Miles had no distance
Upon the seat of my bike
Peddling faster there
Without an itinerary
We arrived at real and
Imaginary places our
Only escort the wind
And I the captain of
The handlebars chose
Each route for our journey
On Saturday mornings
Riding my Schwinn
Now a fond childhood
Memory rests with the
Brake stand on

By Lorraine Stark

Side by Side

Side by side they stood
A mirror of the other
A passing equal to,
One’s mother, one’s father.
Now both are gone
We face the void
Silence accompanies the wind.
There is no hand left to join the other
Their beauty remains in our hearts
A couple has died side by side,
Our meeting was as brief as a hummingbird’s pause.

By Lorraine Stark

Cold Heaven

Down the block
He’s almost here
The glistening Frosty
Ice-cream truck
That you waited all
Day to come
Remember running so fast
When you finally heard
It’s pre-recorded song
You swore you could hear
It blocks away
You’d run inside
Quick, quick money please
Before he goes away
And dash outside again
And you’d have to run
An extra block
To catch the glistening truck
And all the time breathlessly
Thinking, Oh please wait for me
But you didn’t care
You were just a kid in
Love with the ice-cream truck
And nothing else
Could ever compare
On a hot summers day
I swear I hear
I’ve gotta run
I guess I’m still
A kid at heart
Please wait for me again

By Lorraine Stark

Leo's Rage

You can't see him
but he's everywhere
mixing his potion of
heat and humidity and
if that wasn't enough
like a wizard he can
whip up thunderstorms
on a moments notice just
so you know it’s Leo's turn,
after all it’s August as he roars
in time with each strike of
lightning and as if we haven't
had enough he finds delight
knowing thermometers are
breaking new records while
beads of sweat become our
armor against his rage I'll be
thinking about the cooler days
and nights of autumn and crickets


By Lorraine Stark

Hats off to summer

Hats off to summer
To the creaking slap
Of screen doors
To fly-swatters
Once in reserve
Now on active duty
To the 1812 overture
On the Fourth of July
Accompanied by thunder

To fireworks
That make a
Black summer’s night
A kaleidscope of colors
To rainbows
That surprise you
After a thunderstorm

To white sheets
On clothes-lines
That flap
Like birds wings
To seagulls standing
By the shore
Watching waves like surfers

To making sandcastles
And finding hermit-crabs
To the sand in your shoes
When you arrive home

 To finding a homemade
Lemonade stand
On a hot day
To the smile
Upon the faces
Of the children
That serve you

 To front porches
With rocking chairs
To strangers
Who nod hello

To earlier sunrises
And later sunsets
For lazy times ahead

To summer
To all
It unfolds.


By Lorraine Stark

Via Unsplash

Via Unsplash

Touching Art: A Sensory Art Show at McDowell Arts Center

When my daughter and I walked into the Sensory Art Show at McDowell Arts Center (123 E. McDowell St.), I still had to ask, “It’s okay to touch everything?” Melissa Johnson, Cultural Recreation Manager for the Town of Matthews, nodded and cheerfully said, “Yep.”

That’s exactly what we did: touched each piece, enjoyed the colors and textures, the variety of methods of art making covered in the exhibit. From metal sculpture to heavily textured abstracts, the show was also perfect for kids. Friendge, Andrea Vail’s interactive community-building project, was an unassuming table in the middle of the room, waiting for viewers to sit down and take part.

With this exhibit, it’s the interaction that sparks the magic of art in this show.

Enjoy some of the photos my daughter and I took, but also go and see it yourself. The Multi-Sensory Art Show is on display through July 5. Hours are typically Monday-Friday: 1 pm-8 pm, Saturday: 10 am-4 pm, and Sunday: 1pm-6pm, but call to double check first: 704-847-9746.

Morning Minute: Thursday, February 28, 2019

News About Town:  Tomorrow (Friday, March 1) from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. is the last Crews Family Fun Night until the fall. We won't say they saved the best for last but... LASER TAG!! One part friendly competition, one part adrenaline, you’ll get some serious fun time in without worrying about muddy shoes. Park and Rec will also have food to keep your belly from giving your hiding spot away. Did we mention it’s free? #bestnightever


News Around Town: The North Carolina Youth Rugby Union will descend upon Matthews this weekend (March 2 and 3) for the 16th Annual Carolina Ruggerfest. Ruggerfest, the largest youth rugby tournament on the East Coast has approximately 1,500 athletes, ranging in age from 7 to 18 years, who will be taking to the fields of the Matthews Sportsplex. An additional 2,500 parents, coaches, and crew will be accompanying the teams, so if you notice a few extra thousand people in town, it’s #kindofabigdeal.

One Good Thing: Grab your tickets to the HELP Fest early, while they still have early bird pricing. If you get them before March 15, tickets are $45 (ages 18 and up), $15 (ages 8 – 17), and children 7 and under free. This year the annual spring festival is Saturday, April 27, from 5 til 9 p.m. at the HELP Center. There will be live music, an array of local restaurants, a silent auction and more. The family-friendly event benefits services provided by the HELP Center throughout the community. #lovethyneighbor

Morning Minute: Wednesday, February 27, 2019

News About Town:  Representatives from the County Tax Assessors office will be at the Sportsplex (2425 Sports Parkway) tomorrow (Thursday, February 28) from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. to discuss the recent property revaluations. Both tax assessors and appraisal staff from Mecklenburg County will be there for residents to present questions and learn about property tax resources. 

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News Around Town: If it feels like we’re getting a lot of rain, well, we are. According to the USGS rain gauge at Matthews Elementary, Matthews has received 9.37 inches of rain since January 1. According to the National Weather Service Forecast, the Charlotte area averages 3.41 inches in January and 3.32 in February. If it's too early for math, we're already 2.64 inches above average. According to the site, August is typically our rainiest month averaging 4.22 inches. 

One Fun Thing: We, at the Beacon, love supporting good works. If you are a member of a non-profit and have an event you would like listed on our calendar or possibly covered in the Morning Minute, we want to know about it. We also love hearing story suggestions, digging into research about Matthews topics, and are exuberant over editorials. Send them our way!

Morning Minute: Tuesday, February 26, 2019

News About Town: This is your monthly reminder to stay connected and engaged with your local officials Tomorrow (Wednesday, February 27) is Coffee with a Commissioner. This time the meeting is from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Brakeman’s. Hopefully some of you 9-5ers can make it.

Then Saturday, March 2, at 8 a.m. at Miki’s Restaurant is your chance to Meet the Mayor.

Take the opportunity to catch up on what was discussed at last week’s Planning Conference and Town and State Day at the Legislature.


News Around Town: Thai Tamarind (Matthews Festival) closed its doors this past Sunday after four years in Matthews. Tamarind opened as an Indian restaurant (in the same location) and, after several years, switched to a Lao/Thai street food menu. The restaurant was popular and known as a hidden Matthews gem by Charlotte-area critics.

One Fun Thing: Tomorrow (Wednesday, February 27, 2019) stop by Edible Art Cake Shop in Matthews Station between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. for a ribbon cutting with the Matthews Chamber of Commerce. Edible Art is a Myers Park mainstay and recently opened their second shop in Matthews near Town Hall. They offer cake by the slice, as well as cookies, and other beautifully decorated, edible delights.

Morning Minute: Monday, February 25, 2019

News About Town: At tonight’s Council Meeting (7 p.m., Town Hall) Former Councilman Reverend Larry Whitley will be approved to become a voting member of the Planning Board. Larry has served on the Planning Board as an alternate member since February 2018. Prior to serving, Rev. Whitley served two years on Matthews Town Council and is the only African American elected to Town Council to date.

News Around Town: If you’ve driven through downtown lately you may have seen a flurry of renovation work happening at the old Cafe 157 location. A new restaurant is moving in, Grace O’Malley’s. If the name wasn’t clue enough, the fare is a modern take on Irish pub food with many ingredients from local farms. (H/T to Kim Stuart O’Shea for the info.)

One Fun Thing: This Friday, March 1, jump online early to snag your tickets for Lunch with Easter Bunny. On Friday, April 12, bring your kids (ages 2 to 5) and camera for an afternoon of fun with the one and only Easter Bunny! Mr. Bunny will be hoppily posing for photos with the little ones. Tickets are $10 per person — available online or at the Matthews Community Center. The following day, Saturday, April 13, Mr. Bunny will be joined by his Mrs. for posing with kids (both the 4-legged and 2-legged kinds) from 10 a.m. til 1:00 p.m. For more information call 704-321-7275.

Meet Your Neighbors: The Milledges

Photo courtesy Sarah Milledge

Photo courtesy Sarah Milledge

In 2011, when Sarah Milledge (née McAuliffe), now 37, met Jermaine Milledge, now 34, the disparity in their lives couldn’t be greater. She came from a small town. He came from a big city. Sarah is Caucasian and petite and loves to talk. Jermaine is 6’7”, was working on a Master’s Degree (she had her BA), is African-American and doesn’t love to talk. He is also a few years her junior.

“It was like ‘yin and yang,’ “said Jermaine.

What they did share was a common employer (State of Michigan); the fact that both had lost their fathers at an early age and, most importantly, that both are blind. Sarah suddenly lost her vision from Type I diabetes at the age of 23. Jermaine has been visually impaired since birth.

What they found, together, was love, commonality, a life dedicated to promoting awareness of the possibilities for those experiencing vision loss (and other disabilities) and the importance of community, diversity, and inclusion.

Together, they have a handful of degrees, certifications, sit on several state boards and have significant job experiences to their credit. (They both also sit on the town’s Diversity Council). Moving to Matthews four years ago for work has been a blessing. They recently purchased a new home in town which they share with Sarah’s Yellow Labrador, Echo, 12.

“Community is huge,” said Sarah. “We get a lot of help from a lot of people in Matthews. We love Matthews.”

Today, the pair knows they are role models for others with challenging disabilities. “It’s not something I tried to be,” said Jermaine, “but you just become that by having certain successes. You kind of become a trailblazer in a way. To show people that you can succeed despite barriers.”

“We advocate every day for ourselves and our clients who are also visually impaired,” said Sarah. “Living in a world with disability – that won’t stop. We’re always setting goals; I think we have empathy. We know what it’s like to be misrepresented; to overcome barriers.”

In the end, it is their love and connection that will remain. “I absolutely love my husband,” said Sarah. “We work so well together as a team…. There was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. We have climbed the mountain. We feel like we have an army around us with family and friends.”

Meet Your Neighbors: Caren Carr and Tony DiRamio

We had to make a decision. I didn’t know how much time we’ve got. People say, ‘Why did you get married, you could go so soon!’ But, it doesn’t matter. We can have happiness.
— Tony DiRamio
Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Approximately, five years ago and within a one-year span, Caren Carr’s spouse of 16 years and Tony DiRamio’s spouse of 42 years passed on after struggling with terminal illnesses.

As a Catholic and a Jew, respectively, neither Tony, now 77, nor Caren, now 67, knew the other except in passing at the monthly Hospice and Pallative Care Charlotte Region Support (HPCCR) Group meetings. With family in various places across the country, neither had local relatives to count on. More importantly, both had just experienced the grief of losing long-time loves, and both already had long-established full lives in Matthews.

So, when the support group ended, in early 2015, Tony attempted to continue getting the group together – this time, at a local restaurant. Only Caren showed up. The meal lasted a full two hours with much discussion, reminiscences, and reflections on loss and grief.

Six weeks later, they went on a joint transatlantic cruise ship together. Six months later, after dating exclusively, Tony asked for Caren’s hand in marriage.  “I was very surprised,” said Caren of the proposal. “I said, ‘you don’t have to tell me tonight,’ ” said Tony. “I didn’t [answer] him right away,” reflected Caren.

“After being married for 42 years, it was kind of lonely living in the house,” said Tony. “I didn’t [just] want to live with someone. I wanted a long-term commitment. I’d been married my whole life and I had a lot of life ahead of me,” said Tony.

“We weren’t looking for this, but we had something in common because we’d had loss,” Caren said. “I started being his friend; he started being my friend.”

tony and caren by cyma shapiro 2.jpg

While they considered an elaborate wedding, a suggestion at the county clerk’s office to keep their names made them consider an easier path – finding a judge or magistrate available immediately and determined by day. “I said, ‘let’s get married tomorrow,’ ” said Tony. The pair went to a jewelry store that afternoon to pick out rings and asked a neighbor and her husband to stand as witnesses for them.

The next day, they visited the magistrate (working) in the local jail. They brought $20 in cash to pay for the ceremony. The neighbor brought a cake from Publix. They were married on October 28, 2015.

When asked later about the event, Tony joked to friends that they “had about six hundred people [in attendance], but most of them were wearing orange suits!”

And, in answer to people’s judgment about their marrying again so soon, or even at all, after the loss of spouses, Tony is clear: “The grief is still there. Just because we got married doesn’t mean that we don’t have feelings [about our previous lives],” he said, noting that they both had good marriages. “We go thru a process; we talk about it sometimes. There are still certain things you have to get over.”

We weren’t looking for this, but we had something in common because we’d had loss.
— Caren Carr

Having lived for a few years in Caren’s old home, last January, they moved into their new home, together. Now, they share a love of travel, of going out to restaurants, and of living in Florida for a few months/year each winter. They also share religious traditions and visits to their respective houses of worship.

“In older age, it’s different than when you are younger,” said Tony.  “We had to make a decision. I didn’t know how much time we’ve got. People say, ‘Why did you get married, you could go so soon!’ But, it doesn’t matter. We can have happiness.”

“We’ve been married four years. I’m happy,” he said. “It’s very difficult to change a lot of habits. She has her [ways]; I have mine,” said Tony, stating that in the end, they “work it out.”

“But, it’s a really happy story,” added Caren.

At their passing, the couple will bequeath money to HPCCR. “We’re so grateful for meeting and for the care our spouses got,” said Caren.

When Elvis Comes to Town

People of all ages come to Matthews to enjoy the music of Elvis, but the majority are 50 or older. Many sing along with the often-familiar tunes. Eyes closed, they are transported back in time; back to their youth, and a simpler time when this music was their music.

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

On a handful of nights each month, people walking by Jonathan’s Restaurant (10630 Independence Pointe Parkway) might catch the sounds of songs by Elvis Presley, or June Carter and Johnny Cash. Maybe they’ll hear a song originally sung by Patsy Cline or Conway Twitty.

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

On the nights that Elvis is in the house, it might be sung by Chad Champion (of Charlotte) portraying a younger, more energetic version of Elvis; Wayne Brockwell (of Albemarle) showing a more mature side of the actor/singer or even the more polished and sophisticated show by professional Elvis impersonator Jack Byrnes (of Mint Hill). Some nights, “Shelvis,” Helene Mueller, will perform, often with her husband, George (of Mint Hill).

On this night, the third Thursday of the month, it’s the Rock and Roll Oldies Club of the Carolinas. The 1st Thursday of the month, it’s the Elvis Fan Club of Matthews-Mint Hill. And, on the 3rd Saturday of the month, it’s Danny and Donna’s Saturday Night Showcase. There are approximately 200 total members in all these groups, but members often appear at each others’ events. Over time, this gaggle has become more like family. (In truth, there are groups just like these meeting all year, throughout the country.)

Tonight, as with most nights, it’s more than a dozen newbies and old-time performers belting out the tune of their choice. Everyone gets respect and their due. More than 80 people are eating, laughing and intermittently watching the performers. Tonight’s headliner is Wayne. But, at one point, he’s joined by former Monroe resident, Josh Clough, 50, back in town from Arkansas with his Elvis impersonation (and his Elvis-hair).

Josh is passionate about this role, swinging around in fine Elvis fashion, finally hitting the floor with a signature Elvis move. He apologizes to the crowd for his apparent rustiness, he says, but this doesn’t seem to stop him from being in the moment, or them from enjoying his spontaneity and passion.

It’s a part of history that’s a dying thing. We will probably not have as big a following as the years fade away. This will probably be the last generation where we have this big of a following and commitment to Elvis and Oldies music.
— Danny Jordan

In each and every case, the few-minute spotlight is theirs…in this moment in time and with this song. Performers patiently wait while the headliners sing, then the remainder of the group performs in the order they are registered. Since this is karaoke night, each has the benefit of the nearby computer scrolling the lyrics, although most don’t seem to use this extra help.

As nearly always, people of all ages are in attendance, but the majority are 50 or older. Many sing along with the often very familiar tunes. Eyes closed, they are transported back in time; back to their youth, and a simpler time when this music was their music.

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Recently, long-time DJ, promoter, booking, and productions, Danny Jordan (the Danny of Danny and Donna’s Saturday Night Showcase) has taken up the mantle for these shows. At 60 years of age, he is one of the younger members of the group – a group he passionately loves and loves to promote. “I love all of them,” he said.

“We’re all keeping Elvis and the Oldies music-tradition, alive….I’m kind of trying to preserve the Elvis and the Oldies-image and give them a place to showcase themselves,” Danny said. “It’s a part of history that’s a dying thing. We will probably not have as big a following as the years fade away. This will probably be the last generation where we have this big of a following and commitment to Elvis and Oldies music.”

Back at the restaurant, long-time members are quick to discuss where they were when they saw these late-great headliners; who they may have met in person and who still knows someone related to these favorite, well-known singers.

While this might be fun, the fun is often used for the greater good – helping those out in the community. Many volunteer their time in nursing homes and at specialty events. Often they rotate between groups throughout the region. Each evening, a bucket is passed around for donations; one-half of the money goes to the headliner, the remainder goes to that Club.

“These guys are really serious about what they do,” said Danny. “They go to nursing homes, raise money for NC Special Olympics…we raise money for people who are having financial issues. We do that when needed.”

Often shows are put together just to raise money, but at the end of the day, this remains pure old-fashioned, old-time family entertainment.

“We’re a bunch of old(er)….guys who have been in the entertainment business,” said Danny. “Now we’re just kicking back and having a good time with people who enjoy the same kind of entertainment and music.”

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

2810[top]5: Hot Coffee Spots

If our morning newsletter references didn’t give it away, I’m going to share a big secret today: We are a coffee powered organization here at the Beacon. Today we’re here to share five spots that keep the Beacon fueled.

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Good Cup Coffee Co., 105 N. Trade Street (at the Farmer’s Market and pop-ups elsewhere). The Chopas family makes delicously unique coffee drinks you won’t find anywhere else in the area. It counts as a meeting to follow Norah around while she does her weekly shopping, right?

Photo via Good Cup

dilworth coffee.jpg

Dilworth Coffee,

3016 Weddington Rd #600. We’ve had more than one meeting here. The vibe is cozy and the staff is friendly, and the coffee isn’t pretentious.

Photo via Dilworth Coffee


Your Mom’s Donuts, 11025 Monroe Rd, Ste F. Another spot where we often meet, lots of room, not too loud, and the coffee is great. Plus: donuts.

Photo via Your Mom’s Donuts

magnolia coffee.jpg

Magnolia Coffee. Their tasting room is in Matthews but isn’t open to the public yet, so head on over to Baked Well (10915 Monroe Rd ste D) to try a cup. It’s a good excuse to have a cookie for breakfast with your coffee.

Photo via Magnolia Coffee

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Brakeman’s Coffee, 225 N. Trade Street. Who doesn’t love Brakeman’s? It’s tough to find a table sometimes, so we get the coffee to go and find another spot in Matthews to catch up on all things Beacon.

Photo via Brakeman’s

Morning Minute: Friday, January 18, 2019

News About Town: At Monday’s Council meeting the Board approved two zoning motions: 2018-692 and 2018-693. The property for Motion 692 is at the corner of Ames St. and West John St. The application for rezoning was unanimously approved, and zoning changed from R-20 (single-family - minimum lot size 20,000 square feet ) to O (CD) (office, conditional use). The properties for Motion 693 included several properties in the Crestdale neighborhood. The rezoning was a request to change from Crestadale Conservation zoning code CrC (old) to CrC (new). The new code essentially changes the approval process for any construction other than single-family homes to undergo a site plan and elevation approval process rather than the previously required quasi-judicial system (similar to a Variance Board hearing). The Board unanimously approved this rezoning.


News Around Town:  Although we posted this a few days ago, it’s an event worth repeating and attending. This Sunday, January 20, join Pastor Larry Whitley at Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church (381 Crestdale Rd.) at 2:00 p.m. for the Third Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, Peaceful March & Commemorative Worship. After a brief presentation about civil rights, attendees will gather outside to walk to Town Hall.

One Good Thing:  It’s officially Thesaurus Day, so although it’s casual Friday at work, you better fancy up your words. Grab your compendium of synonyms and orate with imperturbable verve.