A SNOW GLOBE, A POEM, A HOME

Cap­i­tal Gazette shoot­ing vic­tims are re­vealed and re­called in the things they left behind

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - By Jean Mar­bella

As he set­tled into the af­ter­noon’s tasks, John McNa­mara must have slipped his shoes off under his desk.

Rob Hi­aasen likely was tap­ping away at his own sta­tion, kept company by a toy sol­dier, a snow globe and other desk­top ephemera. Sit­ting next to him was Ger­ald Fis­chman, sur­rounded by books, so many books. Nearby was Wendi Win­ters, keeper of the of­fice candy jar, and up front, Re­becca Smith, still new to the job but the first face some­one would see com­ing into the Cap­i­tal Gazette of­fices in An­napo­lis.

On June 28, 2018, a gun­man shot his way through the front glass doors. He killed the five co-work­ers as six of their col­leagues fled or took cover under desks and be­tween file cab­i­nets. Jar­rod Ramos, 39, of Lau­rel, who har­bored a years-long griev­ance against The Cap­i­tal, is await­ing trial on mur­der and assault charges, to which he has pleaded not guilty and not crim­i­nally re­spon­si­ble, Mary­land’s ver­sion of the in­san­ity de­fense.

One year later, what re­mains of that ter­ri­ble day for the families of the vic­tims range from small me­men­tos to larger in­tan­gi­bles: Their be­long­ings, at home or re­trieved from the rav­aged of­fice. The un­fin­ished projects, the now-scut­tled plans. The lega­cies that will out­last their fore­short­ened lives.

As they mark the year’s pass­ing, their loved ones re­flect on the things they left behind.

In three file boxes, John McNa­mara had metic­u­lously or­ga­nized his re­search for a book on the his­tory of high school bas­ket­ball in the Wash­ing­ton area, start­ing in 1900. At the time of his death, he had got­ten to 1998.

His wife, An­drea Cham­blee, took it from there. Dur­ing the nights when she couldn’t sleep any­way, she turned his out­line and notes into sen­tences, chap­ters and fi­nally, a 348-page book that will be pub­lished by Ge­orge­town Univer­sity Press in Novem­ber, “The Cap­i­tal of Bas­ket­ball: A His­tory of DC Area High School Hoops.”

“This is my love let­ter to John,” she said.

“In many ways, it was a distractio­n — I would come into an empty house and work on it un­til af­ter mid­night,” Cham­blee said. “I do feel like it’s a part of John, and now that it’s fin­ished, I don’t know if I want to share it or keep it for my­self.”

McNa­mara, 56, cov­ered sports for most of his ca­reer be­fore be­com­ing sev­eral years ago the ed­i­tor of the Bowie Blade-News, which like the Cap­i­tal is owned by Bal­ti­more Sun Me­dia. He and Cham­blee grad­u­ated from the Univer­sity of Mary­land’s jour­nal­ism school to­gether in 1983; she is now an at­tor­ney with the U.S. Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

What she received from her hus­band’s of­fice in An­napo­lis fit into a sin­gle box, yet it con­tained mul­ti­tudes.

There was a pair of loafers, which she imag­ines her hus­band hav­ing taken off only to be star­tled by the ar­rival of the shooter and jump­ing from his chair with­out them.

There was also a lit­tle re­pro­duc­tion of a Ted Williams Moxie soda ad and four books: a bi­og­ra­phy of Brooks Robinson, a mem­oir about baseball and fa­thers and sons, one that uses sto­ry­telling to un­der­stand per­sonal fi­nance and a col­lec­tion of po­ems by a Bowie-based writer.

“There was so much more to him,” Cham­blee said, than of the “sports­writer” tag that usu­ally is at­tached to his name.

His kind­ness and love of fam­ily, for one thing, she said, whether car­ing for a fam­ily mem­ber se­ri­ously injured in a car ac­ci­dent or shepherdin­g Cham­blee through ul­ti­mately un­suc­cess­ful fer­til­ity treat­ments.

They had re­sisted buy­ing a big­ger house or newer cars and had cal­cu­lated to the day when they could re­tire and travel more. On the day he left their Sil­ver Spring home for the last time, Alexa pro­vided the lat­est tally.

“1,008 days,” she said.

Two days be­fore she died, Wendi Win­ters had din­ner with her youngest daugh­ter at, ap­pro­pri­ately enough, Mother’s Grille in Arnold. As they con­versed, Win­ters, 65, mentioned giv­ing her a pair of her shoes, white and black patent leather ones, that for Sum­mer­leigh Geimer were a def­i­nite hard pass.

Later, as she and her sib­lings sorted through their mother’s be­long­ings, “the go­daw­ful shoes” popped up, and she took pos­ses­sion. Along with a large signed print by de­signer Betsy John­son, they were re­minders of her mother’s days as a fashion pub­li­cist in New York — and what Geimer calls the funky, vin­tage style that once prompted she and her sib­lings to nom­i­nate Win­ters for the fashion makeover show “What Not to Wear.”

With her brother and two sis­ters living else­where last year, she was the one to rush to the scene af­ter learn­ing of the shoot­ing. “I called Mom, and when she didn’t pick up, I knew,” she said. “There’s never been a time when she wouldn’t pick up.”

She waited hours for of­fi­cial con­fir­ma­tion, then made the tough calls to her sib­lings, all in the Navy.

That a lot of candy was found in Win­ters’ desk at the Cap­i­tal is no sur­prise. She kept both her own and her work fam­ily in sweets, said her old­est daugh­ter, Win­ters Leigh Larca. There would be peppermint bark for Christ­mas, heart-shaped choco­lates

In­stead, it is Win­ters’ ashes that would go abroad. Some were left in Turkey, where she spent some of her child­hood, and, some went with her son, Phoenix Geimer, to Italy — fit­tingly for Win­ters, he said.

“She kept her pass­port cur­rent no mat­ter what,” he said, even though Win­ters didn’t travel as much as she wanted. “It was an as­pi­ra­tional pass­port.”

Phoenix, a lieu­tenant in the U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet head­quar­ters, said his mother had “a very clear sense of how the world worked … and how small changes in one area could lead to big changes in an­other. She saw how she could make a dif­fer­ence her way to make the world bet­ter.”

His sister Mon­tana Geimer, a lieu­tenant ju­nior grade who now works at Fort Meade, lives in Win­ters’ home in Edge­wa­ter. She helped her mother find the house, which Win­ters moved into in 2016, the year Mon­tana grad­u­ated from the Naval Acad­emy.

Larca, a Navy of­fi­cer can­di­date at­tend­ing Pur­due Univer­sity in In­di­ana, said you could tell the home was Win­ters’ the mo­ment you stepped in.

“There was no living room, or sit­ting area. No couches,” she said. “She set up her of­fice where the living room would be. When I would come for a visit, I would put a chair by her com­puter to

Hi­aasen

McNa­mara

Smith

Fis­chman

Win­ters

KARL MERTON FERRON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Rob Hi­aasen kisses Maria Hi­aasen in a photo on the pi­ano as the widow of the slain news­pa­per ed­i­tor looks at fam­ily pho­tos on dis­play Tues­day.

KARL MERTON FERRON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

An­drea Cham­blee, wife of slain Cap­i­tal Gazette sports jour­nal­ist John McNa­mara, stands out­side his home of­fice Wed­nes­day.

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