Saturday, April 21, 2007

Sad News

12 Apr 2007 4:53 pm

While I eagerly worked to create our first blog, my cell phone brought some sad news that dampened my enthusiasm for the task on this cool spring day. The Cecil Whig's Katy Ciamaricone was on the line, saying she needed to talk with me about Jim Cheeseman who had passed away earlier in the day. Shortly after that conversation our regular office line rang and it was Don Herring, a retired editor from the Whig.

If you don't know the "Cheese" served Cecil Countians as a photojournalist for over 20 years, capturing attention-grabbing images for our weekly and then daily newspaper as his camera documented the unfolding of history here at the top of the Chesapeake. He was there when the big disasters took place and he was there as the county celebrated holidays and everyday happenings.

He retired in 1983 and back in the mid-1990s I still recall another time the phone rang. This time the voice crackling over the line was Jim's, joking and jovial as always. Would we be interested in adding his photographs spanning three decades to our library, he inquired. Oh how exciting that call was for I couldn't wait to get over to his apartment to see the scope of the pictures and negatives. In a few weeks, joined by his former editor, Don Herring, we sat for many days pulling box after box of unorganized material together and adding his recollections to as many as possible.

Today we have over 10,000 of his images, which are such a valuable collection for studying our past. Jim left us with a permanent, unmatched visual record, with a unique depth and quality, focusing on everyday life in Cecil from 1963 to 1983.When his health was still good, he would often stop in to chat and joke with our volunteers and tell stories about his experiences. He always seemed to be in the middle of the action, whether it was chasing police cars and fire trucks, attending fire company banquets or church events, taking pictures of presidents, or visiting around Elkton after he retired.

That time and those memories seem a lot more distant as I write this late on a Friday afternoon as strong guests from an approaching nor'easter rattle our historic old bank building in downtown Elkton. But even now I vividly remember sitting there with Jim and Don over 10 years ago, pouring over those old images as "the Cheese" easily recalled time-tested stories about many of the pictures and related many tales about his escapades from the 1930s on. He always enjoyed an audience and he was entertaining for I still recall many of those stories.

I too remember his visits to the Society and seeing him around the community as he worked every job to its maximum, before and after retirement, often announcing "never fear the Cheese" is here or something like that. He had a great sense of humor, was always joking, and got along easily with people. That approach helped him for he was able to work his way into about any unfolding news event.

So long Jim. Though we'll never hear that familiar phrase again, we will carefully look after the "Cheeseman Collection" ( for we are pleased you selected us to be the custodians of such priceless materials. As the time you traveled every corner of Cecil, from Bald Friar to Warwick and everyplace in between, grows more distant, your record of the county grows immensely more valuable and your work will serve as a tangible reminder of the contribution you made.

Click here to see a slide show containing some of Jim's work



  1. Congratulations on your new blog. I've read it with great interest.

    For those with a maritime interest we have also created a Chesapeake Bay Maritime forum at:

    The Internet is one of the great ways to share information about things of the past and events in the future. You don't even have to walk down the street to do it (unless using the library terminal or that of a friend).

    I hope that Cecil County residents will see what a blessing members of the Historical Society have provided for them and seek information and to share their own experiences and aspirations here on your web pages.

    Standby All Cyber-Lines! Prepare to Get Underway!

    Walt Mathers
    Public Affairs Director
    B&CSC, A 501 c(3) non-profit

  2. Jim was a wonderful person and its good to know that we'll be able to remember him through his work, which is at the Historcal Society.

  3. We're pleased to add the link to the Baltimore & Chesapeake Steamboat Company. They've got a fascinating web site that should be of interest to Cecil Countians.