West Chester and Chadds Ford Life Spring/Summer 2018

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Spring/Summer 2018

West Chester & Chadds Ford



Dogs on Patrol - Page 24

Inside • Rolling up the Greensleeves Music • Capturing the landscape with Mark Dance • Brandywine Prime: A fine dining destination

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Spring/Summer 2018

West Chester & Chadds Ford


Table of Contents 8

Brandywine Prime


Sweet taste of success


K-9 Academy


Q & A with Kelly Kuder


A forgotten piece of local history


Finding a new direction


Photo essay: Crebilly Farm


A home away from home


Ben Green of Greensleeves Music

46 56



60 Cover design by Tricia Hoadley Cover photograph by Jie Deng


West Chester & Chadds Ford Life | Spring/Summer 2018 | www.chestercounty.com

K-9 Academy helps keep Chester County safe It’s one of the many great things about West Chester and Chadds Ford Letter from the Editor: In 2006, a bomb threat at the Justice Center in West Chester shut down the complex for the day. Law enforcement officers had to wait outside for the arrival of bomb-sniffing dogs so that they could inspect the building and make sure that it was safe. Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh then had the idea of the Chester County Sheriff’s Office acquiring its own bomb dogs. The K-9 Unit started with just two trained canines, but has increased steadily ever since. The Chester County Sheriff’s Office now operates its own K-9 Academy. In this issue of West Chester & Chadds Ford Life, writer Natalie Smith explores how the dogs are trained to go on patrol and help keep Chester County safe. In this issue, we also profile Ben Green, who founded West Chester-based Greensleeves Music, which connects music teachers with students throughout southern Chester County, and beyond. Greensleeves Music has 30 instructors who provide home instruction in a variety of instruments, including piano, guitar, voice, drums and all orchestra and band instrumentation, to over 200 students in the Kennett Square, Unionville, Chadds Ford and West Chester communities. This issue also features a story about Mark Dance, a Chadds Ford artist who is at a personal and professional crossroads as he rededicates himself to capturing the beauty of the Chester County landscape. When Brandywine Prime Seafood and Chops opened in Chadds Ford in 2007, it brought a new level of food and service to the area. We sat down with general manager Michael Majewski to talk about how Brandywine Prime became a dining destination in Chester County during the course of the last 11 years. We also interview Franklin Steck, a local entrepreneur who transformed his love of chocolate into a business—he founded Vör Foods in West Chester, which produces dark-chocolate cups and other sweet offerings. We talk to Siyao Chen, who has spent the last three years at Villa Maria Academy in Malvern thanks to the New Oasis International Education program that brings promising students from China to the U.S. She lives in the West Chester home of Emlyn and Chris Frangiosa, and has become an integral part of the family. We also explore a potter’s field in the area that has become a forgotten piece of local history. Beautiful Crebilly Farm is the focus of this issue’s photo essay. As always, we hope you enjoy the stories and photos in West Chester & Chadds Ford Life, and we look forward to receiving your comments and suggestions for stories that we might work on in the future. We’re already hard at work planning the next issue of the magazine, which will arrive in October.

Sincerely, Randy Lieberman, Publisher randyl@chestercounty.com, 610-869-5553 Steve Hoffman, Editor editor@chestercounty.com, 610-869-5553, ext. 13 Cover design by: Tricia Hoadley Cover photo: Courtesy of the Chester County Commissioners’ Office www.chestercounty.com | Spring/Summer 2018 | West Chester & Chadds Ford Life


|West Chester & Chadds Ford Business|

Brandywine Prime Seafood and Chops: A great dining destination in Chadds Ford


West Chester & Chadds Ford Life | Spring/Summer 2018 | www.chestercounty.com

By Steven Hoffman Staff Writer


ne of the things that Michael Majewski likes best about his job as the general manager of Brandywine Prime Seafood and Chops is when customers find a menu offering that surprises them. On one recent evening, a couple from Chicago came in and enjoyed a meal highlighted by Wagyu beef. Some of the finer restaurants in Chicago might have this delicious, top-quality beef, but who would expect to be able to find it in a restaurant in charming Chadds Ford? The couple told Majewski that they were pleased with Brandywine Prime’s food and service. What better compliment could a restaurateur ask for? From the time it opened in February of 2007, Brandywine Prime has been a unique dining destination, a restaurant that brings distinctive American fare to the charming and historic Chadds Ford community. While local residents have the opportunity to enjoy the excellent American cuisine on a regular basis, the restaurant also appeals to the many visitors who are in the area to enjoy Longwood Gardens, Winterthur Museum & Gardens, the Brandywine River Museum, or one of the Brandywine Valley’s other leading attractions. Nina Kelly, the director of marketing and communications with the Chester County Conference & Visitors Bureau said that Brandywine Prime is definitely one of those restaurants that the Brandywine Valley is proud to have—and a destination for many of the visitors who are in the area to visit some of the attractions. “Brandywine Prime offers everything—the food, the service, the atmosphere,” Kelly said. “It’s perfectly located with the museums and breweries and wineries nearby.” Not long ago, Kelly explained, the Chester County Conference & Visitors Bureau helped a blogger from Italy plan a visit to tour some of the Brandywine Valley’s top destinations. Brandywine Prime was one of the restaurants featured. “Even folks in Italy love Brandywine Prime,” she said. Kelly explained that Brandywine Prime also has great spaces for large gatherings like baby showers, rehearsal dinners, birthday parties, and banquets, so the staff at the Chester County Conference & Visitors Bureau will often recommend it to people who are planning an event in the area. Brandywine Prime has private rooms that can accommodate any party from between 10 to 96 people. They also offer catering services for everything from casual office lunches to large holiday parties. The atmosphere in any part of the restaurant is amazing. The building was long the home of the historic Chadds Ford Inn. It has been lovingly modernized to offer a comfortable dining experience. Brandywine Prime’s rustic charm and casual atmosphere can be attributed to the fact that it Continued on Page 11

Photo by Steven Hoffman

Brandywine Prime is in a beautifully restored 300-year-old inn along Baltimore Pike in Chadds Ford.

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Brandywine Prime Continued from Page 9

is situated in a beautifully restored 300-year-old inn. But it is chef Jason Barrowcliff’s superb traditional American fare—steaks, chops, and seafood—that brings an elegant and upscale touch to the restaurant. “Everything is made from scratch here. We make our own bread. We make our own desserts,” Majewski explained. Just like its name suggests, Brandywine Prime Seafood and Chops places an emphasis on prime steaks and chops and seasonally changing seafood selections that arrive daily. The menu features everything from center cut filet mignon to pan-fried Pocono brook trout to prime rib sandwiches. Selections like the Wagyu beef, which is a prime cut of steak from cattle raised in Texas, make for a memorable dining experience. Barrowcliff is always looking for interesting offerings that would rival anything on menus in Philadelphia so that even people who’ve dined at the restaurant numerous times can find something new to enjoy. “A large amount of our business is repeat customers, our regulars,” Majewski said. Continued on Page 12

Photo by Steven Hoffman

Brandywine Prime first opened in 2007. www.chestercounty.com | Spring/Summer 2018 | West Chester & Chadds Ford Life


Brandywine Prime Continued from Page 11

The team that leads Brandywine Prime came with plenty of experience, which is one reason for the restaurant’s success and longevity in a very competitive market. When they opened Brandywine Prime, Majewski and business partners Dan Butler and Paul Bouchard set out to bring a different kind of dining experience to Chadds Ford. Majewski had worked in a restaurant in Wilmington just before he and his business partners opened Brandywine Prime, and they had a lot of ideas about what kind of restaurant they wanted based on all their experiences. Majewski himself got his first job in the food industry when he was 16. After high school, he majored in economics in college, and later taught math and served as a soccer coach. In the early 1990s, he was working at Griglia Toscana while also teaching and coaching, when he met wine expert Frank Splan.

Majewski eventually apprenticed with Splan. He traveled extensively to Italy, France, Germany, and California, learning all about each stage of wine-making. Today, he uses that experience to refine Brandywine Prime’s wine lists, which are extensive. When it comes to evaluating wines, he said, every person’s opinion is valid. “I was an economics major in college,� he explained. “In economics, as long as you have an opinion and can back it up, it’s not wrong. Wine is really the same way.� Continued on Page 14






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Brandywine Prime Continued from Page 12

Majewski said that he enjoys running a single-owner restaurant where an owner is in charge of everything that takes place. He explained that when he was growing up and the family went out to dinner for a special occasion, they would never go to a chain restaurant. The family would instead go to a local restaurant that had an owner who was almost always there to ensure the quality of the food and service. Brandywine Prime wants their customers to have that same experience, and Majewski likes being able to deliver that personal touch that his own family experienced when they would eat out. The hospitality at Brandywine Prime is befitting the building’s past as an historic inn. When they opened Brandywine Prime, the owners knew that they couldn’t manage the restaurant in a more rural area in the same way that they would run a restaurant in a city, even though the city of Wilmington isn’t all that far away. There can be some advantages to having a restaurant in a rural area. For example, Jason Barrowcliff, the chef at Brandywine Prime, can grow his own vegetables

and raise chickens on a nearby farm. The flavorful bison carpaccio that is featured at Brandywine Prime is made of bison raised at the Bison Run Ranch in Unionville. It’s an advantage for Brandywine Prime to have such a convenient location along Baltimore Pike, situated in close proximity to Longwood Gardens and other Brandywine Valley attractions. But the location comes with its challenges, too. “The heavily traveled road has its good points and its bad points,” Majewski said, explaining that the motorists on that stretch of Route 1 zip by at 55 miles an hour, too fast to really be enticed by the village’s offerings. Another one of the reasons for Brandywine Prime’s success has been the willingness by the owners to adapt and change based on what customers want and expect. “In the restaurant business, you have to be able to twostep,” Majewski explained. “You have to keep your eye on what customers want, and on the restaurant business. I don’t have the future mapped out.” The staff at Brandywine Prime has played an


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important part in the restaurant’s ongoing success. There are between 45 and 55 people employed at the restaurant, depending on the season. Many of the staff members have been there for years, including three people who have

been with Brandywine Prime since it first opened more than 11 years ago. “I think we do a good job of finding people who fit,” Majewski explained. “And when they fit, they stay.” Brandywine Prime is open for dinner from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. each Monday through Saturday. Lunch is served from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday brunch is served from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the Sunday dinner is from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. To contact Staff Writer Steven Hoffman, email editor@ chestercounty.com.

Brandywine Prime Seafood and Chops is located at 1617 Baltimore Pike in Chadds Ford. For more information or to make reservations, visit www.brandywineprime.com or call 610-388-8088.

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|West Chester & Chadds Ford Business|

The sweet taste

Photos by Natalie Smith

VÜr Foods founder and president Franklin Steck stands in front of a poster for his products, and holding the product he conceived that started it all – a dark chocolate almond butter cup.

A local entrepreneur is blazing new trails with dark chocolate and nut butters 16

West Chester & Chadds Ford Life | Spring/Summer 2018 | www.chestercounty.com

te of success By Natalie Smith Staff writer


t was a love of chocolate that got the whole thing started for Franklin Steck. But not just any chocolate. Only the dark kind would do, with bars made from a high concentration of cocoa solids and low sugar, giving them a full and rich flavor. Chocolate that was chock full of antioxidants and believed to have cardiovascular benefits, among others. Chocolate that could be relished a small bit at a time. It was that passion that eventually took Steck on the journey from devotee to manufacturer. As the founder of Vör Foods in West Chester, Steck produces darkchocolate cups, filled with butter not made from the mundane peanut, but rather from hazelnuts, almonds and cashews. Sunflower seed butter, coconut-filled and

vegan selections round out the flavorful half-dozen. All cups are free of gluten, preservatives and soy, and made with 63 percent Fair Trade dark chocolate. Steck recalled his chocolate dawning. “It started all the way back when I was in high school,” he said. “I’d just gotten my first car. I was too young to get a credit or debit card, so I just had an ATM card. I’d withdraw 20 dollars at a time, because that was my budget.”

He’d drop the change from his cash in the car ashtray, and it started to accumulate. “One day I had all this change and I thought, ‘I’m going to get some chocolate.’ I kind of had this craving.” Steck went to his local store at the time – Landis Supermarket in Harleysville – and, going through the offerings, something caught his eye: A Lindt 85 percent dark chocolate bar. The percentage indicates the number of cocoa solids in the bar. “I was just getting into health and fitness at the time,” Steck said. “I started eating a little bit better, and that included eating dark chocolate if I wanted something a little bit sweet.” Steck was hooked. “I basically fell in love with it. ‘This is great, I thought. I love this taste.’ It’s different from milk chocolate. You Continued on Page 18

The dark chocolate nut butter cups and nut butter spreads in the Vör Foods manufacturing space in West Chester, inside Artisan Exchange.

www.chestercounty.com | Spring/Summer 2018 | West Chester & Chadds Ford Life


Local entrepreneur Continued from Page 17

eat it slower, square by square, throughout the day, rather than all at once, so you could savor it more.” Little did he know that his teenage obsession would end up being his life’s work. Or maybe he had an inkling. “I’ve always been kind of entrepreneur-minded,” said Steck, now a resident of Phoenixville. “I had lemonade stands. My dad has a wood shop, so I grew up in that. I used to sell his wood shavings to either farms or people who used it as firestarters. I did a lot of that as kid. And I love the aspect of trying to solve a problem or find something that was interesting and get it to more people.” But Steck’s pursuit of a healthy lifestyle, encouraged by his high school gym teacher (who also owned a CrossFit gym), combined with his own ambition, resulted in Steck’s first sweet creation. “My big thing was that there weren’t enough chocolate options that fit into what I was looking for in terms of health and fitness,” he said. “There were so many different types of peanut butter cups -- white, milk, dark


-- but no one had ever done a different nut. I thought it was kind of crazy.” With the help of some buddies, Steck pursued his concept. “Since almond butter is kind of the gateway food to health and fitness, I thought we should do an almond butter cup,” he said. “So, I went online and searched how to make a peanut butter cup. We experimented and tried ... we bought almonds, honey, salt and vanilla. Mixed up the filling, then made the chocolate; we made the cups and they actually came out perfect the first time! It’s actually the only time we’ve gotten a product right on the first try. Everything else has taken many, many iterations.” Steck and friends made a batch of the cups and took them to his teacher’s gym. “We brought these cups in and they sold out in an hour. Probably about 60 cups. We were really excited. We thought, ‘Maybe this is a thing or maybe they felt bad for us, kids selling chocolate.’ But the second bunch also sold out. “People were really liking them,” Steck continued. “That inspired me to go to small, independent health food stores. One in particular in Lansdale was called Arnold’s Way. It’s a raw, vegetarian and vegan cafe. We brought Arnold



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Above: The dark chocolate cup display cases await completion before they can be closed and transported to stores and distributors. Left: Franklin Steck checks over some of the packaging for the nut butter cups.

some cups and he was instantly in love with them, which was a great confidence builder for us. He ordered some and we got some in stock there and they were moving really well. That was our first entrance into a professional just-out-of-the-kitchen level.� Through perseverance – and promoting a product that people seemed to love – Steck was able to get his almond cups in about 30 stores.

Although he had success with his un-peanut butter cups, it wasn’t enough to commit to full time. In 2014 he opened his own CrossFit gym in Collegeville. “I used to bring chocolate into the gym at the beginning. And people said, ‘These are great, you’ve got to keep making them.’ But I like to stay focused and do one thing really well.� After two years, he sold the gym and decided to travel


Continued on Page 20



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Local entrepreneur Continued from Page 19

to Europe, going to Prague in the Czech Republic to teach English. “I ended up being really bored,” Steck said. “But how can you be bored? I realized I was just itching to get back to start something. Chocolate was calling me, in a sense.” Changing the name to Vör Foods, after the Norse goddess of wisdom and clarity, in 2016 Steck used his money from the sale of the gym, and some funds from his girlfriend, to lease a spot at the Artisan Exchange in West Chester. The Exchange offers approved manufacturing space to small start-up food companies and seemed just the right spot for Vör’s new incarnation. But Steck wasn’t resting on his laurels. “We reached back to our previous customers, and got a decent amount of them back, and then we spent weeks and weeks and weeks driving around to local coffee shops and natural markets, and driving to New York, and trying to get local markets there. Kind of going door-to-door, going up to owners and saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got these great cups, what do you think about picking these up in your store? They’re not like anything else.’ We did that for a good six months until we had a nice consistent base of customers.” Someone bearing chocolate, Steck noted with a smile, is usually pretty welcome. “The small, independent food markets are the bread-andbutter of an initial food company,” Steck said of the basic Vör distribution strategy. “You have to build those roots. They’re really the only people who are willing to give you a chance in the first place. It also gives you a chance to validate whether people like the product and whether they’re buying it.” He said their particular customers often shop at these sorts of locations. “Ours is directed toward people who were interested in better options, and [these shoppers are] the perfect demographic for these to work. And you get to meet really cool business owners and market owners,” he said. In addition to about 100 stores in Pennsylvania and New York carrying the chocolate butter cups, Whole Foods approached Vör and now sells its product in about three dozen stores. “We’re so lucky,” Steck said of the Whole Foods relationship. He believes it was because of their concentration on the smaller stores that the larger company became aware of Vör’s goods. Almond is the best seller, he said, followed by hazelnut and cashew. Sunflower also has its fans. “The people who Continued on Page 22 20

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Local entrepreneur Continued from Page 20

love it, really love it. Vegan is for a particular group. And coconut is the newest, so we’re still waiting [to determine its popularity].” Another product line of Vör’s seemed the natural next step: Nut butters. “We already made the butters for our filling, so we figured we might as well try some,” Steck said. “Hazelnut just by itself, rather than like a Nutella [chocolate and hazelnut spread], has surprisingly been pretty popular. We’ve noticed people are interested in just getting hazelnuts ground up rather than with chocolate. It has a more kind of that mature, nice, old-school hazelnut flavor. We decided to launch all the butters because of the movement we’ve been seeing on the hazelnut.” In addition to stores, the cups have been available through online retailer Amazon, although Vör is restocking its Amazon supply. Currently the nut butters can also be purchased online through the Vör website (www.vorfoods. com/nut-butter), although Steck said he’s working on getting them placed in stores soon. The butters also come in almond, cashew, macadamia


and sunflower varieties. Like the chocolate cups, all are free of gluten, preservatives and soy. The 12-ounce jars range in price from $10.99 for the sunflower seed butter to $24.99 for the macadamia butter, the latter being a much more expensive nut. Vör purchases its roasted nuts from a purveyor in Philadelphia, and Steck said he’s very pleased with their quality. Since there is nothing in these pure butters but the chopped, roasted nuts, Steck has two part-time employees handling their production. In making the cups, about four employees handle the duties, making 1,000 to 1,300 cups per day. And while the products are “all natural,” they can’t yet carry the USDA “organic” label. “While we use nothing artificial, no preservatives, no additives, and no colorings -- we are not considered fully organic,” Steck said. “Our suppliers are working towards adding this certification, as are we, but it unfortunately is a very expensive process. We hope to be officially organic at some point as we grow our sales and ability to get that process streamlined.” More information is available at www.vorfoods.com. Natalie Smith may be contacted at DoubleSMedia@rocketmail.com.

West Chester & Chadds Ford Life | Spring/Summer 2018 | www.chestercounty.com

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|West Chester & Chadds Ford Cover Story|

K-9 Academy trai

From bomb detection to patrolling, they handle it all 24

West Chester & Chadds Ford Life | Spring/Summer 2018 | www.chestercounty.com

Photos by Jie Deng

ains dogs for duty By Natalie Smith Staff writer


here’s no doubt in Lt. Harry McKinney’s mind that dogs have their own personalities. It’s his business to know, and Chester County is safer for it. And as head of the Chester County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit, McKinney knows how crucial it is for the handler and dog to understand and bond with one another. As supervisor of the Sheriff’s K-9 Academy, he helps train the partners to do their jobs.

Continued on Page 26

www.chestercounty.com | Spring/Summer 2018 | West Chester & Chadds Ford Life


K-9 Academy Continued from Page 25

“We’ll have the handlers take the dog home, even two or three weeks before the Academy,” McKinney said. “Once you start feeding the dog, giving the dog water and walking the dog, you start developing a relationship with that dog -- a bonding relationship. You need that bonding relationship before you go right into training. Our unit all take the dogs home. When they get a partner, that’s their partner.” The canines and their handlers – all sheriff’s deputies – spend 400 hours primarily on obedience, patrol work, and detecting explosives, narcotics and fire accelerants via scent. The K-9 unit currently has seven German shepherds, two English Labradors and one Belgian Malinois. “We work with three or four companies that sell dogs,” McKinney said. Many import their animals from overseas. These young dogs can know basic commands. “They’re usually trained in the language [from the country they] came from. If it was a German dog, most are trained in German. If it’s a Czech dog, it could be trained in Czech,” McKinney said. “We started with all shepherds. Every dog has a unique sense of working. We try to get the best dog and have it trained in more than one thing. We have four bomb dogs -- four shepherds -- and all four are trained in patrol. They track, they look for bad people, lost children or evidence.” The lieutenant personally handles three dogs -- two

German shepherds and a Labrador. The German-born shepherds – Afra, a bomb dog; and Jessie, a narcotics dog – also work on patrol and article searches. He’s the primary handler of a black Lab, Melody, who is a comfort dog. A friendly and relaxed animal, her purpose is to calm those who might need reassuring, particularly children. Melody, lolling at McKinney’s feet during an interview, responds to English. “That’s as excited as she gets,” he said, smiling. “They play with her or they pet her belly. She’s trained to comfort, to touch, to lie next to someone.” The Lab was found in Morristown, N.J., where she was working as a certified Seeing Eye dog. But a propensity for stealing food off plates made her inappropriate for that work and eligible for placement elsewhere. “They knew we were looking for a comfort dog,” McKinney said. “We got a call and spent the whole day with her. I brought her home, a week before Christmas. The Crime Victims Center called and said it was an emergency. We took her there before she was trained, and the child started talking.” The K-9 unit itself started in 2006, in the wake of a bomb threat at the Justice Center in West Chester that had the complex shut down for the day. Officers had to wait for an outside sniffer dog to arrive. Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh then had the idea of her office acquiring its own bomb dogs. The unit started with two. They were initially trained at an academy in Ohio, McKinney said, “with a specialized trainer coming in every month [to West Chester] to keep their abilities up to federal standards.” As the unit grew, McKinney and now-retired Lt. John Freas eventually took on the responsibility of becoming trainers, McKinney in due course continuing to the level of master trainer. The two lieutenants were certified to do the in-service training themselves. Continued on Page 28


West Chester & Chadds Ford Life | Spring/Summer 2018 | www.chestercounty.com

Lt. Harry McKinney and Melody. The English Labrador is trained as a comfort dog.

Deputy Brian Bolt and Yukon, a German shepherd. The Germanborn canine is certified in explosives detection, tracking, patrol and article searching.

Deputy Michael Sarro and Dexter, a Belgian Malinois. The highenergy dog is certified in narcotics detection, patrol, tracking and apprehension. The partners also serve on the Chester County Seriff’s Office Fugitive Apprehension Unit.

Deputy September Spencer and K-9 Luke. An English Labrador, Luke is trained in detecting narcotics, tracking and article searches.


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K-9 Academy Continued from Page 26

In 2015, Sgt. Paul Bryant, a retired cadaver canine handler with the Philadelphia Police Department, joined the Sheriff’s Office. With his 33 years of experience, “He took our unit to a whole different level,” McKinney said. “He accelerated us here in Pennsylvania.” Incorporating Bryant’s expertise in the mix, a year later, they established the Chester County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Academy, allowing them to fully train their dogs and others. Bryant’s proficiency with his dog, Don, has been recognized nationally. “In 2017, Don was named No. 1 cadaver dog in the nation” by the United States Police Canine Association, McKinney said. “Techniques may vary a little bit,” McKinney said, in comparing the Sheriff’s K-9 Academy to others, “but the common goal is ultimately to find the bad guy, the narcotic or the bomb.” Training is done at various sites around the county, including parks and the Chester County Public Safety Training Campus in South Coatesville. The K-9 Academy has trained dogs from outside the department, including

for SEPTA and Ridley Police Department. “We’ve been approached by Lincoln University,” McKinney said. “They have a dog that’s getting ready to retire.” In choosing dogs, they are looking for those with a “strong play-drive,” McKinney said, because their canines are rewarded with the handler playing with them with a favorite toy. The dogs are kept excited and the search is a game for them. “We don’t reward with food,” McKinney said. “Our philosophy is: You get up in the morning, you feed your dog. You go home at night, you feed your dog. It’s not a reward, it’s time for them to eat.” He said the meals of most food-rewarded dogs may be divvied up over the course of a day, so the dog doesn’t overeat. There’s also the bonding aspect. “If I’m playing with the dog and rewarding the dog, I’m the only one that’s going to reward the dog,” McKinney said. If someone else feeds the dog over the weekend, perhaps, the food loses its reward aspect. McKinney said it’s vital to keep the dog “playing” to





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maintain its attention. “We always have a ‘hot spot’ in anything we do -whether we’re looking for bombs, drugs or a cadaver … if the dog works two or three days and doesn’t find anything, sooner or later he’ll lose interest. If we played every day and there was no reward, you wouldn’t want to play again.” A “hot spot,” McKinney explained, is the deliberate planting of a pseudo searched-for object. McKinney said officers were recently called to a convenience store for a bomb threat. “We searched for a couple hours and didn’t find anything. But there was an area that we deemed was clean. Then we set up a ‘hot spot’ that was monitored by an officer all day. So, when the dogs went in and searched for 30 to 40 minutes, you could let the dogs come out to the hot spot, find something, reward the dog, play with the dog and the dog is ready to go again.” Of course, they don’t plant bombs. The object could be a can of smokeless powder, McKinney said. Bomb dogs are trained to detect 33 odors. “With those 33 substances, someone can make a combination of 10,000 bombs,” McKinney said. “If there was a bomb built, it had to use something from that list of 33. Same with a drug dog. They’re trained in the odors of nine drugs. And the dog’s not looking for a bomb. He’s looking for his toy. He’s looking for the smell, and when he finds it and sits, he’s going to get his toy.” The Sheriff’s K-9 Academy dogs are trained in the passive manner, meaning when they’ll alert their handlers that they recognize a scent by sitting down. An aggressive manner would have the dogs scratching and chewing at the detected scent. McKinney said he has “been with the sheriff’s office 32 years. I’ve probably learned every aspect of the sheriff’s office. From the first day of coming in, I’ve worked through every division in the office.” His becoming a canine handler and trainer came naturally to the lieutenant. Growing up on a farm near West Grove, “I always loved animals. Have always loved dogs,” he said. Continued on Page 30

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K-9 Academy Continued from Page 29

With a handler opening his or her home to a canine partner, it’s important that they get along with the handler’s family, including other pets. It’s imperative that the canines know that while the handler is the boss, they are the “top dog.” “Our dogs need to know they’re alpha,” McKinney said. “They can do whatever they want as long as they listen to me and do what I tell them to do.” These Academy graduates are socialized, however. “Our dogs are very good with kids and very good with people.” said McKinney, who has nine grandchildren. “I watch them playing with the kids out in the yard, and then I use them the next day for patrol work.” The dogs are brought to about 100 calls every year in Chester County’s 67 municipalities, McKinney said. “Everything from missing persons, to running traffic stops, to bomb searches, to narcotic searches.” He noted that after the Nov. 16 fire at Barclay Friends Senior Living Community in West Chester, the cadaver dog worked the property grounds for a week.

McKinney said his training experience, besides making him more patient, has made him a perceptive observer of canine behavior. “When you get this close to a dog, they actually can talk to you,” he said. “When you learn your dog, they have a different approach when they want to go out, want a drink. They can really communicate.” He feels it’s true with one dog in particular. Despite her years with the unit, McKinney’s first dog, the patrol/bomb dog Afra, with whom he started working in 2009, isn’t quite ready to retire. “They let you know,” McKinney said. “She turns 11 in November. I’m hoping to get one more year out of her. She’s got a heart like a lion. She hasn’t lost a step … but one day she’ll look up at me and let me know, ‘I’m kind of tired today.’ Then I’ll know.” More information about the Chester County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit and K-9 Academy is available at www. ccsk9.org. Natalie Smith may be contacted at DoubleSMedia.com






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|West Chester & Chadds Ford Q&A|

Kelly Kuder Yoga Underground and Transcend Yoga, Chadds Ford

Just like life, the practice of yoga is a journey that begins with the first step, and for Kelly Kuder of Transcend Yoga and Yoga Underground in Chadds Ford, her own journey has been paved with heartache and loss, held together by a spiritual connection that leans toward hope and discovery. Recently, Kelly took a few moments to talk to West Chester & Chadds Ford Life about her work on the mat – and in the air and on the sea. Q: Where were you in your life that inspired you to go the mat for the first time? A: I had just moved from Washington, D.C. to Vero Beach, Florida. I was three months pregnant with my first child, who later died soon after he was born. It was crushing, life changing, and happened at a time when we were expecting our first child. Our son Zachary had a 98 percent chance of survival, but he died two weeks later. A loss of this kind can tear a marriage apart, but if anything, it brought my husband and me closer together. I used to say to him, “Why would we have an issue with each other when you’re the only person who knows exactly what I’m feeling?”


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So in many ways, it was the emotion of grief that introduced you to yoga, which then influenced the course of your life. Yes, I went to yoga, in order to establish a sense of community, around people who supported me, hugged me, listened to me and shared words of wisdom. It was a natural transition for me as it became a spiritual shift, as well. My husband would practice yoga with me and it ended up being very healing for both of us. We would practice next to each other and found much comfort in sharing our time together on the mat while working through our sorrow. We would always hold hands in Savasana. When my father died when I was 16, I saw them wheel him away, and in that moment, I knew life was precious and short. In that moment, I vowed to live life large and full, and I recall saying to myself, “Live large, because life is precious, and there is so much greatness to experience. No excuses, Kelly.” I had stepped away from the Catholic Church when I was 18, so for a long time I was looking to fill that spiritual practice. The transition eventually began to make sense when I found yoga. It pushed me through that healing and then came to honor the parts of me that I most like.

and the suffering, and how we don’t have to sit with that pain. I never liked feeling sad and down. It’s heavy and thoughts become negative, so for me, it makes sense to experience joy and live a life of play. If people are to believe in a higher power, are we truly expected to be here to suffer, or are we supposed to be here in order to experience play and joy, and inspire others to be on that same path?

Most people don’t ever recover from such intense, powerful losses, yet you have turned your inner pain into something extraordinary, in terms of what you give to other people, as a teacher. Was it a conscious decision to go into teaching, or did you fall into it? I was definitely drawn to become a healing artist. There are many situations I can relate to – the pain

Practicing yoga in a hammock must feel almost cocoon-like. People have told me that being in the aerial yoga hammocks makes them feel like a child again, especially when lying in the hammock in Savasana. They feel supported, nurtured as well as playful, youthful and relaxed.

You are a yoga teacher at Underground Yoga in Chadds Ford, and you also own Transcend Yoga, as well. Part of your teaching curriculum includes aerial yoga. Describe it. Aerial yoga has been around for over ten years. I discovered it about seven years ago, and fell in love with it. I knew it would become something big! The hammock is made out of a synthetic polyester and supports up to a thousand pounds. In our studio, it’s attached to two points in the ceiling, and it allows for nearly every kind of yoga posture to be done in that fabric. For myself and many of our students, it’s been incredibly physically healing, as it decompresses all of one’s joints, especially the spine. Often, more advanced yoga poses are easier to do in a hammock than on a yoga mat.

Continued on Page 40

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Kelly Kuder Continued from Page 39

You are a regular instructor at yoga retreats, both in our region and in other parts of the world, where you teach “Air, Land and Sea.” “Air” is aerial yoga. “Land” is traditional practice on a mat, and “Sea” is done on a paddle board in the water, which allows people to experience yoga, meditation, mindfulness and being in the moment, on a paddle board. It’s an embodiment of “Lila,” or Divine Play, which allows people to get to a point where they think of something grander than themselves. While retreats often allow an individual the opportunity for focused attention, they’re not always affordable for everyone, and even the cost of attending regular classes can add up. For those who wish to explore yoga on a more cost-conscious budget, what suggestions do you have for them? I would recommend that they not be afraid to explore a home practice by using podcast and on line Yoga classes. By taking a few classes at studios, they can also bring

what they learn at the studio into their home practice. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It should be about listening to your body, about what feels natural to you at the time. Your body will tell you where it needs to go. There are so many podcasts now, and online classes, for practitioners to choose from. For many years, you were a ballerina and a dancer, specializing in modern and jazz dance. Compare the artistry of ballet and dance to the artistry of yoga. I tell my students that yoga is like a graceful dance on the mat – to make their intentions to be fluid and seamless; just like we try to do with our minds…fluid and seamless. I love the breath and grace that comes from ballet, dance and yoga. Every yoga teacher gets to experience transformation – both in themselves through their own practice, and in the stories they see developing in the students they teach. Of the hundreds of students you have taught, are there any particular stories of transformation that stand out to you? I have been teaching for 14 years and have witnessed so many stories of transformation, but I would have to say that a few have risen above others. I have had a woman


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who is deaf attend one of my 20-hour aerial yoga teacher trainings. It was quite a powerful experience for those of us to see her bravery to stand up and lead an hour class. I’ve also had a woman take an aerial yoga class who only had one leg. She pulled her prosthetic limb off to help make her aerial experience easier. There was also another student who had been in a very bad car accident and suffered some damage to her brain. She was in recuperation for the next six months, but when she first came back to aerial yoga with us, she would tell her brain to have her right hand grab her right foot, only to have her right foot not respond. Essentially, she had to rewire her brain again, and I knew in that moment that attending yoga as often as she could was going to assist her healing much faster. It was wonderful to witness her growth and healing. That student now teaches Aerial Yoga at Yoga Underground. She is a wonderful teacher, has a strong following and is healed. She is forever grateful that she found yoga because she knows it’s what saved her from her brain injury, and the yoga community gave her so much support. What are your favorite spots in West Chester and Chadds Ford? I do love going to the Chaddsford Winery. I love the events there, and I have taught yoga there. I enjoy going to Brandywine Prime. I also enjoy Teca in West Chester, and I also like to hike in the ChesLen Preserve. What guests would you invite to your dinner party? The guest of honor would be my mother. I would also invite Albert Einstein, Dalai Lama, Mikhail Baryshnikov, my husband, and the amazing tribe of friends I have, which are a group of women that live in Seattle, San Diego, Washington, D.C., as well as in Kennett Square and Chadds Ford. What food or beverages are always in your refrigerator? Kinda boring! Lots of fruits and vegetables, mostly organic. I always have cream in the refrigerator for my coffee. Hot sauces galore, mayo, awesome pickles from Whole Foods and fancy cheese. To learn more about Kelly Kuder, visit her website at www.kellykuder.com. To learn more about Yoga Underground, visit www. yogaundergroundlove.com. Yoga Underground and Transcend Yoga are located at 1609 Baltimore Pike, Building 500, Chadds Ford, Pa. 19317. Richard L. Gaw www.chestercounty.com | Spring/Summer 2018 | West Chester & Chadds Ford Life


|West Chester & Chadds Ford History|

The potter’s field, a forgotten piece of local history By Steven Hoffman Staff Writer


hen Chadds Ford resident Helen Sipala was a small child, her parents, Arlice and Gertrude Murray, settled into their new home on land that was owned by the county and was the site of the Embreeville State Hospital. “We moved into the house when I was 2 years old,” Sipala explained during an interview in April. “I am 83 now, so it was a long time ago.” It was, in fact, 1936. Arlice and Gertrude had moved from the Sparta, N.C., area to Pennsylvania in search of work, which was difficult to find at that time – and more difficult down south where the Murray family was from. Arlice and Gertrude had been small farmers in North Carolina, and Arlice took a job with Chester County, which operated the Embreeville State Hospital and the Chester County Home on the same property where the new Murray home was located. Arlice would oversee the farming operations on the property at a time – the 1930s, 1940s, and early 1950s – when the hospital property was largely self-sufficient. There was a farm on the property, and the fruits and vegetables were grown there in a garden. There were even cows for milking and hogs for meat. The food that was grown and produced on the farm was sufficient for all the facilities on the property. Patients in the hospital did the laundry, handled the sewing, and worked the land, tending to the crops and contributing to their own well-being in a variety of ways. “The patients worked all around our house,” Sipala


recalled, “and we became very familiar with the patients. We knew so many by name because we grew up with them. When they would die, we knew they were going to potter’s field.” A potter’s field, or paupers’ grave, is an American expression for the burial of unknown or indigent people. The origin of potter’s fields can be traced back to the Bible. There is a reference to Akeldama, which was purchased by the high priests of Jerusalem for the burial of strangers, criminals, and the poor. It was paid for with the coins that had been paid to Judas Iscariot for his identification of Jesus. The term “potter’s field” comes from Matthew 27:3-27:8 in the New Testament, in which Jewish priests take 30 pieces of silver returned by a remorseful Judas after he betrayed Jesus: Then Judas, who betrayed him, seeing that he was condemned, repenting himself, brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and ancients, saying: “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.” But they said: “What is that to us? Look thou to it.” And casting down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed, and went and hanged himself with a halter. But the chief priests, having taken the pieces of silver, said: “It is not lawful to put them into the corbona, because it is the price of blood.” And after they had consulted together, they bought with them the potter’s field, to be a burying place for strangers. For this the field was called Haceldama, that is, the field of blood, even to this day. The potter’s field was about an acre in size, and was also situated, by the time the Murray family moved there, on property owned by the Embreeville State Hospital. The origins of the small cemetery can actually be traced

West Chester & Chadds Ford Life | Spring/Summer 2018 | www.chestercounty.com

Photo by Steven Hoffman

Some of the markers in the potter’s field.

All photos courtesy unless otherwise noted

Today, the potter’s field is part of the ChesLen Preserve.

to 1798, when the cemetery was started for a poorhouse that was located nearby. That poorhouse expanded over the years, eventually included an asylum, and then became the Embreeville State Mental Hospital. By the time the Murray family moved into the house because Arlice had gotten his job with the county, there were two neighboring houses. Today the only house of the three left standing is the one that the Murrays lived in. In 2004, Sipala and her five siblings compiled some stories and photos into a book, The Murray Family 1936-1955. The book documented their personal experiences growing up in the small community. It talked about the delights of growing up in such a small community. One illustration: Mr. Eikeldinger, the baker for the Embreeville State Hospital, would share delicious gingerbread cookies and sugared doughnuts with the children. The Murray family would have to take the bus to West Chester or Coatesville if they wanted to do

something really special, like go to the movies, but there was plenty of fun to be had in the neighborhood. “It’s a family story of our life there,” she said, explaining that the work is not just a family history focusing on the family itself, but focusing more on what their experiences were. Sipala said that when she was growing up, she and her siblings had everything that they could ever want right there outside their home – the Brandywine Creek, a railroad, and a bridge were all nearby to keep them entertained for endless hours. They spent a lot of time fishing or swimming in the Brandywine Creek. “It was a playground,” Sipala said. “It was anything a kid could ever want.” Arlice and Gertrude made sure that the children understood that the hospital was not a place to play or fool around in. In the book, the Murray siblings recalled that, “We were Continued on Page 44

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Potter’s Field Continued from Page 43

only allowed to go near the buildings on the immediate hospital grounds with permission and for a purpose. However, many activities occurred in the farm buildings and fields near our home. We never missed a chance to watch from a respectful distance.” Sipala said that growing up around the patients taught the Murray children to be understanding and respectful to them. “It was a very interesting life and it humbled us,” she said. “We never thought negatively about the patients.” In the decades in the middle of the last century, Embreeville was treating people with a wide range of ailments—sometimes they could be very minor ailments or disorders, but at the time there weren’t other support systems or resources available to help people who suffered from disadvantages. The Chester County Home provided a safe shelter for people who couldn’t secure a home of their own. Sometimes, the Murray children would see horse-drawn wagons hauling caskets to the potter’s field. Chester

County had the need to provide a grave for those people who had no family to claim the body when they died. This scene is described in The Murray Family 19361955: “If we happened to be playing outside, our mother would have us stand still and face the road in silence as a matter of respect as the casket was drawn past the front of our house.” Sipala explained, “Our parents were southerners, and in the south, you show respect.” The Murray family lived so close to the potter’s field that they could see it from their front porch. Growing up so close to the Embreeville State Hospital and to the potter’s field made an impact on the Murray children. In the book, they wrote, “The area, neighbors, friends, school, hospital, and even some of the patients helped mold us into who we became later … you can’t put a price on that and you can’t take it away.” Arlice and Gertrude built their own home about a mile away from the one where Sipala and her siblings grew up in during 1955. By that time, four of the six children were old enough to have already moved out of the house. The Embreeville State Hospital continued to evolve through the decades, as the state changed how it operated its hospitals, but eventually closed its doors.

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The potter’s field is still there and is being maintained. There are about 200 markers in the field. They are not grave markers. When people were buried there, it was often in haphazard fashion, and sometimes people were buried on top of each other. Indian Hannah Freeman, who is believed to be the last of the Lenni-Lenape indians in Chester County, is said to have been buried in this potter’s field, but other sites have also been suggested as her final resting place. Sipala said that in later years, her brother, Clarence, found the potter’s field a place of peace. “He would walk up there every single Sunday unless it was raining hard or snowing,” she explained. He would take his own lawn mower there and mow the grass to keep the field looking neat. Clarence would even plant bulbs in the field, using the end of his cane to clear a spot for the bulbs. Today, the potter’s field is part of the ChesLen Preserve, which is the largest privately owned preserve in the county and is managed by Natural Lands. Sipala said that she is glad that she kept scrapbooks of pictures and information about her childhood home and the surrounding area. She’s particularly glad that she and the siblings took so many pictures, documenting a somewhat forgotten piece of local history. To contact Staff Writer Steven Hoffman, email editor@chestercounty.com.

Clarence found the potter’s field to be a place of peace, and he spent a lot of time mowing the field and planting flowers. Some of the flowers that Clarence Murray planted.

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|West Chester & Chadds Ford Arts|

Finding a new dir 46

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Artist Mark Dance delves deeply into the Chester County landscape By John Chambless Staff Writer



hen he sits down to put his brush to canvas, Mark Dance is surrounded by old friends. His easel belonged to the late artist George “Frolic” Weymouth. There’s a framed note from Andrew Wyeth nearby. A stone from N.C. Wyeth’s gravesite is at his left hand. Throughout his two-story residence are autographs and artwork from artists he admires, along with small groupings of antiques that reflect Dance’s impeccable sense of design. The rented home on the grounds of the Cheshire Hunt near Unionville is cozy and comfortable. Dance lives here during a crossroads of his life, a recent separation from his wife of 30 years. As a result, Dance can sense that his personal life and his path as an artist are taking some bold new directions. On the easel during an interview in April was an unfinished winter landscape that captures a nearby road, with an exuberant bush about to explode into bloom. It is, Dance said, a reference to his new location and his determination to bloom where he’s been planted. His roots in art are deep, and he counts 1700s artists and architects Nathaniel and George Dance among his ancestors. Nathaniel, a founding member of the Royal Academy, is known for a portrait he painted of George III, a print of which hangs just outside Dance’s studio door in Unionville. Continued on Page 48

Photo by John Chambless

Mark Dance at his easel, with a painting in progress.

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Mark Dance Continued from Page 47

Growing up, he was immersed in art, since his father, Robert Dance, is a professional artist now acclaimed as one of America’s premier maritime realist painters. Mark grew up reading illustrated children’s books, including those illustrated by N.C. Wyeth. He has lived in Chester County for about 25 years. Sitting at his kitchen table over lunch, he recalled a brief youthful foray into business school, which ended when he found out he had no gift for business. A switch to Virginia Commonwealth University led to a 1992 bachelor’s degree in fine arts with a concentration in illustration. He moved to the Chadds Ford area, where he was immersed in the places and artwork of the Brandywine School. But one of the main influences on his career happened by chance. “My wife’s sister had a watercolor by Rea Redifer,” he recalled of the late Chester County painter. “I always loved it. I would see him when I was out at places, like at Hank’s. I had to beg him for a year – ‘Hey, can you give me lessons?’ He said, ‘If we’re going to do this, you’ll have to commit to it.’ So I agreed and we’d go out into the landscape.” Redifer “made the watercolors sing,” Dance recalled. “The pigment would just fall into the tooth of the paper. He would use that texture in some way, and he knew when to stop. He told me ‘You can’t be too protective of your work. Let those mistakes happen.’” That looseness was a valuable lesson, but Dance now paints exclusively in oils. “They agree with me,” he said of his chosen medium. “Watercolors are like playing chess – you have to be thinking four steps ahead all the time.” Redifer was a living link to the Brandywine tradition, and had studied with Carolyn Wyeth inside N.C. Wyeth’s studio in Chadds Ford. Redifer’s infectious spirit and decades of experience made a lifelong impression on Dance. Early in his career, Dance had a screen printing business that supplied T-shirts for local fairs and events. It was very hands-on work, he said. “I did all my original art, and I was also pulling the squeegees,” Dance said. “Each T-shirt was unique. So people were buying them up. Eventually it was killing my wrists, I had a family to raise, and I got burned out.” Dance told his wife that he needed to paint, and she made space for him to pursue his art. As a veterinarian, she held a steady job while Mark stayed home to care for their two children, Caroline and Spencer, and fit painting in where he could. His children are now 18 and 16. Staking a claim in the home of so many landscape 48

painters wasn’t particularly intimidating, Dance said with a laugh. “You just need to find your own groove, your own style,” he said. “A lot of artists paint like the Wyeths. It took me decades for my work to be recognized as Mark Dance.” The lushly painted landscapes Dance captures recall the strongest work of Bucks County Impressionists, including Daniel Garber and Edward Redfield. He’s also a great admirer of John Twachtman, Childe Hassam and J. Alden Weir. Now, if one of Dance’s landscapes was hanging next to a snowy scene by Garber, for instance, his work would easily hold its own. “My work is much more New Hope School than it is Brandywine School,” he said, adding that N.C. Wyeth’s personal work also looked more like that of the Pennsylvania Impressionists. Completely confident in his subject matter and medium, Dance has nevertheless been under the radar in the region’s art world. He has a few paintings at the Strode’s Mill Gallery near West Chester, and his recent show at Mala Galleria in Kennett Square was a big success, selling 80 percent of what he exhibited – but Dance is not a household name. Yet. “It’s tough to get 50 paintings together for a show,” he said. While he’s happy to sell, and “I’m not attached to any of my paintings,” it is nevertheless hard work to produce them. “Painting is painful,” he said. “It’s not easy for me. But I do want people to buy them and see what I see. I do work hard at it.” And the self-promotion that’s a requirement for artists doesn’t come naturally. “I think I’m one of those painters who’d rather stay inside and talk to the house plants and do my work. But then I realize, ‘I’ve got to sell some of this stuff and talk to people, and put myself out there.’ I don’t like doing that,” he said. At one point not so long ago, Dance piled up his canvases and burned them, along with his easel, in a symbolic clearing of the decks. Kennett Square artist Robert Jackson, one of Dance’s best friends, came to his rescue. “He was in the driveway the next day, with a spare easel,” Dance said. “He said, ‘OK, get to work. Stop this nonsense.’ Bob is truly one of my dearest friends. But hey, if you’re not a frustrated artist, then it means you’ve settled into this feeling of comfort that probably isn’t that creative.” Among the people who have also guided Dance was George “Frolic” Weymouth. Dance was involved with the Young Friends of the Brandywine, centered at the Brandywine River Museum. “I was vice-chairman of the Young Friends for many years, did lots of murals, I was artistic consultant for their 40th anniversary,” he said. “Frolic saw my dedication, and he was very easy to make friends with. He really struck up a connection with my dad, too,” he added, pulling out a photo of his father and

West Chester & Chadds Ford Life | Spring/Summer 2018 | www.chestercounty.com

Weymouth in a characteristically feisty pose. “I liked him because he’d say and do anything that was on his mind.” Touring the Brandywine River Museum of Art, Dance said, “meant the world to me. To go there and recharge my batteries. That place is a diamond. I felt like I was doing something to help this land, and it gave back in so many ways, with the Young Friends, and having that art there at my disposal.” Dance crossed paths at several points with Andrew Wyeth, and admitted that he was not above a bit of fan behavior. “I drove by him and saw him and Helga in a landscape,” he said. “The next day, I drove back and stopped the car, just to see what he was looking at. I looked on the ground and there were all these leaves that had watercolors spattered all over them. I scooped up the leaves and I have them in a box around here somewhere,” he said, smiling. His new personal situation “is a rebirth,” he said, adding that he “will now have more time to do larger, more ambitious paintings” and he sees his career leading him to cultivate some Main Line art galleries, and possibly New Hope, where his artistic heroes lived and worked. “I’d like to get enough work together to do seasonal shows,” he said. “The winter show would be really big because I’m such a snow guy.” With the arrival of warm weather, he is looking forward

‘Autumn – Chester County’

to revisiting some of the farms and hills around Unionville for subject matter, maybe on a bike to increase his access. “I’m really familiar with the area,” he said. “So these pastures are going to be my studio.” For more information, visit www.markdance.com. To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email jchambless@chestercounty.com.

www.chestercounty.com | Spring/Summer 2018 | West Chester & Chadds Ford Life


|West Chester & Chadds Ford Photo Essay|

Preserving the pa p Photos by Jim Coarse From a passing vehicle, the 322 acres of the Crebilly Farm offer a breathtaking vista that is nearly unmatched anywhere else in Chester County. It is a chapter mark of our area’s rich history and a reminder of how delicate the infrastructure of nature and open space is. Owned by the Robinson family since World War II, Crebilly Farm is part of the Brandywine Battlefield, and one of the last three large, open spaces left in Westtown Township. In June 2016, the farm was threatened when Continued on Page 52


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Crebilly Farm Continued from Page 50

an agreement of sale was reached between a developer and the farm’s owner, but groups like Neighbors for Crebilly, Save Crebilly Farm, Stop the Commercialization of Westtown Township and Crebilly Farm Friends have led a public outcry to save the land from developers, and at the end of 2017, the Westtown Township Board Continued on Page 54


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Crebilly Farm Continued from Page 52

of Supervisors voted to deny a conditional-use application to build more than 300 homes there. While the future of Crebilly Farm remains to be seen, it remains, for the moment, in full view, for every passing car to drive by and lock in the pastoral, while the pastoral fights for its survival. – Richard L. Gaw


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|West Chester & Chadds Ford People|

A home away from A world of opportunities opens to students from China through New Oasis

All photos courtesy unless otherwise noted

By John Chambless Staff Writer


n a recent warm day, with a gentle breeze stirring the windchimes on the patio, Siyao Chen was right at home. Her real home is in Fuzhou, in southeast China, a 14-hour flight away, but for the past three years, she has been welcomed into the West Chester home of Emlyn and Chris Frangiosa as an integral part of the family. At 17, she is still soft-spoken, but far from the anxious 14-year-old who first heard about a program that would send her to America for an education. New Oasis International Education, based in Herndon, Va., brings promising students from China – where education is rigid, with few extracurricular activities – to a place where teens can branch out and pursue


Right: Studying at Villa Maria Academy has allowed Siyao to pursue a wide range of interests. Below: The Frangiosas with Siyao Chen on a trip to the West Chester Railroad.

West Chester & Chadds Ford Life | Spring/Summer 2018 | www.chestercounty.com

om home

their passions, with the goal of securing a good college placement, and ultimately a career. Siyao, who also goes by Joanna for those who stumble over the pronunciation of her name, says attending three years of classes at Villa Maria Academy in Malvern has opened her eyes to a world of possibilities. As part of the New Oasis international education program, students arrive in America each August, and leave at the end of the academic year. There are breaks for Christmas and Easter, when students may return to their families in China, but they can also opt to stay with their host parents during those times. This summer, Siyao is excited about attending an advanced math class at Brown University, where she will get a taste of college life by living in a dorm with other teens through July 28. She enters her senior year at Villa Maria in the fall. Saying goodbye at graduation next year, as her host mother, Emlyn, said with a sigh, “is going to be tough.” In China, Siyao said, “there are three years of middle school, three years of high school and three years of college,” but coming to America has opened doors to Drama Club, badminton lessons, Mandarin Club, the student orchestra (where she plays piano and percussion), as well as karate lessons and volunteering for community organizations. She is one of 16 Chinese students currently at Villa Maria. Before becoming part of New Oasis, Siyao thought of Americans as “enthusiastic,” she said with a grin. “When we learned English, all of our textbooks had conversations where they just talked … happily, I guess?” Emlyn laughed, adding, “I’m naturally a very excited person, so I am the exclamation point that she read about before coming here.” Over the past three years, Siyao can answer friends and family in China who ask what America is like by telling them, “There’s a lot of diversity, a lot of different cultures and people.” That range has been brought into focus in the past year, as the political landscape has shifted in America, and the divisions between parties have been drawn ever sharper. That kind of debate – and hostility – has been a new experience for Siyao. “In China, we don’t get to vote,” she said. “We don’t get a lot of information about what’s going on. I wasn’t old enough to know about politics when I first left China.” Those who might want to voice dissent in China,

Photo by John Chambless

From left: Host mother Emlyn Frangiosa, Siyao Chen, and program coordinator Jessica Logiurato at Frangiosa’s West Chester home.

she said, after some thought, “can write letters, I guess.” There is no Facebook in China, but WeChat – a multipurpose messaging, social media and mobile payment platform – fulfills several functions, allowing video chat. There is a selection of TV channels in China, Siyao said, “But every day when it’s 7 p.m., most channels will show the official news. Everyone gets the same information.” That news is tightly controlled by the government. Religion in China is not suppressed, but most people there are raised without a faith background. Siyao said, “I personally don’t have a religion. I didn’t have a lot of knowledge about it. But coming to Villa Maria has opened my mind.” Villa Maria has theology classes as part of its curriculum, and Siyao has enthusiastically embraced learning about Bible history and aspects of faith. Emlyn, who is Roman Catholic, said Siyao’s work in her theology classes is so thorough it’s intimidating. Continued on Page 58

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A home away from home Continued from Page 57

“She probably knows more about Catholicism than I do,” Emlyn said, laughing. And the lessons the teen is learning have paid off. “The students had a work program where they go to work with former prison inmates who are learning how to go back into society. I had some apprehension about that, but Siyao said, ‘You know, the church would tell you that everybody has a chance to reform.’ And I thought, ‘OK, you’re right, point taken.’” Siyao has experienced as much of America as Emlyn and her husband could manage, although as her workload has increased, long trips have been largely pushed aside. Among Siyao’s favorite trips was one to Amelia Island in Florida, where the Frangiosas have family. The quiet of the island, she said, was a welcome experience, although she has been to major cities as well. “Cities are more for shopping,” she said thoughtfully. “I like the island more for relaxing.” Her favorite experiences here have included riding a horse in Florida, and taking part in indoor skydiving at an iFLY location. But her immersion in American culture has also included a spate of movies from the late 1980s and 1990s that she has never seen before – “The Princess Bride,” “Ghostbusters,” and the adventures of Indiana Jones. And she has become an ace at figuring out mysteries before either of her host parents. “She always guesses who did it, and gets it right,” Emlyn said. Siyao has developed a taste for most Italian foods, she said, although “I still don’t like bacon that much.” Much of what America considers Chinese food is also nothing like the food at home, she said. The family has found one restaurant with reliably authentic Chinese cuisine, and Emlyn has learned to prepare Siyao’s favorite native dishes at home, using ingredients purchased at a local Asian grocery store. Emlyn said she and her husband have embraced Siyao because “when I was young, my parents hosted people from Japan, Ireland and Sweden. And I teach English as a second language. For all of those reasons, we were very comfortable with the idea of having someone come and live with us. We don’t have children, but we have plenty of love to give.” The couple discovered New Oasis after investigating several other programs. “We were excited to see that New Oasis has their act together,” she said. “When you take somebody into your home, you want to know that you can connect with the parents and that there’s support here. We


know we can reach out to the organization at any point for help. Siyao can just be a student and a regular kid.” After an application, an interview, reference checks, a background check and a home visit, the Frangiosas got three photos of Siyao and her family, a write-up about her, and an email contact. “We started emailing, I guess, in spring of 2015,” Emlyn said. “We spoke through that summer, then did a WeChat with my husband, me, Siyao and her mother -- and her cousin, who popped in for a minute,” she added, laughing. “I was really nervous,” Siyao admitted about that first introduction, which came through a choppy video connection. “There was a delay, and I had to speak English, and I hadn’t done it a lot at that point.” “We’ve learned a few unimportant words, like we can say hello and, what, tooth?” Emlyn asked Siyao, who laughed. “Our Chinese has not progressed. But as far as Siyao goes, she has far exceeded any expectations that we had. When she first came, we expected she would be a typical teenager and she was going to have a rough transition, coming into a different country. But she’s the world’s most fluid and easy person. She is so delightful. She’s almost always on board with trying new things.” Recently, the Frangiosas got word through New Oasis that they have been approved to host another Chinese teen, a seventh-grader, next year. “It will be nice for Siyao to have a buddy, and to be a mentor,” Emlyn said, adding, “My hope is that Siyao comes back for everything she can come back for. We love her.” Jessica Logiurato, a program coordinator who works to place students with families through New Oasis, sat in on the interview with Siyao and Emlyn. The New Oasis organization places students from China with host families across the United States. Logiurato also provides comprehensive support for the host families and the students. “Our founder and CEO, Sean Chen, was an international student himself,” Logiurato said. “He went through a homestay program, but he noticed there were a lot of gaps. He didn’t have the support that New Oasis offers. He didn’t have the same kind of nurturing homestay experience, he didn’t have a local coordinator who lives in the same community as the students and their host families. He thought, ‘When I get out of college, I’m going to start a new program that will encompass all of these pieces.’ That’s how New Oasis came about.” Logiurato just marked one year with the organization,

West Chester & Chadds Ford Life | Spring/Summer 2018 | www.chestercounty.com

and is looking for host families for the coming year. She has four positions open for the international program at Villa Maria, along with families who might be called upon to act as respite hosts if necessary, she said. For Siyao, New Oasis has literally been a life-changing experience. “My parents wanted me to be independent, to make decisions for myself,” she said. “I can pick if I want to stay in America or go back to China. At first, they wanted me to stay here, but then they kind of let me choose. We’ll see. I will meet people in college and get new opportunities, so my mind might change.” Anyone interested in hosting, or finding out more information, can visit www.newoasisedu.com. To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email jchambless@chestercounty.com.

Riding a horse in Florida was a standout event for Siyao.

www.chestercounty.com | Spring/Summer 2018 | West Chester & Chadds Ford Life


|West Chester & Chadds Ford Arts| With vision, persistence and a little help from a wide network of music teachers, Ben Green of Greensleeves Music connects new musicians with superb educational opportunities

Rolled up in the Greensleeves

By Richard L. Gaw Staff Writer


t was 2006, and Ben Green found himself in a bind. Soon after graduating from West Chester University in 2001 with a degree in music education, Green began teaching music at Greenwood Elementary School in the Kennett Consolidated School District. For the next several years, he extended his teaching regimen by giving private lessons in percussion, guitar and piano, at homes throughout West Chester, Chadds Ford and beyond. When he wasn’t visiting students at their homes, Green worked part-time at the Music Center in Exton. “I would teach school until 4 p.m., and then go immediately to private lessons, and teach until 8 p.m. most nights,” said Green, who lives with his wife, Leigh and their two small children in West Chester. “The lessons I was giving began to grow every year, and I took as many as I could possibly take from Monday through Friday. “Eventually, I had reached the tipping point.” By the end of 2006, Green developed an idea that by the beginning of 2007, became a company – Greensleeves Music, based in West Chester – that connects music teachers with students throughout southern Chester County, and beyond. He’s at the center of an intricate system that


pairs instructors with a wide demographic of new musicians, who are looking to sharpen their skills on a variety of instruments. Green’s first hire at Greensleeves Music was Curtis Smith, then a graduate student in music at West Chester University. Soon after, he hired a guitar instructor, and in the past several years, the roster has expanded, taken largely from the network Green has cultivated from teaching music and being a musician himself. Today, Greensleeves Music has 30 instructors, who provide home instruction in a variety of instruments, including piano, guitar, voice, drums and all orchestra and band instrumentation, to over 200 students in the Kennett Square, Unionville, Chadds Ford and West Chester communities, with aspirations to expand north toward the Main Line vicinity. Most Greensleeves Music teachers are music education majors at West Chester University and music therapy majors at Immaculata University. “I do everything I can to give the students – and their parents – the best possible options, but it first begins with logistics,” Green said. “When they contact me, I ask for available days, and the instrument they’re looking to learn. If I know that the student is a beginner, for instance, I will have ten possible teachers for that student, and then pare it down according to what the student is looking to do.”

West Chester & Chadds Ford Life | Spring/Summer 2018 | www.chestercounty.com

Ben Green began Greensleeves Music in 2007. Courtesy photos

Greensleeves Music offers individual lessons to more than 200 students that are taught by 30 musicians, many of whom live and work in the West Chester and Chadds Ford area.

When Green interviews potential teachers for Greensleeves Music, he doesn’t just look at resumes, but for certain intangibles that tell more about who the person is, not what they have done. “Some people try to imprint their method on students, but I look for people who look for different ways to connect with the student,” he said. “I look for teachers who can look a young person in the eye, who understands that education is about approaching it from the mind of a younger person, first. “I remember some of my first teacher interviews. Two of the three candidates for a position were more experienced, but I chose the third candidate, because I knew in my gut that he would be great with kids. It turned out he was. He became one of my most popular teachers for the two or three years he Continued on Page 62

Photo by Mark Tassoni

Green is a music teacher in the Kennett Consolidated School District.

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Greensleeves Continued from Page 61

was with Greensleeves. I look for students who remember how a teacher inspired them when they were younger.” Green may have been referring a bit to his own musical journey, which in many ways, began when he arrived in West Chester with his family when he was in the eighth grade, having just moved from Waltham, Mass. on Halloween weekend. Until that point, the young Green was obsessed with sports, most particularly with basketball, and whose only musical training up to that point came in the fourth grade, when he took up the saxophone for three months before bailing on any thought of a musical life. Green went from a happy-go-lucky youngster with a basketball and a Boston accent to a surly near-teenager who was forced to adjust to new surroundings, but soon after he moved into his new neighborhood, he met a boy about his age who had just started playing the guitar. To help kick off the new friendship, Green accompanied his friend on an inexpensive drum pad. The two began to rock out, playing cover after cover, and when Green received a full drum kit as a gift two months later, the duo invited other young musicians to join them – and a band called The Dark Reality, and later Guandonoland – was formed. “It was all rock and roll, like Metallica and Nirvana,” Green said. “We all listened to nothing but hard rock, and the fact was, I was still pretty angry for having to move from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania, so the music was perfect for what I was feeling at the time. It became a dream to be able to play these songs, because these songs meant so much to us.” Later, when Green was a junior in high school, he began to take drum lessons from Dr. Chris Hanning, who later became Green’s percussion instructor at West Chester University’s School of Music, and where he now serves as dean. In addition to teaching full-time in the Kennett school district, operating Greensleeves Music with Leigh, and occasionally playing in the West Chester music scene – Green has a monthly gig at Bar Avalon on Gay Street – he also helps pair musicians in his network with opportunities for special event performances, such as weddings and other forms of live entertainment. “I was helping my brother Dan as a DJ, playing in bands and also playing at friend’s weddings, and I began to see that there were so many connections I could make to link musicians to events, to the point where it could serve as another branch of the company,” Green said. “It grew out 62

Jonathan Colman teaches guitar, bass and piano.

of the same paradigm that began Greensleeves, which is that if I couldn’t be available, then I could connect other musicians to fill that need. “It’s gotten to the point where I have an interaction with a client, and they tell me what they want, the style of music they want, I can then pass that information along to the performing artist, whether it’s a classical guitarist, a DJ, a band or a string quartet.” Consider the positive impact that musical education has in the development of young people: • U.S. Department of Education data on more than 25,000 secondary school students found that students who report consistent high levels of involvement in instrumental music over the middle and high school years show “significantly higher levels of mathematics proficiency by grade 12” (U.S. Department of Education NELLS88 Database). • Schools with music programs have an estimated 90.2 percent graduation rate and 93.9 percent attendance rate compared to schools without music education, which average 72.9 percent graduation and 84.9 percent attendance (The National Association for Music Education. “Music Makes the Grade.” The National Association for Music Education. Accessed February 24, 2015). • Nearly 100 percent of past winners in the prestigious Siemens Westinghouse Competition in Math, Science and Technology (for high school students) play one

West Chester & Chadds Ford Life | Spring/Summer 2018 | www.chestercounty.com

Lauren Blackwell has been studying the cello for 9 years. At right, David Logue.

Jacob Colby is a recent graduate of Temple University’s Esther Boyer College of Music and Dance.

or more musical instruments. This led the Siemens Foundation to host a recital at Carnegie Hall in 2004, featuring some of these young people, after which a panel of experts debated the nature of the apparent science/music link (The Midland Chemist (American Chemical Society) Vol. 42, No.1, Feb. 2005). • Music education improves average SAT scores (Arts Education Partnership, 2011). *

“Even for a six year-old who plays piano who will never develop into a professional musician, they are still exercising their brain in a way that they wouldn’t normally be able to do,” Green said. “When someone asks me, ‘Is it too early for my child to take lessons?’ or ‘Maybe I should stop lessons for my son, because he isn’t making the progress I had hoped,’ I answer with the fact that these children Continued on Page 64

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Greensleeves Continued from Page 63

are spending time thinking and practicing, with a teacher who is helping them.” It is those moments, Green said, when it’s just the teacher introducing a student to keys or chords or notes on a page, that are the most powerful. “Music has a way of reaching inside of the person playing it,” he added, “like the teenager who is connecting with like-minded people and keeping out of trouble. They’ve found a voice that they might have never found otherwise. “In many ways, these students that we teach are like me. I moved here when I was 12, and I went from being obsessed with basketball to being the new kid with the funny Boston accent, who met his first new friend through music. Greensleeves gets to make those connections, and they mean so much to us.” To learn more about Greensleeves Music, visit www. greensleeves-music.com. To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email rgaw@chestercounty.com. * Source: NAMM Foundation


West Chester & Chadds Ford Life | Spring/Summer 2018 | www.chestercounty.com

Adam Skirvin teaches guitar and strings.

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