The AFRO celebrates 130 years

By Timothy Cox
Posted on January 17, 2022

The Baltimore Afro-American newspaper is one of the country’s oldest Black-owned businesses, dating back to 1892. This year, the weekly newspaper, known today as the AFRO, celebrates 130 years of continuous publication. A formerly enslaved man, John Henry Murphy Sr., purchased the newspaper in the late 19th century, less than 30 years after the end of slavery. Murphy had served in... READ MORE

Volunteers help make homes accessible

By Glenda C. Booth
Posted on January 10, 2022

On one of the hottest days of 2021, Chesterfield resident Susan Stephenson, who uses a wheelchair, was buoyed by the sight of 24 volunteers in her front yard. Despite the weather, which she said was “hotter than blue blazes,” a crew from the nonprofit RampsRVA arrived with tools, dismantled her broken wheelchair ramp and installed a new one. One volunteer even mowed her... READ MORE

Teaching kids to read critically

By Margaret Foster
Posted on January 03, 2022

Journalist Alan Miller won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting, but he’s equally proud of a second award for his second career. Last month, Miller, 67, won a 2022 AARP Purpose Prize, which celebrates people 50 and older who use their life experience to solve social problems. The prize recognizes his work on the News Literacy Project, which he founded in 2008. The project aims to teach... READ MORE

Wanted: Nature lovers of any age

By Barbara Ruben
Posted on December 28, 2021

Barbara Schmeckpeper spent her career as a molecular biologist parsing the minutia of genes at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. But when she retired 20 years ago and looked up from her microscope, she found a wider world beckoning. First, she volunteered to pull weeds at a local park, which led her to volunteer with organizations that work on environmental education and... READ MORE

Sweet! Domino Sugar turns 100

By Margaret Foster
Posted on December 20, 2021

Baltimore native Cathy Bowers owes her life to Domino Sugar. Her parents, the late Albert and Cassie Bowers, met at the Baltimore refinery in the 1950s. Albert started in the mailroom and rose to the head of the billing department, and Cassie worked as a keypunch operator. The company’s bowling league brought them together, and they started dating. “They had to keep it a... READ MORE

Ex-FBI agent drives special needs children

By Diane York
Posted on December 13, 2021

Mike Mason is used to big jobs with plenty of responsibility. After all, he was the number-four man at the FBI, and later a senior vice president with Verizon, handling its security issues on a global level. But his post-retirement gig is perhaps the most significant of all: driving a school bus for Chesterfield County Schools. It’s work he loves and considers as important as his past... READ MORE

Welcoming today’s refugees

By Glenda C. Booth
Posted on December 03, 2021

In the last four years, Hannah Koilpillai, 65, has rounded up used furniture, beds, dishes and more to set up apartments for more than 500 people from other countries who resettle in the Washington area. She even convinced Colgate-Palmolive Company to donate 400 toothbrushes to the Maryland-based nonprofit where she volunteers, Homes Not Borders. Koilpillai, a Silver Spring resident, is... READ MORE

What’s next for Diane Rehm?

By Margaret Foster
Posted on November 01, 2021

With a voice as familiar as that of a friend, longtime radio talk show host Diane Rehm, 85, will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Virtual 50+Expo. Her remarks, in the form of a video conversation with Beacon publisher Stuart Rosenthal, will be accessible with the rest of the Expo’s features through January 2022 at As Rehm’s colleague Kojo Nnamdi (himself a ... READ MORE

From local band to Hollywood star

By Nick Clarkson
Posted on October 19, 2021

For actor, producer and Ellicott City native Johnny Alonso, the road to Hollywood didn’t start in the traditional way. The son of two doctors, Alonso first took to the stage as a teenager with a band he formed with his brother, James, and two neighbors. As lead guitarist and singer for the band, Alonso discovered his love for performing. “That’s really where my acting career... READ MORE

Designing jewelry for 70 years

By Glenda C. Booth
Posted on October 18, 2021

When artist Betty Cooke was a young girl growing up in Baltimore, she visited the Walters Art Gallery with her father. The museum’s gleaming medieval armor collection fascinated her at age 10. “I loved the details of the different colored metals coming together. They had such beautiful forms,” said Cooke, now 97, in an interview with the Beacon. Cooke went on to create jewelry... READ MORE