Lloyd Waters: Strange event leads to Ernest and Jean Shives

June 30, 2013|By LLOYD WATERS

I didn’t meet Ernest and Jean Shives until the summer of 2003 when I retired from the Maryland Correctional Institution in Hagerstown.

How I came to meet them involves a strange story that most people would not understand. I’ll give it a try with you.

In 1986, I served as the assistant warden at MCI-H under Warden John Brown. Several prison staff did not particularly agree with the warden’s philosophy or the direction of the facility with Brown and myself at the helm.

The divide of this disagreement was so wide that a group of employees thought it necessary to circulate a petition asking for Brown and myself to be fired.

It made the front page of The Morning Herald.

Not to fret. It didn’t happen.

As a matter of fact, I was promoted in 1988 to the position of warden at the Maryland Correctional Training Center.

In the aftermath of two major prison riots in 1990 and 1991 at MCI-H, I was reassigned to MCI to unlock that facility and restore order for a bewildered staff and violent inmate population.

It was a most unsafe prison environment in 1991. 

As I established my priorities, I was determined to build a good team and I personally interviewed every single promotion candidate. I don’t believe any other warden in the system took the time to do that back then.

One candidate, in particular, showed up for his sergeant’s interview. He was an ambitious fellow; both jail smart and hardworking. He was handpicked to work the Segregation Unit after my arrival to MCI-H.

But there was one problem. He had signed the 1986 petition that called for my firing. What would you do?

When I brought up this issue with him, the big fellow squirmed in his chair and thought for sure his opportunity for promotion ended because of his decision in seeking my dismissal.

How could a person he attempted to get fired now want to promote him to sergeant? In fact, I promoted him three times before I left that facility.

He likes to revisit the above story and, to this day, he probably doesn’t understand my decision-making process.

He was a solid member of the prison team that brought tranquility to MCI-H for the next 12 years.

Upon my retirement, this man invited me to Ocean City to go fishing and spend some time with his family. It was an annual event for his in-laws, Ernest and Jean Shives.

This year represents the 10th consecutive summer I have traveled to the beach to spend a few days with these folks.

Ernest and Jean were married for 61 years on June 14 and have traveled to Ocean City for every one of those years to vacation with their kids and spouses, grandkids, great-grandkids and a few friends of the family like me.

I dine with them, share some stories, do a little fishing and watch them frolic in the sun while meandering through the town enjoying themselves for an entire week.

Ernest has taught me a few things about fishing, how to enjoy life and to be proud of your family.

Jean Shives is a delight in her own right. She is up at the crack of dawn preparing meals, snacks for the fishermen and a raspberry dessert for all to enjoy. She helps coordinate the family’s activities.

Visiting with the Shives’ clan is something very special to me.

Had I made a different decision during that promotional interview, this encounter would not have happened.

I am always reminded of an old Buddha saying I had read before that interview: “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”

Happy anniversary, Ernest and Jean! Love you!

Lloyd “Pete” Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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