, where he took part in student theater productions in the Harrington Theatre Arts Company and the E-52 group, double majoring in Spanish education, and English with a concentration in drama. After attending Queen Mary University of London for his master’s degree, he returned to this area and was hired at the high school. “I was very happy to come back and be a part of my community again,” he said, “especially because I knew this stage so well.” The season is a busy one, with a mainstage play in the fall, a touring puppet production in the winter, a big musical in the spring, and then a spring season for the puppet theater. “I’ve always been fascinated with the work of Jim Henson,” Husni said, “He’s the guy everybody goes to for puppetry, but when I was in London, I saw a bunch of productions and I was fascinated with the way that inanimate objects can become anything. Even as a kid, I was always doing plays with my stuffed animals.” Eight years ago, Husni started a class at Middletown that has students construct their own puppets, develop skills with them and then write and perform a show at local elementary schools and daycare centers in the winter months. The theme recently has been anti-bullying. “We’ll do up to six or eight shows in one day,” Husni said. The students not only learn how

Photo by Jie Deng

Continued on page 24

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Theater Continued from Page 22

to build durable, expressive puppets, but standing on stage with them – where the puppeteers can clearly be seen – is a tremendous confidence boost for teens. “Often, when a student gets behind a puppet, that’s when they begin to feel really comfortable being in front of 200 kids. I tell them, ‘As long as you make the puppet interesting, and you put all your energy into the puppet, the audience isn’t even going to look at you.’” Husni said. The school offers a rich variety of ways for students to create, both on stage and behind the scenes. There are two levels of stagecraft classes, in which students learn how to build sets that are both visually appealing and sturdy. There’s a musical theater class offered in the fall, and those students take part in the spring musicals. And there are three or four levels of acting classes, depending on demand, that take students from the introductory level to advanced scene work and public performances. For “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” a classic musical set in the 1920s, “There are about 100 students involved, between actors and stage crew,” Husni said. The school has a policy of involving every student who Call for 2017 Brochure!

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comes to auditions, either in speaking roles, chorus positions or behind the scenes. “As long as you audition, we will find a spot for you,” Husni said. Continued on page 26 | Spring/Summer 2017 | Middletown Life


Theater Continued from Page 24

that can’t be found in the school’s extensive colThe auditorium is a manageable size – just lection of costumes or whipped up by a parent over 700 seats – and the audience is made up of at home. “We have some parent volunteers who more than just parents of the students on stage, are fiends when it comes to sewing,” Husni said, Husni said. “We pride ourselves on the fact that smiling. the community starts buzzing about the quality When a student comes to a theater class or of our productions. We’ve had audience memauditions, Husni said, “the first thing they get is bers whose students were part of Middletown Photo by Jie Deng a sense of family. They know that we are all part High School theater way back when, and now of the work. Even though they might be terrified, they come back and want to see the shows. People know that Middletown has been putting on really by the time they’re done, they’re confident in their abiligood productions for a long time. I think we’re at 26 or 27 ties. What a lot of kids get out of it is having that sense of dedication, that idea of working towards a goal. When the productions that we’ve put on. That’s just the musicals.” While Middletown is a strong school for football, Husni students get to play characters and build these sets, somesaid, they are also know for a rich and varied arts program. times they build something that, in the long run, becomes “The school district sees the value in it,” he said. “They bigger than what they had perceived themselves as being. want to find more reasons for students to stay in our district. They learn to trust each other.” Up on stage, Ariana Gaston was keeping things running We support the arts.” Operating a program at this level isn’t cheap, Husni said. smoothly behind the scenes. “I’ve always loved art, but Putting on a show like “Thoroughly Modern Millie” costs I wasn’t able to take art classes in middle school or high about $10,000, which includes performance rights, paying school. My pathway was environmental science, so I wasn’t Continued on page 28 staff members, and possibly buying props and costumes


Middletown Life | Spring/Summer 2017 | | Spring/Summer 2017 | Middletown Life


Theater Continued from Page 26

able to do both,” she said. Invited by friends to come and help paint some sets when she was a freshman, Gaston is now “an eight-show senior,” meaning she has been part of every show. “It’s been a crazy ride,” she said, smiling. “From learning from the seniors before me, to adapting to situations backstage, like pants ripping, or pearls spilling over the stage. I feel like I’ve had a potential for leadership, so being involved in stage crew, and the directors giving me the opportunity to rise up and be a leader, has helped me achieve that. Sometimes, having those inspirational people in your life can really bring you out of your shell and give you an opportunity to stand up and be a leader.” For junior Kinme Reeves, who had a major role in “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” theater captured his heart in sixth grade in a school production of “Snake in the Grass.” “I’ve been in all three shows here,” he said. “This is one of my biggest roles that I wanted to land. I want to do theater in college, but maybe not as a profession. I just love the music and dances in this show. This is what drew me to Middletown. I came here to see ‘Guys and Dolls’ and ‘State Fair’ when I was younger, and I was like, ‘Wow.’” Continued on page 30


Middletown Life | Spring/Summer 2017 |

Husni helps adjust the set before a dress rehearsal.

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Theater Continued from Page 28

In a room down the hall from the auditorium, junior Hannah Munzert was being fitted for her 1920s wig. She was cast as Millie in the show, and beamed at the prospect of being the main character. “My family is really big into theater, and my mom and I have always sung this show. It’s always been one of my favorites,” she said. “I do chorus and I was just in All-State Chorus. I’ve been doing theater since I was 4.” Munzert said that theater “helps with self-confidence. I think it’s really important for people my age to have this outlet. I’m really blessed that I get to be a part of it.” In college, “I want to continue doing arts and music, and for the rest of my life,” she said, crediting her directors “for inspiring me and everyone else in the cast with their enthusiasm. Their enthusiasm is what draws people in and makes them want to be a part of something special.” Back on the stage, with the show not yet started and a possible ending time of around midnight, Husni was up on a hydraulic lift, trying to steady a piece of scenery that was suspended on wires. The Art Deco-style piece added a lot to


Middletown Life | Spring/Summer 2017 |

the scenic design, but it was swaying and needed to be stabilized so it didn’t become a distraction to the audience. No fan of heights, Husni was high in the light rigging anyway, doing his best. A student walked out and asked, “Mr. Husni, how do you want my hair?’” Glancing down while he kept working on the set piece, Husni gave the young man a few pointers. That kind of multi-tasking is what makes theater happen. Having guided so many students through the long hours of preparation for performing, Husni said, “By closing night, for those kids who are seniors, it’s the same feeling that we get at graduation when teachers watch those kids walk across the stage. That’s a proud moment for us, because there are some kids who have journeyed so far. They start out having no clue, but they have developed into leaders who are going to go off into the real world. Whether they pursue the arts or not, they will make really big contributions. They will do something really incredible for the world.” To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email

—————|Middletown History|—————

History’s stewards

When you own Colonial buildings, home repair is a Herculean task

All photos courtesy unless otherwise noted

The Collins-Sharp House after its renovation, with views of its previous appearance above. 32

Middletown Life | Spring/Summer 2017 |

The Historic Odessa Bank as it appears today (above) and before its renovation (right).

By Pam George Staff Writer


n a quiet morning in Historic Odessa, the lawn between the Wilson-Warner House and the Corbit-Sharp House, both built in the late 18th century, looked like a set ready for actors in tri-corner hats and breeches. A rumble of a classic rock, wafting from an open window in the Wilson-Warner House, broke the spell. A peek into the kitchen revealed a kitchen floor covered with a blue tarp. In a second-floor room, pieces of plaster surrounded a paint bucket, and bricks were exposed below a window. It was the end of February, and the Historic Odessa Foundation was using the downtime to repair the Georgian-style house for the spring season. Plaster repair, fresh coats of paint and electrical upgrades are business as usual for the Historic Odessa Foundation, which, since 2005, has owned and operated the Historic Houses of Odessa, a collection of 18th- and early 19th-century buildings near the Appoquinimink Creek. But the work is never easy. “One of the challenges of maintaining historic structures is to ensure that the period of significance of the structure is established, known and adhered to,” said Timothy Slavin, director of Delaware’s Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs. Continued on page 34 | Spring/Summer 2017 | Middletown Life


History’s stewards Continued from Page 33

“The Historic Odessa Foundation has painstakingly researched these issues and applied methods and techniques that adhere to national standards for historic preservation.” Credit H. Rodney Sharp, the original philanthropist behind the Historic Houses of Odessa, for blazing the path. “He did such an extraordinary job when he restored the buildings that it’s the only reason we don’t have more problems,” said Debbie Buckson, executive director of the Historic Odessa Foundation. Sharp was fascinated by the once-bustling port town, which was originally named Cantwell’s Bridge for the toll bridge across the Appoquinimink Creek. In 1938, he purchased the circa-1774 Corbit House. He then moved the circa-1700 Collins-Sharp House to Odessa. In 1958, he donated the Corbit-Sharp House to Winterthur Museum & Gardens, which owns and operates a 175-room mansion filled with American decorative arts near Greenville. (Sharp was related to Henry Francis du Pont, the museum’s founder.) Sharp gave the Collins-Sharp House to Winterthur in 1968, the year he died, and his family donated The Brick Hotel — which opened in 1823 as Cantwell’s Bridge Hotel —to the museum. Winterthur received the Wilson-Warner House in 1969 from the David Wilson Mansion, Inc. In 2003, facing budget issues, Winterthur shuttered the satellite site. After


Middletown Life | Spring/Summer 2017 |

A window in the Wilson-Warner House.

two years, the property went to the Historic Odessa Foundation. Today, there are six major structures, including the former First National Bank of Odessa, built in 1855, which was acquired in 2000. It is now the visitors’ center and a banquet space. The bank isn’t the only example of a thoughtful reuse. During Winterthur’s tenure, the Brick Hotel held the Sewell C. Biggs Collection of Art. Since 2012, it’s been the home of Cantwell’s Tavern, a restaurant. The tavern recently received the first new roof since H. Rodney Sharp topped the buildings with cement tiles designed to last at least 80 years. The roof now sports real cedar shingles. The roof replacement on the other buildings will follow this summer. Replacing the cement tile was on the repair list in 2005. But back then, there were more pressing issues for Buckson and Jennifer Cabell, the only two employees. Certainly, Buckson was the right person to

The Wilson-Warner House as it appears today, and before its renovation (inset).

Continued on page 36 | Spring/Summer 2017 | Middletown Life


History’s stewards Continued from Page 35

prioritize the work. She was the curator of education at Historic Houses of Odessa from 1981 to 1999, and for eight years, she lived in the Collins-Sharp House. “We looked at the properties with a critical eye,” said Buckson, who hired a historic preservationist to do an assessment. “There had been deferred maintenance issues that Winterthur was struggling to address. They didn’t intentionally allow things to go. It’s just that the funding was extremely difficult to get.” While ramping up programming and enlisting volunteer guides, she wrote grants for the repairs, which were “enormous,” she said. “We were behind the eight ball.” Foundations were concerned that the new organization had no track record. The determined Buckson raised $500,000 in the first few years. The list was subject to change. In 2005, the Brick Hotel’s heating and ventilation unit failed. The building’s antiquated halon fire-extinguishing system needed removal, which required expertise. Continued on page 38


Middletown Life | Spring/Summer 2017 |

The master bedroom of the Corbit-Sharp House, with its verdigris paint. Extensive analysis was performed to determine the correct color for the paint. | Spring/Summer 2017 | Middletown Life


History’s stewards Continued from Page 36

One day, Buckson flipped a switch in the Corbit-Sharp House, and the room remained dark. The electrician told her, “You’ve got a real problem.” The electrical system was the same one that Sharp had installed. Similarly, The Pump House was in the same condition as it was in Sharp’s day. HVAC improvements opened a Pandora’s Box of asbestos issues. Even newer systems had problems. The Corbit-Sharp’s over-engineered system created excess humidity. The historic houses hold valuable artifacts, including furniture made by John Janvier Sr., textiles, glassware, china and artwork. They require stable conditions. Paint and wallpaper were peeling. Buckson checked items off the list.

Photos by Pam George

Debbie Buckson shows wiring and pipes that were recently upgraded.

Continued on page 40







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Middletown Life | Spring/Summer 2017 | | Spring/Summer 2017 | Middletown Life


History’s stewards Continued from Page 38

All six of the major buildings now have HVAC systems in prime working order. Many windows have film that protects artifacts from sunlight. Workers tackled plumbing and wiring issues. The most recent work in the Wilson-Warner House includes wiring and plaster repair. As with any home, the structures require regular painting. The foundation hired experts to analyze the exterior and interior walls and woodwork. It was not the first time the structures had undergone analysis. A door in the Corbit-Sharp House shows a square from which layers of paint were removed to find the original color. But previous analysts lacked the high-powered microscopes that identify pigments, binders and fillers. A recent study determined that the master chamber wall originally had a glaze made with a vibrant verdigris-based pigment. Catherine Adams Masek, whose mother grew up outside of Odessa, has worked on the exterior paint analysis since 2006. When she started, most of the buildings had exterior white trim, which was particularly popular in the mid-20th century because of durable titanium, said Masek, who is based in Severna Park, Md. But 18th-century houses would have featured linseed oil-based, hand-mixed finishes with iron oxide that add Continued on page 42

Photo by Pam George

The historic houses are more than places to show how the former occupants lived. They’re also warehouses for the artifacts that aren’t currently on display.


Middletown Life | Spring/Summer 2017 | | Spring/Summer 2017 | Middletown Life


History’s stewards Continued from Page 40

a cinnamon, ochre or reddish-brown hue. Greens and other natural colors were favored in the mid-19th century as a back-to-nature movement spread throughout Europe and America. Recreating the original paints would be expensive, unstable and potentially dangerous; paint in the past contained lead. The foundation has found modern-day color equivalents, and the homes boast a significantly changed color scheme than they did before 2005. To date, the foundation has spent more than $2 million on preservation. Replacing the roofs, which will cost $425,000, is the last of the major projects. The foundation can now follow a regular schedule of maintenance, such as replacing water-damaged wood and repairing the hand-painted Chinese wallpaper in the Corbit-Sharp House. Although Buckson acknowledged that “anything can go wrong,” she and her team are ready for battle. “Their commitment to ensuring that standards are followed is evidenced by the absolute beauty of their work,” said Slavin of the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs.


Middletown Life | Spring/Summer 2017 |

Photo by Pam George

This glassware is stored on the second floor of the Wilson-Warner House, which has been renovated to protect items not on display. The glassware is often used during the holiday display.

Buckson is proud of the 30-acre complex, and is looking to buy more acreage along the waterfront. “This has been a long and arduous preservation,” she said. “This site is, I think, at a very high level of maintenance for an 18th-century Colonial site.” | Spring/Summer 2017 | Middletown Life


—————|Middletown Q & A|—————

By Pam George Staff Writer


tefanie Roselle is not your average social butterfly. Sure, the former Mrs. Delaware enjoys planning fundraisers, girls’ getaways and women’s networking opportunities. Confident in public, she’s performed as a Sixers Dancer for the Philadelphia 76ers and a cheerleader for the Philadelphia Eagles. But the Annapolis, Md., native has also cultivated a different kind of social skill set. She is a master of Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter and other social media platforms.


Middletown Life | Spring/Summer 2017 |

Roselle’s aptly named company, Social Butterfly, creates and maintains an online social presence for more than 40 clients statewide. The business is based in her Middletown home, where her office sports the company’s signature teal palette, and butterfly art adorns the walls. She moved to Middletown in 2005, partly for the Appoquinimink School District, and has two daughters – Ashlyn, 12, a seventh-grader at Louis Reading Middle School and a winner of the Little Miss Peach Blossom title; and Avery, 9, a fourth-grader at Brick Mill Elementary. The business has been so successful that it now has a waiting list of clients seeking its services, and Roselle is an in-demand speaker at social media conferences throughout the tri-state area. Most recently, she was the moderator at the 2017 Delaware Tech Social Media Conference, held in Georgetown in February. Middletown Life recently had a conversation with Roselle to discuss social media and her love for the area. Middletown Life: You studied journalism at the University of Delaware, but your first few jobs after graduation were in the sales department at the News Journal and the Philadelphia Inquirer. What did that teach you?

Roselle: The Philadelphia Inquirer was 100 percent commission. That taught me how to hustle. Some months I would make $300, and some months, I would make $3,000. It was all up to what I wanted to do. I look at social media as just another form of advertising. I love the ability to target a message to an audience. For bridal shops, I can run ads to target people who’ve just changed their Facebook status to “engaged.” How did you get into social media? After working in newspaper sales for a few years, I decided to get my aesthetics license. I worked in different spas in Greenville, Del. After I had my first daughter, I got a job teaching skincare at Dawn Continued on page 46 | Spring/Summer 2017 | Middletown Life


Social Butterfly Continued from Page 45

Career Institute. I helped manage the marketing for the spa, and because I had that background in ad sales, I helped design the print ads and write radio commercials for the school. When I had my second daughter, I transitioned completely to the marketing role and out of the classroom. I loved it. I worked from home three days a week, and I went to the office two days a week. That’s when I started managing the school’s Twitter account, Instagram page and Facebook business page. After I had done this for a few years, I thought, “Wow, I could do this for other companies,” and that’s how the whole idea for Social Butterfly came about. How fast did Social Butterfly grow? When I started the company in May 2013, it was just me. I had four accounts. It was a fun, little side job while I still worked at Dawn. It grew very quickly because my timing was right. There were ad agencies with a social arm to them, but there weren’t any boutique-style social media ad agencies out there. About six months in, I got two huge accounts. I brought on my first team member and started to learn the fine art of delegation. I left Dawn in 2014, and have just been doing Social Butterfly since. Every six months, I’ve added another content creator or graphic designer. I hired an assistant who does all the things I don’t like to do. She does my invoicing, orders my business cards and handles Quickbooks. Recently, we hired a video production and email marketing person, which has taken the company to the next level. We now have a team of seven. Is your Social Butterfly team virtually based? We are all virtual. Everyone can work in pajamas in their house -- whatever they want to do. If they want to manage 10 accounts, they can have 10 accounts. They can have two accounts if they have little kids and want to work part-time. We meet once a month for a face-to-face. If you can make it, you can make. If you can’t, no problem. We’ll just Skype you in. What is your management style? I don’t micromanage. My team has deadlines. They have complete interaction with the clients. Some people say it’s challenging to manage a social media campaign unless you are inside the company. Is that true? We do a good job of setting expectations with the client. I meet with them on a quarterly basis. The team members talk with them every month. We say, “Hey, what’s going on March, April and May? What events are you sponsoring? What are you working on internally?” The more information a client gives us, the better the pages will be. We’ve had to let a few clients go because they weren’t giving us information, and then we, in turn, can’t do a good job. You can only pull so much 46

Middletown Life | Spring/Summer 2017 |

information from a website before the pages look stale. One client and I mutually agreed that their social media would be better if it were in-house. I will come in and train an employee, explain the algorithms, how to craft a post, how to use Canva [a graphic design software], how to use Power Editor [a Facebook advertising tool]. I have never worked with restaurants, who need someone who is physically there, taking pictures of the specials that night, talking about the ingredients. But I do big-picture strategies with restaurants. How are you managing your growth? There have obviously been other social media companies that have popped up since I opened. I do my best to refer business to them. I would prefer to collaborate and find out what their niches are. There is enough business out there for everyone! How do you stay on top of the industry? Social media is always evolving. My team and I are in it every day, learning. I attended Social Media Marketing World, a huge conference in San Diego in March.

Why is Middletown a great place for a consulting business? I have clients throughout Delaware. It’s nice being in the middle of the state, more or less. In November and December, I went to Rehoboth twice a week for the Winter Wonderfest, for which I helped support the social media. It’s one hour from my house, and Wilmington is 30 minutes north. But most of what I do is virtual. I like the network of business owners here. Delaware is small, but Middletown is even smaller. It’s very close-knit. Amber Shader, who owns First & Little [a children’s clothing boutique] and I have joined forces to create Mascaras & Mimosas, which holds events for female entrepreneurs. What is your favorite spot in Middletown? The one house on Broad Street that has Eco Centric Salon & Spa, Nicole J Boutique and 1861 [a restaurant]. I would live there if I could. There are so many places! Who would you invite to your dinner party? I just finished reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. [Sandberg is the COO of Facebook.] If I could have dinner with her, I’d like her to expand on her points in the book. What food is always in your refrigerator? Coca-Cola and three different kinds of hummus. I’m not a good cook. My kids know that. Thankfully, my 12-year-old enjoys cooking. I can eat soft pretzels and drink Coke all day. I run on caffeine. How would you like to see the company grow? We’ve promoted team members to directors, and we’ve brought on new hires. My team is doing a wonderful job of managing our local clients, and I’m doing more traveling for training and speaking engagements. My goal for 2017 is 12 trips in 12 months. I’ve already got four down. It’s a huge goal of mine professionally and personally. To contact Staff Writer Pam George, email | Spring/Summer 2017 | Middletown Life


——————|Middletown Events|——————

MOT Calendar of Events

April 4 to Oct 13 Dual Fashion Exhibit The companion “TexStyles” exhibits of “Classic Colonial” and “Fashionably Federal” come to the historic houses of Odessa from Tuesday, April 4, to Friday, October 13. This exhibit features the collections of reproduction clothing and accessories spanning the last quarter of the 18th century through the first two decades of the 19th century.

May 14 Grapes and Grains Beer Festival 17 Wood St. Middletown — 1-5 pm Middletown Main Street wanted to create a new fundraiser and what better way to bring people together than music, food and drinks….The explosion of craft breweries has become a favorite pastime and has helped the tourism industry, as well as nonprofit organizations trying to raise money and at the same time /showcase all the wonderful local breweries, wineries and distilleries Delaware has to offer.

June 2 Relay For Life Silver Lake Park The signature fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Join to remember loved ones lost, honor survivors, and help raise money to make a global impact. 48

Middletown Life | Spring/Summer 2017 |

June 3 Weedstock 474 Fleming Rd. Townsend Twelve hours of bands - including Tweed and Xtra Altra (more to follow) Green Bazaar - Food Trucks and Breweries Private Location - 21 and older Overnight camp sites for an additonal price. Sponsored by Delaware Norml

June 24 - Music on Main Third Friday of each month June-August Cochran Square — 6-9pm Music, food, face painting, inflatable, and more.

June 9, July 14, August 11, September 8 Music Under the Stars Middletown Main Street Inc. and The Town of Middletown are proud to host the first Movies Under The Stars! summer series at Silver Lake Park. The event offers the citizens of Middletown and the surrounding counties the opportunity to gather together, experience the park, and enjoy arts and culture in an outdoor environment. Familyfriendly movies will be offered free of charge, ensuring that each and every member of the MOT area will have the opportunity to attend.

Movies Under The Stars! *Event will begin at 6 p.m. featuring inflatables, carnival games, food and much more! Movie will start at dusk.*

June 29-30 Hollywood Summer Spectacular Everett Theatre Hollywood Summer Spectacular will be a high energy show that features songs from Hollywood movies. Visit for updates.

Sept 9 Odessa Brewfest Odessa The Odessa Brewfest is an opportunity to sample some of the best regional and national craft beers, as well as locally-produced wine and spirits, accompanied by great food, great live music, and great people, all in a beautiful setting among the 18th-century houses and grounds of Historic Odessa. | Spring/Summer 2017 | Middletown Life


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—————|Middletown Personality|—————

‘Crabmeat’ Thompson: Middletown’s modern-day troubadour Lisa Fieldman Staff Writer On a Friday afternoon, Jerry “Crabmeat” Thompson sat on a piano bench in his sunny living room and talked about his life. Though he claims to be shy, he has a larger-than-life presence, and people are drawn to his animated personality. Like his counterparts in folk music, he is a natural storyteller, and his tales are often punctuated by his explosive laughter. Thompson is a teacher and a musician. For him, the two occupations go hand-in-hand as he creates tunes that can be teachable moments, and educates using his storytelling and musical skills. He’s been a wanderer, criss-crossing the country for both music and teaching jobs, driven by whatever he finds to be intellectually or creatively stimulating -- or sometimes just in search of a paying gig. His first foray into music came in middle school, as a member of the chorus. However, at Brandywine High School, he turned to football, wrestling and track. He made a good friend in fellow teammate Bobby Ferrara when they were forced to run laps as a punishment for fighting. “Bobby was in a band called the Astronotes and I was a groupie,” Thompson said. Years later, he would reconnect with Ferrara, playing tunes around Wilmington, but music stayed in the background until college. All Photos by L. Fieldman

Jerry “Crabmeat” Thompson is a natural storyteller. 52

Middletown Life | Spring/Summer 2017 |

Above: Crabmeat’s favorite guitar is ‘the one I am playing at the time.’ Right: Early days: Thompson played with The Live Wire Choir. The band was featured in Esquire magazine.

“When I was beginning to play, I fell for the tone and the bite of the Martin guitar, still the best in the world,” he said. “Then there was Bob Dylan.” The “Great Folk Music Scare,” as Thompson referred to it, occurred while he was in college and changed everything. “Folkies talked about something other than puppy love, and introduced me to the world of caring folks,” Thompson said. He was teaching at Oregon State (and working on a doctorate in English) when he gave music a serious try. “My Continued on page 54 | Spring/Summer 2017 | Middletown Life


Crabmeat Thompson Continued from Page 53

students were always asking me to sing them another song or tell them a story,” he said. “So I thought that’s probably what I should do.” He started playing folk music at venues throughout Corvallis, Ore. Eventually he gave up his teaching and doctorate work, and headed to San Francisco, where he enrolled in Blue Bear Waltzes School of Rock and Roll. “Terry Garthwaite was my vocal teacher,” Thompson said. Garthwaite’s band, Joy of Cooking, was the first female-fronted rock band. “It was a great place to be,” Thompson recalled. He also performed with the Golden Gate Theater Company. When his girlfriend left for Big Sur, Thompson followed, working as a cook and playing music. He met a guy named Frank Chiaverini and went to Tahoe with him to play in a country rock band.

Crabmeat and Janice Thompson.

Continued on page 56

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Crabmeat Thompson Continued from Page 54

“Country rock had just started, so we thought this was a good idea,” he said. When the band called it quits in 1978, Thompson headed back to Wilmington. He reconnected with his old friend Ferrara, who was playing jazz around the area with Harry Spencer and Gerald Chavis. “I’d go out and put on my show during their breaks,” Thompson said. “I’d also try to play a little with them, but I couldn’t keep up. That’s how I got my start playing in Wilmington.” Thompson worked as a teacher, and performed in Wilmington and at the Delaware beaches for a few years until his buddy Chiaverini beckoned. He asked Thompson to come out to Montana and sing with his current band, the Live Wire Choir. Thompson hit the road again, toured the West with the band and wrote a lot of original tunes based on his experiences. “At least one was inspired by peyote,” he said, laughing. As bands do, they broke up, and Jerry returned once again to the East Coast. He found a teaching job and resumed playing local gigs. He had already established a


Middletown Life | Spring/Summer 2017 |

strong fan base before he left, so area clubs welcomed him back. “I returned to Wilmington with a valise of new songs,” he said. Through his friendship with Johnny Neel, he was given the opportunity to record an album. “Animals, Vegetables and Mineral Springs” was released in 1983. On the album, Thompson was backed by local musicians, and with the exception of two songs, it was all original material. One of the songs on the album is Thompson’s tribute to Delaware, called “Small Wonder.” As to be expected with Thompson, there is a story to be told about the writing of the song. Jerry was playing at the Rusty Rudder in Dewey Beach when he was offered a job playing at the World’s Fair U.S. Pavilion in Knoxville, Tenn. “I agreed to go down. There was no pay, but they said they’d feed me and buy me beers at the Australian Pavilion,” he said, chuckling. Thompson approached the State of Delaware to ask for funding. He was told to write a song about Delaware

in exchange for a bus ticket and lodging. “They gave me a list of things to put in the song, so the whole tune is really, really long,” Thompson said. “So there I was at the Word’s Fair. I was the Delaware exhibit, singing ‘Small Wonder’ and passing out pamphlets.” Thompson is especially proud that Jerry Silverman included “Small Wonder” in the Mel Bay guitar songbook, “Songs for the American People.” “Jerry Silverman is like Moses among folk guitarists,” Thompson said. So “Small Wonder” keeps company in the book with songs by folk legends such as Woody Guthrie. Thompson is a fine storyteller, but he is also a keen listener and incorporates what he hears into his music. Filled with local references, his tunes range from sentimental and self-reflective to quirky. “I feel my forte is whimsy,” he said. This is evidenced by his CD, “South of the Moon,” that includes an operatic treatment of “The Owl and the Pussycat.” But he

Thompson’s album includes ‘Small Wonder,’ his song about Delaware.

Continued on page 58 | Spring/Summer 2017 | Middletown Life


Crabmeat Thompson Continued from Page 57

can just as easily craft a touching song elementary school students called “Save such as “Robert and My Mother,” that tells the Bays.” the story of his mother’s time in eldercare. “I had been playing children’s con“Mexican Oktoberfest” is his wife certs, singing this song, and I had the Janice’s favorite, because it was writidea for a coloring book,” he explained. ten about her. Thompson explained the Through friends at the Division of Natural inspiration: “She’ll get up and dance anyResources, he got the go-ahead to create where! Plus, at that time, Mexican bars the book “Stretch Saves the Inland Bays.” were an odd find at a polka bash.” Stretch is a Great Blue Heron who Some of his tunes were written simencourages kids to care for the environply because he had a great title that Thompson describes ‘Birthday ment. “They really liked it and published Trampoline,’ his latest CD, as needed a song. “Poodles From Hell” and poetic, melodic songs about 15,000 copies, and distributed the books “You’re the Reason God Made Alcohol” life, love, and chickens. to schools in Delaware, Maryland and are examples of how he can start with a Pennsylvania,” Thompson said. He percentral idea and weave lyrics around it. formed at the schools, singing songs Thompson has six CDs available through his website about the environment. These days, he’s hard at work store. “My latest CD is ‘Birthday Trampoline.’ That’s updating “Stretch Saves the Inland Bays” to include the title poem, and I got more poetic on this one, even both English and Spanish lyrics. He felt it was time scraping elbows with Dylan, Eliot and Kerouac,” he to bring the coloring book back to life, and plans to said. have it available on Earth Day when he performs in Continued on page 60 Years ago, Thompson wrote a song with Rehoboth

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Crabmeat Thompson Continued from Page 58

Bethany Beach. He will also re-release his children’s CD, “Crabmeat for Kids,” as a companion piece to the coloring book. Thompson has been living in Middletown for about 20 years, originally moving down to teach at Middletown High School. “I got the job at Middletown because they were all Crabmeat fans,” he said. He shares his home with his wife Janice, an elderly cat named Cleo, and several dozen rubber chickens. He shoots the chickens out at the audience during gigs to keep things lively. Thompson met Janice at a Delaware beach bar. He was hired to sing, and she was waitressing. Janice made the first move on her future husband., “I had to ask him out; he thought he was too old for me,” she explained. “No, I thought you were too wild!” Thompson retorted. They both teach English at the University of Delaware English Language Institute. ELI helps students whose secondary language is English to improve their fluency. Thompson continues to incorporate music and stories into his lessons. Recently, to the delight of his students,

he put on a western hat and kerchief and performed “I Want to be a Cowboy Sweetheart” to celebrate National Cowboy Day. The students enjoy learning about American culture through holidays, even the offbeat ones. Thompson has a full calendar of gigs. “The music has gotten very, very busy. What has helped is the brewpub explosion,” he said. “For years I was going out to play at coffee houses. You know, there weren’t any other places to play. But people in coffee houses are not that much fun.” Brewpubs such as Brick Works in Smyrna provide a great venue. He is adaptable to his audiences, and can provide family entertainment when needed, or pull out the classics. “If I see people around my age, I talk about how great it is that Dylan got the Nobel Prize, and start playing those old songs,” he said. He performs folk, originals, classic rock, as well as some old blues songs. “That’s what I cut my teeth on, and people love it,” he said. Thompson has received many honors, including awards




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Crabmeat Thompson entertains by combining music with storytelling.

and fellowships from the Delaware Division of the Arts and the Delaware State Arts Council. In 2007, has was recognized as an emerging folk musician; and in 2010, he was honored for his artistic excellence in folk music. He downplayed his honors, and said, “I just like doing things that make me feel good.” With all that he has accomplished and has yet to do, Thompson could be considered a Delaware wonder himself. New interests continue to pique his curiosity. “He is a very interesting person,” Janice said. “He has been taking a Chinese calligraphy class because he doesn’t have enough to do,” she added, laughing. Thompson’s creativity seems to be boundless, and his sense of wonder and adventure keeps life interesting. He smiled at his wife and said, “When I turned 60, Janice asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I said an electric guitar, of course!” Crabmeat Thompson will be performing on April 22 at the Bethany Beach Nature Center, on April 28 at Brick Works in Smyrna, and on May 6th at the Trapp Pond Wetlands Celebration. Visit https://crabmeat. net. To contact Staff Writer Lisa Fieldman, email

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——|Middletown Action & Adventure|——

The North Cass Street home for every member of the family For many years, Middletown residents wanted a fitness facility in town that could serve children, adults and seniors. The opening of the Middletown Family YMCA is a brand-new answer to that need

All photos courtesy of the YMCA of Delaware 66

Middletown Life | Spring/Summer 2017 |

Above: A group fitness room is used for Zumba, Cycle, Yoga, Bootcamp and other group classes. Right: The Middletown Family YMCA is stocked with state-of-the-art fitness equipment.

By Richard L. Gaw Staff Writer


hen David Halley, the director of the new Middletown Family YMCA, was part of a dedicated team that helped to start the YMCA in the Bear-Glasgow area a few years ago, he kept hearing the same chorus of need. “It seemed that as soon as we built the Bear-Glasgow facility, it was quickly followed with, ‘What about Middletown now?’” Halley said. “With every event I attended, with every survey we read, the call to establish a YMCA in Middletown was overwhelming.”

Continued on page 68 | Spring/Summer 2017 | Middletown Life


YMCA Continued from Page 67

In October 2016, when the YMCA of Delaware announced that it would expand into Middletown, the decision was not only practical -- it would serve one of the fastest growing regions in the state -- it was also undertaken with the idea that the content of its curriculum would take direction from its future constituents. “When we began to plan the Middletown Family YMCA, we thought, ‘What can we design that will best be able to accommodate the needs of our families?’” Halley said. “While we made the decision to have preschool, summer day camp, babysitting services, fitness classes for children, as well as classes for adults and seniors, it was crucial for us to leave room for feedback. Leaving that room will enable us to eventually fill the needs of our members even more efficiently. We want to make sure that we don’t miss anything.” Ask any of the Y’s more than 1,800 members and they will agree that those who created the 6,400-square-foot facility on North Cass Street have not missed a thing. A state-of-the-art fitness center, movement studio and a fully supervised Kids Zone complement a full slate of


Middletown Life | Spring/Summer 2017 |

A comfortable lounge cafe has already become a top meeting spot for a post-workout beverage.

classes and activities targeted to every member of the family. The facility features services that come free to members, including a child care area for children six Continued on page 70 | Spring/Summer 2017 | Middletown Life


YMCA Continued from Page 68

weeks to 12 years old. They also offer a variety of workout classes, such as Zumba, Bodypump, Cycle, Yoga, Bootcamp, Bodycombat, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), and LIFE (Low Impact Fitness Experience), which is a class designed specifically for seniors. Even before the facility officially opened on Jan. 3, Halley had begun to sense a great anticipation for the new Y. “YMCA officials were inundated by requests to be ‘Founding Members’ when the announcement was made, and more than 1,000 people took advantage of the membership with benefits,” he said. “On the morning of Founders Day, a large crowd of members were lined up at the door, waiting to get in.” Beginning this summer, the YMCA’s day camps will provide a wide range of camps from Traditional, Sports, Specialty, and Teens. Campers will experience a variety of activities including arts and crafts, environmental education, literacy education, team building activities, field trips, character development, outdoor games, swimming and more. “Our camps give children ranging in age from kindergarten through tenth grade the chance to grow in their self-confidence

YMCA programs for children emphasize sportsmanship.

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Middletown families helped cut the ribbon in January that officially opened the new Middletown Family YMCA.

and character,” Halley said. “They will play a variety of games, meet new friends, and have the opportunity to go on field trips and swim.” Sports camps, for grades 2-7, will introduce the basic skills needed to succeed in each area of the sport they choose. Campers will learn the fundamentals of the game along with various positions, rules and regulations. Specialty camps, for grades 4-7, will include a variety

of themes from animals to cooking. The fact that the Middletown Family YMCA is neighbors to several schools makes it a perfect partner for collaboration. This year, two programs specifically for students in the 8th through 10th grades will be introduced: a Youth in Government class is designed to introduce students to how the government works; and a Team Leaders Continued on page 72 | Spring/Summer 2017 | Middletown Life


YMCA Continued from Page 71

program, that will encourage students to develop and then cultivate their skills in order to become future leaders. One of the missions of the YMCA of Delaware is to go where the people are. Deborah Bagatta-Bowles, CEO of the YMCA of Delaware, said the current facility is the

YMCA’s initial investment into the community. She said construction of a $10 million-$12 million facility should be a reality in three to five years. Funds are already being put aside for that future project, she said. “This is how the Bear-Glasgow branch started,” Continued on page 74

The Middletown Family YMCA will be operating several summer camps this year.


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YMCA Continued from Page 72

Bagatta-Bowles said. “We hope to duplicate that in Middletown. The next step in that project is to put together a local board and start fundraising efforts.” While the Middletown Family YMCA anticipates extended growth and more services, Halley believes that the success of the new location is measured by properly serving one family at a time. “Middletown is very much about families,” he said, “and we want to keep that in our forefront.” The Middletown Family YMCA is accepting registration for its first summer day camps, which will be held at Silver Lake Elementary School and Park (200 E. Cochran St., Middletown). Participants will enjoy weekly sessions that will run Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. To 4 p.m., from June 19 through Aug. 11. Youth who attend camp also have the option of participating in “before and after care” for no additional cost between 7 and 9 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. To learn more, visit, or call 302-616-9622. The Middletown Family YMCA is at 404 N. Cass St., Middletown. To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email

The Y’s Kidzone allows young children to enjoy activities in a safe and supervised environment.


Middletown Life | Spring/Summer 2017 |

|Middletown Arts|

The working photographer Joshua Meier is not only the head of photography at St. Andrew’s School, he has also exhibited his photography consistently during the past two decades. All photos courtesy Joshua Meier

Joshua Meier wants his photographs to have depth instead of offering the viewer something that is obvious and easy to read. Right: “Necessary Burdens” Meier’s compelling images allow the viewer to think about the story that they are telling.

By Steven Hoffman Staff Writer


oshua Meier wants to create photographs that aren’t obvious or easy to read. He wants people to be able to sit with his work, to consider it, and then feel something as a result. Meier, a recipient of the 2016 Individual Artist Fellowship in Photography from the Delaware Division of the Arts, recently had an exhibition featured in that organization’s Mezzanine Gallery titled “[Un]Ravel.” The exhibition focused on a 2016 project that found Meier photographing the same ordinary object—a ball of string—each day. The photographer saw the unraveling ball of string as a metaphor for the constant change in life. 76

Middletown Life | Spring/Summer 2017 |

Meier wrote the following about the exhibition: [Un]Ravel is about when things come undone. It is about the loss of what was. It is a shift in the state of things, It is a movement from the way things were to something else, It is about the uniqueness of chaos, and how it is never the same twice, It is an inability to put things back the way they were, It is about finding quiet, grace, and balance within the random mess. String or rope has shown up consistently in Meier’s work throughout his career as a photographer. In 2016, during a time when he was struggling a bit to develop a cohesive project to work on, he returned to string as a subject for his photographs. “I gave myself an assignment to come into the studio and photograph this ball of twine each day,” Meier said. He would pick the ball up and roll it around in his hands, creating something new and different each time—a new image to capture with his camera. “The more I photographed this ball of twine, the more I became interested in this changing form,” he explained. “[Un]Ravel” had a connection to an earlier exhibition titled “[Un]Remembering,“ in which Meier showcased a series of images that related to memory. The photos illustrated the process of selecting the experiences that we choose to remember and those that we choose to forget. “In our lives, we build these memories up and then we unravel them,” Meier explained. So, no, there is nothing superficial or obvious to be found in his work. As the head of the photography department at St. Andrew’s School in Middletown, Meier works to instill an understanding of and appreciation for photography in his students. His own interest in photography started when Meier was a boy growing up in Oklahoma. “I was always interested in photography and photographs as a child,” Meier said, explaining that he loved visiting his relatives and looking at their photographs, especially the older photographs. “That really stuck with me as I grew up,” he said. Meier’s high school didn’t offer a photography class at the time, but he took every art class he could. His varied experiences in these art classes helped him develop his creativity as an artist, and they still impact his work to this day. In 1996, Meier moved to Montana, which is the state that his wife grew up in, and he enrolled in the Rocky Mountain School of Photography. Continued on page 78

For more about Joshua Meier, visit

An ordinary object can make for an extraordinary photograph.

In addition to exhibiting his work consistently for the last two decades, Joshua Meier is the head of the photography department at the St. Andrew’s School. | Spring/Summer 2017 | Middletown Life


Joshua Meier Continued from Page 77

“I finally got serious about photography,” he explained. “I went to photography school and I became a working photographer and artist.” After graduation from the Rocky Mountain School of Photography, Meier assisted photographers who worked in a variety of areas—including architecture, fashion, and commercial photography. He also started teaching some classes at the Rocky Mountain School of Photography, learning the basics of teaching. Eventually, Meier earned his MFA from the University of Tulsa, and he set out to land a teaching job. That’s how he ended up as a teacher at the St. Andrew’s School in Middletown, teaching three courses—Photography 1, Photography 2, and Photography Major—to sophomores,


Middletown Life | Spring/Summer 2017 |

juniors, and seniors. Meier is currently in his sixth year teaching at St. Andrew’s School. “I feel really fortunate to have landed at St. Andrew’s School,” Meier said. “I have a lot of freedom to develop the curriculum and the program for the students.” The courses he teaches involve everything from traditional dark room work to digital photography to very old photographic processes. “My goal is to educate them about all that photography is and all that it can be,” Meier explained. “I want to teach them about different techniques and processes.” He also wants to help the students to start to think like an artist and to develop the eye of an artist. Even though Meier stays quite busy teaching his students, he still manages to find the time to work on his own photography. “Typically, I work on several bodies of work simultaneously,” he explained. “With any artist, getting into the habit of working day to day is very important.” He fondly recalls a time when he was still working in Oklahoma, Texas, and Montana when he developed a body of work named “Parables” that utilized staged, surreal imagery. “The days of creating that body of work really stick with me,” he explained. “It was all-consuming work at the time.” Delaware provides a much different backdrop for his work than the American west did. Meier said that he really likes being able to work and live on the school’s sprawling and beautiful campus. “It’s home for us,” he said. “I don’t do a lot of landscape photography, but the campus is beautiful.” He also likes being a part of Delaware’s burgeoning artist community. “There are a lot of really talented artists in Delaware, especially for this being a small state,” Meier said. “There are a lot of creative people here.” As a teacher to a lot of young, creative people, Meier is sharing what he has learned about the life of a working artist. He loves to hear from students who have studied with him for three years and are now finding what they learned to be useful. “I want them to be able to use what they learn in my class,” Meier said. “They may not major in photography, but I hope that what I teach them will stay with them, and that it helps them. It’s reaffirming when I hear that I might have helped shape them in some way, or inspired them in some way. It encourages me to keep doing what I’m doing.” To contact Staff Writer Steven Hoffman, email editor@ | Spring/Summer 2017 | Middletown Life


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————|Middletown Life Photo Essay|————

All photos by Jie Deng In early March, a small army of performers, musicians and backstage crew members presented the musical “Thoroughly Modern Millie” at Middletown High School. The process leading up to opening night was just as hectic and rewarding as any major theatrical effort. On the night of the show’s dress rehearsal, students applied makeup, got fitted for wigs Continued on page 84


Middletown Life | Spring/Summer 2017 | | Spring/Summer 2017 | Middletown Life


Photo Essay Continued from Page 82

and put on the vintagelooking costumes, ready to go through their paces for the show’s dance numbers. For the young cast and their adult advisors, the show was part of a long tradition of student theater at the school, drawing audience members who Continued on page 86


Middletown Life | Spring/Summer 2017 | | Spring/Summer 2017 | Middletown Life


Photo Essay Continued from Page 84

may not even know anyone in the cast. They just look to the school for high-quality productions. The jittery nerves, the smiles, and all the lastminute preparation paid off with a show that impressed audiences and taught some valuable life lessons to everyone involved.


Middletown Life | Spring/Summer 2017 | | Spring/Summer 2017 | Middletown Life


———|Middletown Sports & Athletics|——— Chris Godwin set many football records at Middletown High School, later became a standout receiver at Penn State and is now on the cusp of a professional career in the NFL. Along the way, he has also become friends with a very special person

The brothers of Middletown By Richard L. Gaw Staff Writer

“Friendship is always a sweet responsibility, never an opportunity.” Khalil Gibran * * * * he setting sun over the Rose Bowl this past New Year’s Day played with the early evening sky in Pasadena like an artist caught in an extended Sepia Period, and while the world outside the old stadium was lathered in gold, the players, illuminated by archlights, glowed like comets. As the game progressed deep into the fourth quarter and the sun disappeared over the ridge of the Angeles National Forest in the distance, there was no more important college football game being played in the world than this one. The Grandaddy of Them All was setting itself up to be One for the Ages. To the thousands who saw it live and the millions more who watched from home, there was no more important football player on the field than Penn State wide receiver Chris Godwin of Middletown, Delaware. Sick. Ridiculous. Choose whatever hip variation of the word “Excellent” you wish; Godwin was all of it. He sliced through defenders, pulling in passes with the grace of a ballerina and the ferocity of a cougar intent on its prey. During his tam’s crushing 52-49 loss to USC, Godwin made nine catches for 187 yards, including a 30-yard TD catch that required him to tightrope on the sideline; and a 72-yard touchdown -- an optical illusion of a grab that required him to pull in a bobbled ball, spin around once his feet touched the ground, and head for the end zone. On the cusp of his Rose Bowl performance -- and his stellar career at Penn State that ranked him in the top five in career receiving yards (2,404) and career receiving touchdowns (18) – Godwin declared his eligibility for the NFL draft following his junior year. He attended the NFL Combine in February and March, where he impressed pro scouts with his uncanny ability to make contested catches -- a must-have skill in the over-the-middle warfare that is the NFL. On NFL Draft Day, scheduled for late April in Philadelphia, he is projected to be selected as high as the second round. “As a kid from Delaware, I could only dream about being in this position,” Godwin wrote in a statement. “I believe this is the best decision


Photo courtesy of the Schlenner family

Chris Godwin and Hayden Schlenner, at Beaver Stadium on the campus of Penn State.

Photo by Mariah DelPercio

Godwin was a four-year standout at Middletown High School. 88

Middletown Life | Spring/Summer 2017 |

for myself and my family. I can’t thank my brothers, coaches, support staff and Nittany Nation enough for their constant support throughout my three years here. This year was something special and I’ll be forever grateful to have been a part of it.” The upward trajectory of Godwin’s rise, which will likely have him playing on Sundays – had its beginnings in Middletown, and for long-time head coach Mark DelPercio, it may have begun at a pre-season camp Godwin attended before his freshman year, when he was 14 years old. “He made a couple of catches that made our heads turn, so we knew this kid had something,” DelPercio said. “We were not going to wait. We decided he was going to play for us as a freshman.” At Middletown High School, Godwin was a game-changer, playing all four years and scoring

Photo by Richard L. Gaw

Middletown head football coach Mark DelPercio during a recent television interview.

77 rushing, receiving and return touchdowns in his career. Along the way, the Cavaliers won two state championships, and Godwin earned the Delaware Gatorade High School Player of the Year in 2013. To DelPercio, coaching is more than compiling trophies. The walls of his classroom at the high school, where he has taught for several years, are a photographic memory book of players he has come to know just as much for who they are off the field than what they have achieved on it. If the source of who Chris Godwin has become as a person can be linked to his mother Lisa and father Rod, then football has merely been a conduit of that growth as a person. “In Chris’s senior year, he had more than 20 scholarship offers, and he was returning Gatorade Player of the Year and first-team all-state player,” DelPercio said. “And yet, his work ethic and desire to learn never stopped. He never had a sense of entitlement.” It was only fitting that the last game of Godwin’s Middletown career would be at the 2013 state football championship at Delaware Stadium. Deep in the fourth quarter, Middletown was trailing Salesianum, when DelPercio turned around and saw that Godwin had gathered his teammates before him. After the game, the coach asked his son Vincent, a member of the team, what Godwin was telling them. “Vincent told me, ‘Dad, Chris just wanted to thank us for the most memorable four years of his life,’” DelPercio said. “Chris told his teammates that he wouldn’t be where he was without them. He told them that he will never forget his roots, and that he would be a Cavalier forever.” Before he left for State College, there would one more stop for Godwin to make in Delaware, and it would be a stop that would change his life. *



Photo courtesy of the Schlenner family

Chris, Hayden and Mariah at Christmas in the Schlenner home.


Hayden Schlenner is an eight-year-old third grader at Old State Elementary School in the Appoquinimink School District. Like many Continued on page 90 | Spring/Summer 2017 | Middletown Life


Brothers Continued from Page 89

young boys his age, he is a huge football fan, and his bed- Renee. “He comes over and hangs out, and he and Hayden room is decorated with posters and trinkets honoring his and Chris have become big X-Box and Wie buddies. In two favorite football teams: the Philadelphia Eagles and a sports world where you see so many athletes bragging the Penn State Nittany Lions. He is often about their abilities, you never get from seen around the Schlenner house wearChris. ing a Penn State football jersey bearing “Football is never the first thing in a the number 12, a replica of the uniform conversation Chris has with anyone,” once worn by his friend, Chris Godwin. she added. ”If you think about the social Hayden was diagnosed with cerebral life of a typical high school teenager, palsy and cerebellar hypoplasia, a condithere are plenty of things to do, but tion in which the brain does not develop Chris chose to come to our house and completely. As a result, his muscle tone hang out with Hayden for hours. That is not fully developed, which forces him shows us his compassion and his care. to get around with the use of a walker. Not many people at that age are able to Every year, the top high school footgrasp the importance of establishing a ball players in Delaware are selected to friendship with a young person who has Photo courtesy of the Schlenner family play in the annual Blue-Gold Game at disabilities. Best buddies. Delaware Stadium. While the game has “Chris got that immediately.” come to stand as a showcase of talent, While at Middletown High School, it has also made a substantial altruistic Godwin volunteered for the school’s Life imprint on the state. It benefits the Delaware Foundation for Centered Career Education program, targeted to students Reaching Citizens, and pairs each player with a child who who have intellectual disabilities. has a physical or mental disability in the Hand-in-Hand “The DelPercio children were already involved in our proProgram. gram as peer tutors, and at first, Chris stood in the doorway To avoid any potential injury before starting at Penn and waited for direction,” said Sarah Hill, who coordinates State, Godwin bowed out of the 2013 Blue-Gold Game, the program with Erin Trzcinski. “Once you met Erin and but chose to participate as part of the game’s Ambassador me, you get sucked in, so eventually, Chris began to eat Program. He was paired with Hayden. lunch in our classroom, often with the students. He’s In a role reversal, it was Godwin who looked up to the became a true friend to our children. When he would sit young boy, not the other way around. He was impressed down and help a student, you would never know he was a with Hayden’s ability to look past the limitations of his superb athlete. He was just ‘Chris’ to them.” body and make it into a non-event. The game served as a Once, Godwin had a conversation with Mariah during mere introduction to what soon blossomed into something the pressure of his juggling several scholarship offers in his greater. Before long, Godwin – and his girlfriend Mariah senior year. DelPercio, the daughter of Coach DelPercio – would make “He told Mariah, ‘I don’t why I get so upset about this, regular visits to the Schlenner home to play video games, because these children in the program come to school with toss the football and enjoy birthday parties. Throughout the best attitude, every day,” Hill said. “He told Mariah, Godwin’s time at Penn State, he and Mariah – who also ‘They don’t let their challenges slow them down or get attends Penn State – would continue to pay visits when they them upset. I should never feel sorry for myself.’ That really came home to Middletown. During Godwin’s three-year impressed me.” career at Penn State, the Schlenner family frequently made In Godwin’s junior year, the football team was honored at the eight-hour round trip to State College to see him play. a pep rally at the school for winning the state championship. “It’s easy when you’re playing football to have a bad day “Chris asked me if the pep rally could also include the of practice and get down on yourself,” Godwin said in a students from Ms. Hill and Ms. Trzcinski’s classroom,” Penn State alumni magazine article. “But there are people DelPercio said. “He told me, ‘How cool would it be if these out there who can’t do what you do. Me spending time with kids walked into the gym with us?’ We walked into the Hayden, I get to see that. For me, it opened my eyes more gymnasium, hand-to-hand with those kids.” to being thankful for what I’m able to do.” To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail rgaw@ “Chris is like one of our kids,” said Hayden’s mother . 90

Middletown Life | Spring/Summer 2017 |


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Middletown Life Spring/Summer 2017 Edition  

Middletown Life Spring/Summer 2017 Edition