In Memory of Journalist John McNamara

 

John McNamara, July 30, 196- – June 28, 2018

One year ago today, a gunman opened fire in the Captial Gazette’s newsroom in Annapolis killing five employees, injuring two others, and shocking the region. I had the opportunity to spend time with one of those fallen reporters in 2016, and in John McNamara’s honor, I share his words today.

A passion for writing, riding

By John McNamara

How many little girls grow up scribbling in notebooks, wanting to write and obsessing about horses?

Bowie native Valerie Ormond did.

How many grow up to be successful enough as writers to own their own horses?

Valerie Ormond did.

She lives next door to the Loftmar Stables at the southeastern tip of the city where her three horses are kept. And there are times, when the horses are let out to graze, that she can look up from her computer and out her back window and see them munching on the grass.

“How did all of these things fall into place that allow me to do that?” she asked with a laugh.

When she was one of those girls scribbling in notebooks and obsessing about horses, ending up the way she did – with two young-adult novels to her credit and a thriving writing/editing/consulting business – would have made sense. She fell in love with horses early; she even worked as a hot walker at the old Bowie Race Track for a time. After graduating from Bowie High School, she majored in English and mass communications at Towson.

But she took a roundabout route to arrive where she is now. After college, she set out to California, wound up joining the Navy and spent 25 years in the service, working in public affairs and intelligence. She rose to captain before retiring in 2009 and had every intention of sitting back and taking it easy at that point.

“I didn’t have to get out, but I was tired,” she said. “My whole intention was to retire — really retire. I had enough to be able to live on without working. I was going to ride horses, enjoy life.”

One day not long after she stepped away from the Navy, she came across an old “to-do” list from her youth. One item on the list grabbed her and wouldn’t let go: “Write a book.” That spurred her to produce “Believing in Horses” in 2011 and a follow-up “Believing in Horses, Too” in 2014. The latter effort earned grant money that will place a copy of it in every library system throughout the state.

Both books feature a young heroine who is passionate about horses and who struggles with the angst and upheaval of belonging to a military family. Needless to say, Ormond – whose father and husband both served in the Navy — drew upon many of her own real-life experiences for the stories.

“This (writing) subconsciously has always been with me,” she said. “The book idea just sort of came to me.”

During the first few years of her so-called “retirement,” she also did proposal writing and editing.

In early 2014, she attended a seminar designed to encourage female veterans and military spouses to start their own businesses. A couple of months later, Ormond created Veteran Writing Services. The business has done work for General Dynamics, the Maryland Horse Council and the U.S. House of Representatives.

She has also become a sought after-public speaker who shares what she has learned about writing, leadership and starting your own business.

“I would really like to write a third book about lessons learned and people who helped me,” she said. “I’ve had some tremendous luck in my life.”

For now, she’s trying to find balance between expanding her business and not working too hard.

After all, she wants to make more time for that trio of horses next door.

One of them is Billy.

The other two? They go by Lucky and Chance.

Rest in peace, John, and thank you for sharing your talent with us while here.

First published in the Capital Gazette January 27, 2016.

 

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