Frank Megargee

Age 90 Eastern Shore correspondent for The Evening Sun loved writing poetry and painting in watercolors.

"All he wanted to do was write good stories and stay away from editors," said Sharon Dickman, a former metro editor.

July 12, 2008|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,Sun Reporter

Frank N. Megargee, a former longtime Eastern Shore correspondent for The Evening Sun who was also a poet and an artist, died Wednesday of heart failure at Mallard Landing, a Salisbury retirement community, a day before his 91st birthday.

Mr. Megargee, who was born and raised in West Chester, Pa., and attended West Chester State College, began his newspaper career working for a weekly in the late 1930s.

During World War II, he served in Army communications and landed at Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

After the war, Mr. Megargee returned to newspapering and was named editor of The Newark Post in Newark, Del. In 1960, he moved to Washington when he became editor of the Air Force Times.

After being appointed The Evening Sun's Eastern Shore correspondent in 1965, Mr. Megargee moved his family to a home on Camden Street in Salisbury, and for nearly the next two decades was a prolific contributor of articles to the paper.

Mr. Megargee traveled the Delmarva Peninsula, providing articles on breaking news, local politics and trials, as well as features capturing the characters and personality of the Eastern Shore.

"Frank caught the Eastern Shore and he was fortunate in having been there at a time when the old Shore was fading into the new," said Bill Thompson, a former Evening Sun reporter and Eastern Shore freelance writer. "He wrote Eastern Shore stories for Western Shore readers and was able to portray its provincialism and innocence without being derogatory."

Writing about harvesting lobsters off the Maryland coast, Mr. Megargee observed, "The Maryland lobster is the same as the Maine variety," and then quoted "an old-timer" who said, "It would take one of those biologist guys to tell the difference."

Driving down Route 318 one day between Preston and Federalsburg in Caroline County, he stumbled upon the village of Linchester, and its operating water wheel grist mill that dated to 1681, and was billed as being the "oldest continuing business in the nation."

"Its owner is Frank S. Langrell,79, a dusty, stooped figure out of America's Colonial past when mills like this were mainstays of the local farm economy," he wrote.

He had a deep appreciation for the Shore's natural wildlife and the beauty to be found in its many creeks, rivers and swamps.

He wrote descriptive prose about bald eagles, watermen busily tonging for oysters or the lonely, wind-swept beauty of Assateague Island, which during his tenure was preserved and became Assateague Island National Seashore.

Mr. Megargee enjoyed the Ocean City boardwalk in October and found amusement in the visitors who came to watch flocks of migrating birds.

"Gone with the brief days of summer are the sun-broiled girls in bikinis, the bronzed lifeguards, the middle-aged girl-watchers and the happy family groups," he wrote.

"In their stead has come a different breed of vacationer - the October visitor - few in numbers, more interested in watching birds than girls, preferring a solitary stroll by the sea."

Mr. Megargee had a fondness for out-of-the-way characters such as Nellie M. Marshall, who had spent nearly 20 years scouring the graveyards of Dorchester County, copying down epitaphs and biographical information, before the old stones eroded and the cemeteries became overgrown or were plowed under for new homes.

Mr. Megargee was an infrequent visitor to the newspaper's Calvert Street offices, preferring to stay on the Eastern Shore.

"We were reassigning reporters to different metro desk editors, and Frank was assigned to me," said Sharon Dickman, a former Evening Sun metro editor who now lives in Rochester, N.Y.

"He was gracious and amused by the whole idea. Occasionally, he referred to me as his personal editor. It was rare to ever have to change his copy," Ms. Dickman said. "I think he visited the newsroom just once a year. All he wanted to do was write good stories and stay away from editors."

After he retired in 1982, he and his wife, the former Susan Carter, whom he married in 1950, were co-founders of the Eastern Shore Writers' Association. She died in 2005.

He also busied himself writing poetry and painting in watercolors. He completed numerous pencil, crayon and charcoal sketches, which were exhibited in 2000 at what is now Salisbury University.

Mr. Megargee was a communicant of St. Francis de Sales Roman Catholic Church in Salisbury, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. today.

Surviving are a son, Frank C. Megargee of Williamsburg, Va.; a daughter, Ann M. Palmer of Annapolis; a brother, Louis Megargee of Salisbury; and five grandchildren.

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