Bob Culver saluted at memorial service

Circuit Court Judge Matt Maciarello addresses the socially distanced crowd gathered Tuesday at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center to honor County Executive Bob Culver. The county’s leader since 2014, Culver died July 26.

Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver was remembered during a memorial service Tuesday as a man of action who tried to make his native county a better place.

“He never sat idly by,” said Weston Young, who served as Assistant Director of Administration under Culver, who died July 26 after a six-month battle with liver cancer.

Young was one of several who spoke to a socially distanced crowd of about 300 people, gathered at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center. He spoke of Culver’s dedication to the county and how he will be remembered for numerous projects, including the construction of new schools and the renovations of others.

Wicomico Sheriff Mike Lewis, a close friend of Culver’s, also noted the executive’s role in extending new water lines from Salisbury to the Salisbury-Wicomico Regional Airport and of plans to build a new public safety complex.

“One doesn’t have to look far to see Bob’s influence or his fingerprints on the many other capital improvement or infrastructure projects in the county,” Lewis said.

The sheriff said the day Culver, who was 67, told him about his cancer diagnosis, “he fell into my arms and wept and I could do nothing but cry with him.”

“He said, ‘Mike, I’ve got so many projects going right now I just want to see them through’,” Lewis said.

The Wicomico Youth & Civic Center’s marquee announced Tuesday’s memorial service for County Executive Bob Culver.

One of Culver’s last acts was the removal of a controversial historical marker commemorating Confederate Gen. John Henry Winder from the Wicomico County Courthouse lawn, which he believed was a divisive and hurtful symbol. 

“That’s leadership right there, folks,” Lewis said.

County Council President Larry Dodd, who presented a council resolution honoring the late executive, also cited Culver’s role in the creation of a park at Pirate’s Wharf, the Promise Scholarship Program at Wor-Wic Community College and construction of Field 7½ for children with disabilities at the Henry S. Parker Athletic Complex in Salisbury.

Culver also was an ardent supporter of the Doverdale lacrosse program in Salisbury and donated both his time and money, said Circuit Court Judge Matt Maciarello.

Only weeks before he received his diagnosis, Maciarello said, Culver arrived up one weekend morning to help shovel a load of dirt at the field.

“When Doverdale needed volunteers, Bob was there,” he said.

Maciarello also noted Culver’s role in the creation of the county’s COAT program to help combat the opioid crisis that resulted in lives being saved.

“I submit to you, that our county is better in many ways from Bob’s leadership and his service,” he said.

Speakers during the service also described how Culver was forever in touch with his constituents and how he worked to solve their problems.

“Your issue became his issue,” Young said.

State Sen. Mary Beth Carozza told of the time she and other officials were waiting to welcome Gov. Larry Hogan to the Wicomico County Fair, but Culver was missing. He was finally located talking to a local farmer, but the farmer wasn’t finished talking.

“The governor would just have to wait,” she said.

Carozza along with Sen. Addie Eckhardt presented a Maryland Senate citation to Culver’s family.

The Rev. George Patterson, who was Culver’s pastor for 18 years at Trinity United Methodist Church in Salisbury, offered the opening and closing prayers and called Culver “a servant of the people.”

Music at the service included songs by Stevie Wonder and Otis Redding.

A resident of Whitehaven village, Culver was a former County Council member and lifelong Wicomico County resident. Before his election as the county’s top leader in 2014, he was well known in the local business community as an entrepreneur, having worked as a contractor, developer, Realtor and restaurant operator.

He was re-elected to a second four-year term in 2018, having bested two challengers in the general election.

In defeating incumbent County Executive Rick Pollitt in 2014, Culver ran on a pro-business, pro-economic development platform. He has governed during a positive economic cycle and has achieved notable feats, including building the county’s reserve fund, overseeing road repair projects, allowing alcohol sales at the Civic Center and ensuring that school projects remained on schedule.

Culver had declined to step down through his illness. He had said he would seek a liver transplant and even declared he would seek re-election in 2022.

“I’m not a quitter. I’m going to fight it,” Culver said in February.

Lewis said he hopes Culver’s successor expands on the legacy of service.

“These are huge shoes to fill,” he said. “Bob Culver, I salute you my friend.”

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