The Greater Lewes Foundation presented its 2013 Community Service Awards to Hazel Brittingham and Dale Parsons during its annual meeting Saturday, April 13 at the Net House overlooking Canalfront Park.
Chairman Joe Stewart noted that the mission of the foundation is to preserve and enhance the quality of life in the greater Lewes area. “Both of these individuals have spent a lifetime doing just that,” said Stewart, “Hazel as Lewes's historian and Dale with his work with the city, chamber of commerce and as the mainstay of the Lewes waterfront. We want them both to know how much this community appreciates all that they mean to Lewes.”
The two were presented certificates acknowledging their contributions.
The certificate for Brittingham contained an abbreviated version of the following information put together for her nomination:
“When it comes to knowing and understanding the history of Lewes, the most familiar phrase in local conversations is 'Ask Hazel Brittingham.' This lifelong resident developed a keen interest in the history and ways of her native town at an early age and has kept her quest moving forward by always looking back. As author, historian and meticulous archivist, Hazel contributes immeasurably to our sense of Lewes's rich past. She is a walking reference library, always ready to help others search out everything from 17th century Sussex County court records to documents about the menhaden fishing industry, the post-depression work of the Civilian Conservation Corps and the construction of and military life at Fort Miles during World War II.
“Hazel's enthusiasm for life and community springs forth in song every Sunday from the choir loft at Groome United Methodist Church where she has served as choir director and soloist, and in the numerous talks she prepares and presents so unselfishly to countless organizations year-in and year-out. To understand her good humor and trove of Lewes trivia, know that Hazel for decades has been nursing the unfairness of the numbers in her 1945 graduating class at Lewes High School: six boys and 18 girls.
“One of Hazel's favorite hymns advises: “Count your many blessings, name them one by one.” Lewes is a richer, friendlier and more unified community because Hazel Brittingham has so carefully and thoroughly counted and named its many historical chapters and blessings, and generously recounted them to many decades of residents and visitors.”
In accepting her award, Brittingham quoted from a poem that she once recited to her husband, Emory, many years ago when he commented on a trip she was about to take: “How shall I know, unless I go to Cairo or Cathay, whether or not this blessed spot is blessed in every way?”
She said when she came home she was able to answer with a resounding yes.
Parsons contributes to salty town
The nomination for Parsons stated the following: “Harry Dale Parsons personifies the waterfront in Lewes like no one else. For the past seven decades, Dale and his Fisherman's Wharf complex have hosted generations of families looking for a spicy mouthful of the maritime experience offered in this town by the sea. He always works with the ready smile and quick humor that exemplify the character-filled hospitality essential to resort business success. On quiet summer nights toward sunset, residents and visitors often hear Dale's distinctive, amplified voice recounting the history of the town as he slowly motors a charter vessel filled with visitors out the canal toward Roosevelt Inlet.
“With the fierce individualism that comes with being a lifelong waterman, Dale has also steadily wrangled with government regulators over proper management of finfish and shellfish. He brought that same passion to his tenures as a Lewes Councilman and president of Lewes Chamber of Commerce, and as a member of the Delaware Shellfish Advisory Council and Delaware Captain's Association.
“Whether running headboat trips on Delaware Bay, longlinging for cod with anglers offshore, or answering questions and selling tickets for dolphin-watching cruises from his perch by the fish-cleaning station on the docks, Dale Parsons constantly and positively contributes to Lewes's reputation as Delaware's saltiest town.”
Standing in the Net House for the award ceremony, Brittingham and Parsons both were on familiar turf. Stewart noted that Brittingham and her husband once owned the property across Front Street from what used to be the Lewes Boatyard. Parsons once owned the boatyard property before Lewes acquired it for the park and moved the Net House there from Otis Smith's Fish Products complex.
“Fishing nets were expensive and Otis had men working in this building to keep them in good shape. All of the lumber came from Vessels Lumber Yard in Lewes and all of it was heavy-duty and first-class lumber. I knew Otis built things right so when the fish factory closed down I bought this building and moved it here for the boatyard,” said Parsons.