Future of journalism unclear after COVID-19

Guest Column for the Star & Wave Newspaper


COVID-19, has disturbed the American way of life. The economy and job market are at their worst in years. But facing a tough job market is nothing new to those who work in the media. 

It is no secret that journalism is a tough field in which to work as more people turn away from print mediums to favor the often-instantaneous updates from websites and social media. Pandemic coverage is a priority, and for print newspapers it often means by the next morning or week, the new news is old news. So how do newspapers and journalists face a changing media landscape?

On May 15, I took a survey for the International Center for Journalists and Columbia University’s Tow Center for Journalism. The survey was dubbed “journalism and the COVID-19 pandemic: a global survey to track and assess impacts.” The 70th question asked, “if you could reimagine journalism after the pandemic, what would it look like?”

This question has stuck with me for weeks, as I have tried to think of an answer. Journalism is a field that needs to evolve with constantly changing technology and the volatile political landscape. The answer to this question could help prepare journalists for their field and sustain a healthy work environment. 

Safely covering a public health crisis is not the typical training journalists receive during their education. On April 9, I attended a virtual lecture “Talks at Pulitzer” on the role of journalism during a pandemic, by Dr. Seema Yasmin. Yasmin is the Director of Stanford Health Communication Initative at Stanford University.

Yasmin’s three points included training health correspondents the same way war correspondents are trained, enabling them to ask better questions and avoid sensational headlines.

Secondly, the free press should function as an immune system, with journalism as part of the public health system. Misinformation can lead to xenophobia and exacerbate racism. For example, referring to the coronavirus as the “Wuhan flu” has intensified racism towards Asian Americans.

The last point of Yasmin’s lecture was if newsrooms do not cover the marginalized communities, they are missing diversity. Journalists need to do the groundwork to find good sources, vet them and get recommendations for other sources. Because the pandemic has reached far and wide, there are many stories in all types of communities, needing to be told. 

Print journalists can tell more of these types of stories, as they are not as time-sensitive as the day-to-day reporting of numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths. This gives print journalism an advantage to do a more in-depth reporting on a significant issue in our society.

The future of covering news, be it pandemics, riots, school shootings, or elections, is going to be done in a different format embracing lessons learned during social distancing. The way offices (of all kinds, not just newsrooms) are spaced will likely change in the coming months. 

Separating cubicles, desks, or offices further apart will be necessary and it will change both the physical and mental wellbeing of employees.

For me, I automatically think of scenes from “All the President’s Men” when I think of a newsroom. Editors and writers standing around talking and conference rooms full of people holding daily briefings. It is not a sustainable model right now. Whether that means more people work from home or desks are spaced further apart, it will not be the same place where co-workers could chat over a cup of coffee at the lunch table.

Coronavirus has shown how many people are truly able to work from home. For some, working at home and avoiding the stressors of work has been beneficial to their mental health. Working in an office can serve as a boundary, allowing the day to start and end naturally. However, figuring out a work-from-home routine can be not only valuable for some, but even allow for more efficiency. It’s quite possible by the time offices resume in-person work, perhaps there will be more flexibility allowing staff to work from home on more than an occasional basis.

Seeking the truth should never be stopped, which is why journalism will always have a place serving as the watchdog of our society. Even if the format of reporting is not the same. Only time will tell how the field of journalism will truly change, but there will always be news needing to be reported. 

Runs the gambit

Two months ago I wrote my first post about my feelings during COVID-19. I knew it would not be the last post, but I had no idea how things were going to take shape since then. And boy, I am glad I did not know.

Since March 11, I have run through the full emotional gambit. I thought everything would be fine. As the news got worse, I thought it was the end of times. Now, I’m in the medium space of “just take it day by day.”

A photo taken at Victorious Pink a few days before leaving town.

I left my apartment in New Jersey to go to my family’s home in Virignia on March 15. The trip had been planned prior to COVID-19 and I figured instead of a one week trip, it would probably last two or three weeks, depending on how things changed.

It’s safe to say the rug was pulled out from under me. By the second week I was home, I went from writing remotely, to being laid off from my newspaper job. Losing income hurts, but what also hurts too is the meetings and interactions I no longer have. Connecting with people and sharing their passions is a huge part of my writing process.

As the news started to increasingly get worse, I began to revise how I consumed news. I started as a journalist hungry to read multiple articles from different publications, to someone who deleted their Facebook app and only allowed herself to read CNN 5 Things You Need to Know Today and Washington Post‘s daily newsletters. Sometimes you have to choose your mental health over your need for news. As a journalist, this task is difficult.

Social distance photo with our neighbors.

Life in quarantine

I have both hated and loved quarantine. I’ve had more time to watch both new and old Netflix series and read for fun. I also have plenty of time for working on all the personal writing projects I have put off for years for “when I have time.” Motivation is expensive these days and I’m fresh out of dough (techincally, I’m out of yeast which I cannot get delivered from anywhere).

The neighborhood kids have a great sense of humor. Welcome to District 12. It really feels like we’re living in the Hunger Games.

The inability to see my friends and family has made social distancing immensely difficult. Not even Facetime and Zoom can replace seeing the in person. I’ve also gotten to spend a lot of time with my cats, time I never would have gotten if I was in Cape May. Time is precious and short, as I learned when we made the decision to put down our 15-year-old cat Henry on April 28. It is probably the only time I will be grateful to quarantine.

I miss my apartment, the life I’ve led the past three years in New Jersey. Recently, I had been feeling the urge to spend more time in Virginia as my schedule had allowed. “Are you going to move back to Virginia” is a question I am constantly asked. My answer has always been “No, I’ve worked hard to establish myself in Cape May.” Despite having spent two months back here, in my childhood bedroom…the answer remains the same. Cape May is still my current home.

Dispatched from my childhood bedroom. I cleaned/redecorated to fit my style. Complete with my dad’s functional coronamatic 2500 typewriter from law school.

Cape May has always been a special place for me and it still is, even though we are apart right now. I have no idea when I will be able to return, much less feel safe returning. It hurts my heart to feel this uncertain, but I have hope progress will be made with a coronavirus vaccine.

Until then, I enjoy pictures from my friends in Cape May, continue to connect with my friends and family via video chat and hope the future will be a better place.

Nauti Spirits making hand sanitizer for local services

Special to the Star and Wave

NORTH CAPE MAY-The novel Coronavirus, COVID-19, is quickly changing life for both people and businesses. The global pandemic has seen a spike in purchasing goods of all kinds, especially toilet paper and hand sanitizers.

When store shelves were cleared of brand name sanitizers, instructions on making hand sanitizer at home started to circulate online.

Local businesses are pitching in to help the community, including distilleries.

“Recognizing that there was a dire need for hand and spray sanitizers late last week, we were researching how we could legally turn some of our very high-proof spirits into sanitizer,” Nauti Spirits Distillery President Steve Miller said.

The switch from spirits to sanitizer made sense for Nauti Spirits Distillery, 916 Shunpike Rd.

“On Wednesday morning, my friend and Cape May resident Jim Matthews and I spoke about working together to produce a high-grade professionally mixed 80 percent alcohol sanitizer,” Miller said.

Matthews is the Executive Vice President of Operations at Partners Pharmacy in Springfield, which serves the comprehensive medication needs of skilled nursing facilities, long-term care residences and assisted living communities.

“Fortunately on Wednesday afternoon, the Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau federal regulator recognized the national shortage of sanitizer and issues all distillery permit holders temporary authority to use their equipment and alcohol to legally produce ethanol-based sanitizers,” Miller said. “So we got to work.”

On Thursday morning, Miller provided Matthews with the alcohol from Nauti Spirits.

“His company is now professionally compounding the sanitizer and putting it into bottles and labeling it,” Miller said. “As soon as that’s done, we will be donating sanitizers to those who need it most.”

The hand sanitizer will go to Cape May area first responders and several assisted living/skilled nursing facilities.

“After that, we intend to make the sanitizer available to the public at the distillery front door and ask that folks donate to cover some of the cost of productions,” Miller said. “[That] will enable us to keep providing this sorely-needed high-grade sanitizer.”

A March 19 article from the New York Times reports “craft distilleries, hearing the call of duty to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, are adding a new product to their lineup of gins, whiskeys and rums: hand sanitizers.” Even the giant liquor producer Bacardi, is partnering with a Puerto Rico manufacturer to provide ethanol for over 1.7 million bottles of hand sanitizer.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends handwashing with soap and water to kill COVID-19, but if soap and water is not available, hand sanitizer can be used in place if it contains 60% alcohol. The CDC said 60% alcohol is the minimum for effectiveness.

Covid-19 and anxiety

I kept going back and forth on if I wanted to write an article about my feelings regarding the World Health Organization declared “pandemic” that is coronavirus/Covid-19. I often consider writing to be my therapy, so here goes…

I live my daily life with anxiety and a fairly heightened sense of germaphobia, particularly during the winter season. It is a feeling I am used to on a regular basis, but lately the adding to my daily anxiety + germaphobia + the worry and fear over Covid-19 = a new level of anxiety being fueled by fire.

Every conversation, work meeting, email, text, Instagram post and news notification gives me a moment of breathlessness, a slight sense of panic which gets stronger every day.

It’s currently March 11 and the news continues to get a little more dramatic every day, as Covid-19 spreads to more states and countries. Back on March 1, I stocked up on a lot of canned goods and frozen food from Walmart. Did I feel slightly ridiculous? Yes. I just said to people, “Well, it is updating my hurricane supply anyway.” *Note: got a notification yesterday that hurricane season is expected to be above average this year…one crisis at a time please!

10 days later, it doesn’t seem so silly to have stocked up on dry goods, paper goods and a pre-blizzard amount of toilet paper. I’ve gotten emails from Nordstrom, Target, ShopRite and more telling me they are working on upping their store cleaning practices, asking sick employees to stay home and limiting the number of cleaning supplies customers can purchase. I have lysol wipes on hand and I scored hand sanitizer from a place I will not disclose for sake of possibly wanting to buy more.

My hands are dry, my face has never been itchier when out in public and my anxiety is heightened to a level that I cannot control because every conversation has turned contagious. We cannot stop talking and obsessing over Covid-19.

Coachella was postponed and SXSW was cancelled. Dozens of events, concerts and conventions have been cancelled. Church goers were exposed to people who have tested positive for Covid-19. Colleges are closing and moving classes online. I’m thankful not to be in school right now. Even the Washington Post has their employees working from home for the remainder of the month. 

Even politicians are not immune to the exposure. Rallies have been cancelled and I worry how this pandemic will impact the 2020 election. Will Trump try to postpone the election? He certainly does not seem to have a grip on the seriousness of the situation. No doubt it will go down in the history books as a very disturbing and frightening time all around the world.

Even my meetings for work have mentioned preparations for Covid-19. Cape May, New Jersey might be a small beach town, but we are thinking ahead and giving thought to an approach.

Handouts from my municipal meetings.

Making jokes, sharing memes and pertinant articles on Covid-19 has helped me try to maintain my anxiety. Even writing this article, my FitBit says my heartrate is 93 bpm. And perhaps the scariest part is it seems like it will be a while before we all are able to “return to normal,” if normal is even an option anymore.

My attempt at anxiety-quelling humor.

Here’s a reminder to check on your anxious friends, who may be experiencing a harder
time controling their fears at this time. I am one of them.


Cape May-born designer part of ‘Extreme Makeover’ reboot

Locklyn to make debut Feb. 16 on HGTV reality show


Special to the Star and Wave \ Photos provided.

From a professional dancer to designer to extreme makeover maven, Carrie Locklyn has created an incredible career.

This weekend, Locklyn will make her debut on the reboot of HGTV’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” scheduled to be broadcast at 9 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 16, Locklyn is one of three designers helping build incredible new homes for deserving families.

Born and raised in Cape May, Locklyn graduated from Lower Cape May Regional High School in 1996 and began her career as a professional dancer. After 10 years of traveling the world and living in California, Locklyn decided to completely switch careers and move back to the East Coast.

“Being on HGTV was something I put on my goal wall many years ago,” Locklyn said. “I loved designing, had a background in TV with commercials and hosting. I said one day I’m going to take my design background and mix it with TV and my business.”

For Locklyn, being a part of the HGTV family is a decade-long dream come true. The reboot of the show has the same spirit of the original show, she said.

“Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” originally aired from 2003 to 2012. The new technology in the past eight years will make a big impact in the new series, Locklyn said.

“The large difference for our reboot is helping hometown heroes,” Locklyn said. “We go into amazing communities to find people who are striving to make their community better.”

Throughout the 10-episode series, more than 10,000 volunteers helped build homes from the ground up.

“We can’t build a house by ourselves in five days,” She said. “We build homes from the ground up. We did everything from putting flowers in a vase to installing a toilet and putting tile down.”

Locklyn said watching the home building process was awe-inspiring.

“When you’re just watching the show, you understand the concept of the show,” She added. “With being involved, you’re already gobsmacked you’re a part of everything and seeing it happen.”

A challenging aspect of building the homes was the weather, especially when temperatures reached 108 outside, she said.

“It was really hot when we were building the homes,” Locklyn said. “There’s no shade, no walls or air conditioning.”

The emotional side of filming the show was one of the most rewarding aspects, she said. As the homes are built, the designers bond with the families in each of the episodes.

“The best part of my job is helping create a better tomorrow for deserving families,” Locklyn said. “There are these amazing families helping their communities and one another. It’s an inspiration seeing the communities come together and rally around them.”

The reboot is hosted by actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who Locklyn said is a passionate team player.

“When we found out he was the host we were so excited,” She said. “He’s a funny, high spirited and humble guy.”

Locklyn’s design career is linked to growing up in Cape May. At the height of her dance career, she decided to make a big change.

“I was in L.A. and just finished a two-year tour with Mariah Carey and I was asked to go on the world tour,” Locklyn said. “I said ‘No, I’m going to switch my career completely.’ That’s when I started organizing and designing for celebrity clientele in L.A.”

Making the switch from dance to design was following a passion Locklyn had as a young child, while organizing and refreshing her bedroom. This passion would lead to a career and personal business down the line.

“I would literally rip everything out of my closet just so I could reorganize and put it back in,” Locklyn said. “I would go to friends’ houses and as I was organizing their things, I would design their rooms and rearrange things.”

Locklyn’s mom, Sharon Conley, always encouraged her daughter’s flair for design.

“My mom got me inspired to refresh a room,” Locklyn said. “She’s one of those great moms; every season she would let me refresh my room, rearrange [it] and she would go around the house and find different pillow cases and comforters.”

Proximity to family was important, so Locklyn moved back to the east coast, to be closer to her mom when she was pregnant with her son. She and her husband picked Philadelphia, to be halfway between New York and Cape May.

“I started my career on the Travel Channel, HGTV’s sister channel,” Locklyn said. “Once you get into the loop of on-camera talent and design, it’s the thing you want to do forever. I was bitten by the bug for that.”

For multiple seasons, Locklyn filmed “Hotel Impossible” as the lead designer. The show gave her the opportunity to work on designing motels in Wildwood, one of which was the White Caps Motel. Locklyn incorporated the ever-popular Wildwood Ferris wheel onto the walls of the motel rooms.

Hotel Impossible. Provided.

“Cape May holds a very special place in my heart,” Locklyn said. “It will always be my home. I moved across the country to be closer. Once you get out of Cape May, you realize how it’s hands down one of [your] favorite places in the world.”

Locklyn’s personal business is GIDG (Get It Done Girl) Living, a design, organizing and home-staging company. She started GIDG to help businesses and homeowners achieve organized and balanced spaces. In the local area, Locklyn has worked on designs in Wildwood Crest for Paradise Oceanfront Resort.

Reporter mourns closing of Newseum, shrine to journalism


Special to the Star & Wave

It is unusual to hear of a museum closing in  Washington, D.C., but after 11 years, the privately funded Newseum has put visitors on deadline to visit before the doors are closed on Dec. 31.

The Newseum was founded to inform the public of the importance of a free press and the First Amendment. The seven-level museum is interactive and contains numerous artifacts from the history of journalism. For a writer like me, it is the most incredible museum I have ever been to and I have never been bored in my many visits.

While the Smithsonian museums are free, Newseum tickets run between $15 to $25. The upside is the ticket grants you a consecutive two-day entry to the museum. Ticket pricing is one of the reasons the Newseum has had serious financial losses.

In January, it was announced Johns Hopkins University would purchase the building for $372.5 million for their D.C.-area graduate programs. A Jan. 25 article in The Washington Post reported the Newseum would look for another location, which turned out to be a fruitless search.

My first visit to the Newseum was not to the actual exhibits, but to the gift shop. (I’m a gift shop addict and I will judge a museum based on what memento I can take home). Based on the journalism-inspired gift shop, I asked my mom to take me back to see the entire museum.

My most recent visit to the Newseum, April 2019. I took a picture holding my press pass with the press pass display.

The Newseum starts before you even walk in the door, with the First Amendment façade and the popular display of “Today’s Front Pages.” The display shows a rotation of the present day’s front pages from every state and D.C. and a few international newspapers. The top floor has interactive front page displays, allowing visitors to read the front pages of multiple papers.

It is recommended when visiting, you take the top-down approach of starting on the sixth floor and working your way down. The fifth floor has limited time galleries and the ones I have seen ranged from reporting from the Vietnam War, President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, the Washington Nationals and most recently, Rise Up: Stonewall and the LGBTQ Rights Movement. Seeing the changing exhibits is a treat – you never know what you will learn.

My must-sees include the door from the Watergate Hotel.

Every visit, my absolute must-sees in the Newseum include the door from the Watergate Hotel, which the burglars infamously taped open. The “Inside Today’s FBI” exhibit is a fascinating look into today’s current focus on the fight against terrorism in a post 9/11 world. Items in this exhibit include the actual Unabomber’s cabin and the running shoes of a Boston Globe reporter who was running the Boston Marathon then began to cover the Boston Marathon Bombing. Previously, this exhibit also featured belongings from the D.C. snipers and a Klu Klux Klan outfit.

The most powerful exhibit of the Newseum is the 9/11 gallery. This part of the Newseum has front pages from dozens of newspapers on Sept. 12, 2001. Additionally, the exhibit features video footage from the day of the attacks.

Visitors can write their memories of 9/11 to be filed away and displayed in the exhibit. There is also an antenna from the roof of the World Trade Center and a tribute to William Biggart, a photojournalist who died covering the attacks. His camera was found at ground zero and visitors can see the photos he took in his final moments.

While I was in college, I wrote a paper for my tourism class on the Newseum. I wrote about the most profound part of the 9/11 exhibit is the permanent box of tissues encased in stainless steel. The footage is intense and emotions run raw while visiting this exhibit. The last time I was there, my dad did not want to go in as he said he lived through that day (he was on his way into Arlington and could see the smoke coming from the Pentagon).

Standing with my parents in front of the Berlin wall piece at the Newseum.

The bottom floor contains a piece of the Berlin wall. The other exhibits include a history/timeline of newspapers and magazines, memorabilia such as the suit O.J. Simpson wore at his trial, an interactive newsroom, the internet, TV and radio gallery, the Pulitzer Prize photographs gallery, the First Amendment Gallery, press freedom around the world and a journalists’ memorial, for those who died on the job.

For a young journalist like me, seeing the Newseum close is like a slap in the face. In a time where politics and so-called “fake news” run rampant, the Newseum was a place to reflect on just how integral the Freedom of the Press is to the history of the United States. In my college journalism classes, I learned how the media acts as the fourth estate, the unofficial watchdog. Who will be there to provide the history of journalism to the public, without the Newseum?

Another View: Lottery may be only chance for millennial dream

Photo by Joseph Parker Creations//CapeMayRachel©

Special to the Star & Wave

If I had a dollar for everyone who asked me if I plan to stay in Cape May long term, I would have made $3 this week.

Instead of replying, “Why are you asking me that,” I give them the typical answer. My parents plan to retire here; I just beat them here.

The real answer? Yes, for the foreseeable future, I plan to live in Cape May. I am following a dream I have had since I was a tourist visiting here every summer. I do not have a five-year plan, I don’t even know what I’m eating for dinner tomorrow night.

When I graduated from George Mason University in 2016, I thought I was going to find a full-time journalism job. Realistically, I probably could have found said job if I stayed in Va., commuted into Washington, D.C., and lived with my parents.

I knew living in Cape May and having a full-time journalism job were probably not congruous, but I was determined to make my dream of living at the beach a reality. Just shy of three years later, I have not only relocated to Cape May, but I have had two journalism jobs, one that was full-time.

I have come to realize I cannot get offended every time someone asks me about my future, if I truly do not know what the next few years will bring. I have often felt the reason people ask me the question about my future in Cape May is because they think my choice of residence is holding me back from my career.

There’s a difference between a job in your field and living somewhere you hate and having a job in your field and living somewhere you love. I am currently in the medium or gray space, where I love where I live, I love what I am writing, but I still wonder about my future. But I think it is OK to feel that way, being only 25.

The experience I have had in the job field in Cape May has shown me I can do the hard work. It is also frustrating to realize in this economy, it is almost impossible to bring in the income needed to survive. It is a struggle fellow millennials understand entirely.

A Sept. 25 CNBC article said 66% of millennials do not feel on track when it comes to saving for retirement. The No. 1 reason is housing costs. It is true – rent is a big expense, which makes it hard to save for the future.

I grew up being told to save money, but it is a lot easier said than done. Some days, it feels fruitless, when you consider the state of the world. I hear about the stock market going up, then closing with low scores. I hear about NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) saying the Earth is heating up every year by two degrees Fahrenheit. I also cannot forget how the ocean levels are rising. Soon enough I might be living oceanfront. Basically, it will be so warm on Earth and the sea level so high by the time I am “retirement” age, that saving money hardly makes sense.

Will millennials be able to retire? A Sept. 17 Forbes article said “we have melting ice caps, mounds of garbage in landfills and in the middle of the sea, and deforestation happening at alarming rates. It’s no wonder some millennials wonder if saving for retirement is even worth it.”

I feel like at this point in my life, I want to enjoy my choice to live in Cape May, do what I love for work and hope I hit the right lottery numbers.

Beloved UPS driver delivered joy along with packages

Photo by Barb Sobel/Good Scents.

Special to the Star & Wave

Good things come in brown packages, especially if United Parcel Service (UPS) employee David Neal was delivering them.

A loyal UPS employee of 31 years, Neal, 56, died of cancer on Sept. 17, 2019. He leaves behind his daughter Rhiannon Neal, sons Stas and Dawson Neal and the Cape May community who grew to know him over the years.

Neal was beloved by the residents of Cape May, who interacted with him both in their home and work deliveries. Neal was known as “Booger” and always had a bad joke to deliver along with his packages.

“He had that [Booger] nickname when I started working at UPS about twenty years ago,” UPS worker Glenn Bratlie said. “I actually didn’t know his name was Dave for about five years because everyone just called him Booger. That was his sense of humor.”

What do cows love to read? Cattle-logs, is a joke from Neal’s arsenal.

“We knew him as Booger and he was never without a joke,” Summer Sun owner Dana Fiocca said. “I’m not sure why he was known as Booger, honestly. Most people knew him as that. He delivered to us three to four times a week in the offseason. His slow, deadpan, ‘thank you for choosing UPS for your shipping needs…enjoy your freight,’ was perfection.”

Many local Cape May businesses routinely receive daily UPS deliveries.

“He was such an important part of our business, The Bird House of Cape May,” Sharon Flanagan said. “We saw him daily if not three to four times a week. We gave him a key to our store during the offseason so he could bring in packages on days we were closed.”

Flanagan said even after they closed their store, Neal would still deliver packages to the West End Garage for them, especially if shippers ignored their new address.

“He didn’t have to do that, since UPS would charge extra for shipments with incorrect addresses,” Flanagan said.

If a package delivery went awry, Neal would to go above and beyond to assist the community.

“I have had numerous bridesmaids who used Rent the Runway and poorly planned,” Cape Resorts Wedding Director Krystina Kennedy said. “Thanks to Booger, I was always able to save the day, but only because I would call and beg him to adjust his route. He once brought me a dress to the hotel that was supposed to go to my home because I poorly planned.”

Neal took extra care to make sure packages were not left out in the rain, when he was making a delivery.

“Dave gave me his personal phone number and I called him when I had 150 of my Saving Higbee books being delivered in the pouring rain, while I was in Connecticut,” Cape May resident Carol King Hood said. “He called me and my books were safely delivered to a friend’s home. Dave will be greatly missed. I considered Dave a friend, not just a UPS delivery guy.”

Even if the forecast predicted inclement weather, Neal was a step ahead on protecting packages from rain.

“I met Dave 28 years ago when he carried 30 cartons of T-shirts into my backyard to put under an overhang because it looked like rain,” Colors Owner Steve Haley said. “I loved that he did that, but I also didn’t love that I had to take them back into my van in the driveway, it didn’t rain.”

Haley said Neal provided great service and a good joke. Neal would deliver Haley’s home deliveries to Colors, so they could keep up in the summer.

Cape May resident Jacquelyne Kocis knew Neal from his deliveries to both her home and work.

“I loved this guy,” Kocis said. “He never left my packages in the rain and was so good to my family. I had been wondering why I hadn’t seen him around or yelling at the door, ‘it’s just me.’”

Neal is remembered as kind to everyone he crossed his path with, both two and four-legged. Cape May Point resident Connie Campanella said she still tells her dog ‘It’s Dave’ when a package arrives.

“He always had a great smile and a joke about my little, nasty dog Muffin, who constantly barked at him,” Cape May resident Debbie Sundstrom said. “He would just leave my things on the porch. He was such a sweet man.”

If Neal saw one of his customers in the street, he would flag them down to deliver the package in person.

“Dave was a great guy,” Cape May resident Lynn Jefferis said. “He would let my young grandson ‘help’ him carry in packages. Many a time he would flag me down on the street to give me a packaged so I wouldn’t have to wait for him to get to my house, as I was at the end of his route. He truly was one of a kind.”

Neal’s ability to memorize faces and connect the with addresses was uncanny.

“I’d see Dave making deliveries at the Cape May Tennis Club and say to him 750 Park Bvld., and he’d reply, ‘Hello Mr. Fischer,” West Cape May resident Steve Fischer said. “All you’d have to do is give him an address and he’d know your name. Amazing.”

Neal’s energy resonated with the town, as he could make a bad day a good one, just by his personality. Jim’s Bait and Tackle employee Dennis McVay said Neal was always happy to see him and ready to tell jokes.

“Dave was a breath of fresh air and a ray of sunshine,” Cape May Point Deputy Mayor Anita VanHeeswyk said.

With Neal’s personality, it comes as no surprise he befriended the people to whom he delivered, especially if the visits were frequent.

“My wife and I considered him to be a best friend,” Cape May resident Doug Cranstoun said. “He always stopped in my garage to see what hot rod I was working on, because he delivered all the parts. He would ask, ‘So what is this for,’ and I would point out where it goes and he would just smirk. He said he could drive it faster than me.”

The Cape May community noticed different UPS delivery people in the past few months, many wondering if Neal’s route had changed.

“He was a character that will not be forgotten,” Cape May resident Jennifer Papendick Tozer said. “Had he reached out to the Cape May community for help, there would have been a shortage of beef and beer for miles. I really hope he knows how much he was loved.”

Cape May resident Terryl Chapman said Neal brightened up the day with his positivity, strong efficiency and quick wit.

“He made everyone feel special,” Chapman said. “He was a friend to our whole community. He wasn’t ordinary. I think people like Dave are living the love and are so happy to pass it along, that they know how much we love them and don’t need to be told, because they are living in love.”

As for the writer of this article, I knew when I heard Neal had died after a battle with cancer, I wanted to write a tribute to him. I saw Dave more times than I can count, from both home deliveries and ones to the motel where I used to work.

Neal was kind enough to deliver packages to me at work, when they required signatures. He even told me while I was at work, he delivered my bedframe, it was sitting at my house waiting for me. I sheepishly told him I was expecting a futon the next day.

Like Fischer said, Neal’s knack for blending together addresses and faces was remarkable. He knew the addresses of all three places I had lived on the island and could spout them off without being prompted.

I’d always ask Neal, “How are you doing?” to which he would reply, “Living the dream.” I think he truly was living the dream. For over 30 years, he delivered smiles along with UPS packages.

The entire Cape May community will miss Neal’s deliveries, jokes and energetic spirit.

A visitation for Neal was held on Saturday, Sept. 28 at Middleton-Stroble and Zale’s Funeral Home in Somers Point. His obituary can be read here.

Beautiful frustration

Living at the beach sounds like a dream, right? And in so many ways, it really is a dream. Then summer comes and August soon after, and anyone who lives here will tell you, “it’s August,” and leave it at that.
I last blogged in December (oops, time flies when you’re writing at your day job and then do not come home and feel like writing more), hopefully, I can try to start blogging more!
What the phrase “it’s August” means, is living at the beach is great, but the rise in visitors to town makes living here a little less enjoyable. I speak for myself when I say this fact, without knowing if everyone who lives here feels the same way. It goes without saying, we need tourists to survive and keep our economy thriving. I am not and will not ever discount how important tourists are to Cape May – in fact, I was a tourist for over twenty years!
Why is it less enjoyable? It’s because we go from a small town, maybe 1,000 to 3,000 people in the winter, to a number that swells well over 10,000 in the summer! It’s a lot more cars and traffic than we are used to dealing with. And I don’t know about you, but I get a little impatient sometimes.
But then I remind myself (rather, my mom reminds me when I call her to complain) that everyone is excited to be on vacation and to just be patient. It might be easier said than done, but soon enough it will be the fall and back down to the normal and lower population.
So what’s it like to live at the beach? I’ve been asked this question numerous times and every time I answer it I’m sure it sounds great. I mean, I can go to the beach whenever I want! Since Memorial Day Weekend (so about over a month), I’ve only been a handful of times. In the past, I would go fairly often after work. Lately, I’m so exhausted when I get home, I can’t really muster up the energy to go sit on the beach. What is it like to live at the beach? I go to the beach maybe once or twice a week in the summer, especially if it is really hot outside.
An upside to summer in Cape May is the seasonal stores and businesses are open and places also have extended hours. On the one hand, it’s great to have more places to eat and visit, but the parking is difficult (not to mention more expensive now!). Even so, it is nice to have a variety of places to choose from. What is it like to live at the beach? I get to enjoy a lot of local seafood/cuisine.
Living at the beach is either a glass half full or glass half empty sort of deal. It really depends on how you look at life. I could not imagine commuting into D.C. for work, constantly sitting in traffic and lamenting life in a busy town, only getting a few days a year to get to spend on the beach.
On the other hand, living in Cape May means I get to go to the beach whenever I want, not go on vacation in the summer (the busy season) and hopefully be able to squeeze a few days “vacation” to visit my family and friends in Virginia.
For the days where I do not feel like my life in Cape May is ideal, I remember life is what you make of it and I get to work a job in my field of study.