“Retirement” 2001–2018

After retiring from American Management Systems, Kincey intended to continue free-lance consulting for IT development projects, but at a lower intensity than she had experienced at AMS, and maybe to get engaged more in local activities in Annapolis, where she and Bruce had bought a house in 1997, and moved in the summer of 1999. Anyway, she had a commitment with Morgan Stanley/Dean Witter to finish a project in New York City that she had been working on for two years.

The World Trade Center

On September 11th, 2001, on the 64th floor of the World Trade Center Tower #2., Kincey was working on that Morgan Stanley project. You can read or download her [slightly edited] account of what followed that day at September 11, 2001.

Kincey Was in Tower Number Two.

After Nine-Eleven

Her experience on 9/11 and the saturation of the real estate market in Annapolis, convinced Kincey to accelerate her retirement from IT consulting, and to devote her efforts to improving the environmental condition of the Chesapeake Bay, which “has been dying in my lifetime.”

One day she was reading the Capital, which mentioned that the South River Federation was being revived by a local group, including John Flood and Drew Koslow. Kincey found a phone number for John and called. He said, “Well, I’m about to go over to the Hechinger Hardware Store (where Home Depot on Forest Drive is now), because they have a project that’s putting a lot of sediment into Church Creek. why don’t you come along?” And thus it began.

I don’t remember whether John got any satisfaction from Hechinger, but his example revealed to Kincey that there really were ways that you could stop actions harming the Bay. John’s example inspired Kincey to learn about Erosion and Sediment Control construction permits. Working with Jeff ———– a Federal Soil Conservation Service employee based in Annapolis, she got the documentation needed to serve a stop work order for the entire Kingsport development being built between Greenbriar and Bywater Road, near Kincey’s home. The paper said it was the first stop work order since 1946, and it was in effect for a week.

The tributes cited at the end of this chapter review many of Kincey’s accomplishments in watershed restoration that began with that visit to Hechingers with John Flood. And it’s worth noting that most of her accomplishments were after she started to be affected by a resurgence of the cancer that she had first conquered in 1982.

The Big C is Back

In May, 2008, Kincey had a sore shoulder — the Physician’s Assistance where she sought a consult upgraded the X-ray to a PT-scan after she learned Kincey had had cancer — even 28 years before. That single act of insight, caring, and persistence by the anonymous PA undoubtedly extended Kincey’s useful life by many years. The PT-Scan indicated spots on Kincey’s spine, pelvis, and skull. A biopsy confirmed these were metastases of  the same breast cancer that Kincey had in 1981 and ’82. From that time, we knew Kincey would die from the effects of metastatic breast cancer (MBC). Notwithstanding all of the flag waving about “beating cancer,” the death rate for MBC is somewhere above 95%, and the average survival period is less than four years. (This is actually a point of some political significance — only about five percent of the funds spent for breast cancer research address the particular issues that make MBC so lethal.)

Since her original treatment at Lennox Hill Hospital in New York in the 1980’s, treatment for breast cancer had been advanced by the use of hormonal medicines that (depending on the specific type of breast cancer) slow the progression of the disease considerably.  Kincey was able to get positive effects from three or four different hormonal therapies (in pill form, which simplifies life a lot.) But, as with all cancer treatments, after a while one cancer cell figures how to circumvent the effect of each hormonal drug, or drug combination, and that one survivor cancer cell becomes two, and then four, then eight, and so on. 

By about 2012 or 2013, Kincey had run through all of the currently available hormonal options, and then the choice became which of the cancer chemo-therapies will be used , in what potential combination that provides side-effects that are tolerable for which patients.. There was one chemo that she could take that was a pill, and that did work pretty well for her for several months, maybe a year. And then it’s back to the same old drugs and drug combinations that were in use as infusions in 1982, mitigated by new anti-nausea and other meds to control side effects — somewhat.

I could go on for hours, but the bottom line is the bottom line: The metastatic breast cancer you start with is the metastatic breast cancer that will kill you, with very small exception.

Kincey was blessed with two great virtues in her particular cancer: 1) In spite of being primarily embedded in bone, Kincey had virtually none of the pain that affects so many people with bone-based metastases. 2) Until the last year of her infection, Kincey had no significant active metastasis to soft tissues and organs, so that she continued to be mobile. And she was.  Her last major trip was the first week of July with a trip to Puget Sound and a week-long cruise, on which she participated in a relatively full schedule of shipboard and shore side excursions, just three months before she died..

After Kincey’s Death

At the end of Kincey’s 10-year battle with the cancer, after five weeks of progressively worse insults from the metastatic cancer invading the lepto-meningeal tissues (the dura) surrounding her brain and other major nerve axons (such as the right eye optic nerve, which went blind on July 16, 2018),  Kincey passed away, asleep, about 11 PM, Friday, September 14th, 2018.

The outpouring of appreciation and tributes for what Kincey had accomplished in the 14 years since she “retired” and started to work as a volunteer on watershed restoration issues in 2004 was incredible. Here are links to a few of the articles and on-line comments:

Among the many public comments and commentaries, I like best Pat Furgurson’s “Appreciation” that was published in the Annapolis Capital-Gazette on Sunday,  September 23rd. You can read or download it by clicking Kincey Appreciation

Five days before, Rick Hutzell had published Kincey Potter Obituary on the first page of the Capital.

Both of these articles also cited the 2016 story on the occasion of Kincey receiving statewide recognition from the Chesapeake Bay Trust with their annual Ellen Fraites Wagner award.

On the 17th of September Bob Gallagher, co-chair with Kincey of the Anne Arundel Chapter of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters wrote a column for the editorial pages of the Capital “Kincey Potter’s success shaped Anne Arundel environmental community” — she would have especially appreciated this because it cited her political impact, and even before the Eagleton Institute she always knew politics was “the way things get done.”

Liz Buxton and Nancy Merrill of the South River Federation collaborated on an appreciation entitled “Kincey Potter (2018), Leaving a Legacy of Clean Water.”

And Suzanne Etgen, who had worked with Kincey since the early days when the Watershed Stewards Academy moved to establish itself as an independent organization, rather than a government project wrote “Remembering Kincey Potter” on the WSA blog at <http://aawsa.org/blog/>

——————

Some Facebook posts:

Kate Alanna Fritz
September 18 ·

“Kincey Potter was truly a tenacious and fierce community leader – and I owe her a debt of gratitude. The June evening she called me in 2014 to tell me that the Board of the South River Federation was offering me the Executive Director position, I was over the moon! When I responded that I promised her I was going to do the best job and that she wouldn’t regret the decision, she responded, “You’re damn right you will.” She never doubted my abilities for a second.

“Kincey was fierce. Fierce in her love of her incredible husband Bruce Potter, fierce in her love of the South River, and fierce in her support of efforts to restore clean water to Anne Arundel rivers. She was also a fierce supporter to us younger generation of leaders. She never sat on the sidelines, and even when she was skeptical about something, she still rolled up her sleeves to help for the collective good.

“I will sorely miss your counsel and advice, Kincey. Know that you left a big impact on many hearts, and in many waterways, here in the Chesapeake Bay.”

——————————

Drew Koslow posted on September 17th, and I think he captured well the inspirational ability of Kincey to stimulate new environmental leadership — I think that’s charisma, and I think it’s second only to her extraordinary ability to maintain focus on the key issues and goals.

“My friend and mentor, Kincey Potter, passed this last weekend. Kincey revolutionized the way small nonprofits in Maryland were run. She tied together her business acumen and a passion for clean water to transform SRF. She led an all-volunteer organization through a transition to having two paid staff to a leader in the nation; implementing large-scale restoration projects throughout a heavily urbanized watershed.

“She hired people like Erik Michelsen, Kate Fritz and Kirk Mantay who took a watershed plan with 75 prioritized projects and implemented every single project. Kincey also played a big role with Severn River Land Trust to preserve key pieces of the South River headwaters. SRF was able to pull off two of the “Big, Hairy, Audacious” projects that Paul Sturm and I dreamed up. South River watershed suffered many assaults through the years and Kincey, Erik and Kirk did everything they could do to right the sins of the past. Kincey understood that legacies can be rewritten. Because of her vision, the legacy of South River continues to be rewritten.”

Erik Michelsen

“Kincey was an incredible friend and mentor, and someone whose persistence, intellect, and understanding made an indelible impression on everyone she met. I will miss her dearly, but her legacy lives on in the lives of everyone she inspired. Thank you for your guidance and friendship, Kincey.”

Kincey hated to get up early — and “early” in her mind was anytime before 9:30 AM. She and Erik used to have breakfast about once a month to talk about “environmental stuff.” They’d meet at 49 West or some other place, usually about 8:30. Kincey was always able to get up at 7 AM or even earlier, and was always on time. For top drawer issues and good friends and colleagues she was fierce, as Kate Fritz said above — even fierce enough to get up early.


Thank you for reading this summary of some of Kincey’s activities for “the first sixty years,” before she became a “hero of the Chesapeake.” She was pretty heroic all along, and we were all blessed to know her.

3 Comments

Kate Fritz · October 20, 2018 at 9:00 am

Bruce, this was an incredible and moving tribute to Kincey. Thank you for sharing – I learned so much! More photos of the two of you, please!

Warren Howell · October 20, 2018 at 10:42 am

Bruce: Thanks so much for your wonderful account of Kincey’s life with you and her work interests and accomplishments. Even though I knew her for more than 50 years, I still didn’t know some pieces of her life, probably because she was so understated about her successes. I will miss her and our many great conversations, especially recent ones about the Bay. My fondest wishes go out to you. See you Sunday.

admin · October 25, 2018 at 9:26 pm

This is a long comment, composed by the “October Group” — a bunch of friends from the 1960’s, who annually explored the meaning of party. —

REMARKS ON BEHALF OF THE OCTOBER GROUP,
PREPARED FOR KINCEY POTTER’S MEMORIAL

October 21, 2018
As some of you know, Kincey and Bruce were part of an ad hoc group of a dozen-or-so people, whose core members first met during our first jobs out of college. We worked at HUD and lived largely in Southwest, DC. We knew Kincey and Bruce then, and we have some damning photos to prove it.
The October Group took our name from our annual weekend gatherings that started in 1990. Many of us have late October/early November birthdays. Over these 50 years of shared life stages, we have celebrated our weddings, our anniversaries, and the next generation’s weddings. We’ve commiserated and bolstered each other through challenges, but mostly we’ve had fun, reveled in the connections, and argued. Lots. About everything. We’ve sailed on Kincey & Bruce’s boats, and some of us have vacationed together with them. We have seen Kincey and Bruce before breakfast, and after the steel band has shut down for the night.
Kincey was our unassuming major influencer and consensus builder. She had gravitas, but wore it lightly. She found us our favorite spot to gather for October Weekend, Rock Hall on the Eastern Shore. Kincey and Laura started our annual jigsaw puzzle, over which we caught up and shared important life stories and events, often late into the night.
She was more interested in having fun than in preserving her image or even her dignity. She appeared in our annual costume competition as everything from Hurricane Katrina to I Love Lucy’s friend Ethel. In the fiercely competitive Rubber Chicken event, her team won many times. She took home the gold in the Senior Olympics, aced the Great Gatsby challenge to Walt’s chagrin, and singlehandedly solved the murder mystery weekend.
October weekends always involved good food and drink. Kincey was all-in for those evenings of laughing, drinking, and talking. Many of those Saturday nights Kincey would emerge for dinner wearing a fabulous new piece of jewelry–Bruce marking her birthday–and make the rest of the women swoon.
She danced. So, we danced. Weddings, anniversaries, boat trips. Tortola, Rock Hall, their patio. We danced.
Kincey had charisma–you were drawn to her. You wanted to know what she thought, and what she was focused on. She asked just the right question to help you figure out a problem, and she knew just what to say to buck you up, and make you feel like you could do anything, because Kincey thought so. For some of us, Kincey and Bruce’s was a wonderful getaway by the water. She and Bruce would take you.
And finally, Kincey had focus and she had courage. She didn’t let challenges, even challenges as big as being in the middle of 9/11 or the last ten years facing cancer, take her eyes off what mattered to her. She knew how to live in the moment, and we were lucky enough to share great fun with her.
In Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury said:

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies . . . . A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. . . . Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.”

We’ll always see Kincey in the South River, in a cleaner Bay, in Fall in Rock Hall, and wherever the October Group gets together.

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