Fort McHenry without Ranger Vince? That would be like the Star Spangled Banner without Francis Scott Key, or the National Aquarium without its dolphins.
But that’s the way it will be starting this summer.
Vincent Vaise, park ranger extraordinaire and chief of interpretation, disclosed this week in an early morning television spot on WJZ-TV about Flag Day that he is taking a new job in Washington, D. C.
“Ranger Vince is leaving Fort McHenry,” he told reporter Ron Matz. “We’re still with the Park Service…I got a promotion. I’m with National Capital Parks East in Washington, D. C. Mr. Vince goes to Washington. So we’re going to fix everything up down there… Get everything on a good track. I’ll be running the Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens.”
Vaise promised that he won’t forget Baltimore.
“My heart’s still in Baltimore. I still live here, up in Baltimore. So thank goodness for the MARC train service.”
In more than 25 years with the National Park Service, Vaise became the face of Fort McHenry. Superintendents came and went, but he could always be counted on to lead a parade, hoist a flag, don a period costume or answer the goofiest question involving the fort – all with a straight face.
“Vince Vaise is a beast. Vince Vaise is the Cal Ripken of Fort McHenry history. His passion for the Fort that saved America is undeniable,” gushes a report on Charmcitywire.com. “I love this guy and his enthusiasm for the past…You could only wish to love your job as much as Vince does.”
“We’re going to miss you my friend…We can’t say enough about Ranger Vince because you have really put Fort McHenry in the forefront,” Matz told him on air on Flag Day. “The Fort-front. It’s always been a great place, and it still is and will always be. But the knowledge and the passion that you bring to this has been amazing over the years and it’s been a joy to be with you in the mornings.”
“The neat thing, though, is we have a nice crop of young rangers coming in, so that torch is continuing,” Vaise replied. “Just like from 1812 to the Civil War to the modern day. And even within the Park Service, we always keep that legacy going. That’s what the Centennial [of the Park Service, on August 25, 2016] is really all about.”
A lifelong Linthicum resident, Vaise began working at Fort McHenry in 1987, as a student volunteer. He became a summer ranger in 1990 and has been with Fort McHenry ever since. His service area also included the Hampton National Historic Site in Towson, but he’s most associated with Fort McHenry.
“My mom and dad would take me here when I was little, and I was intrigued with the cannons and running through the fort,” he said in a 2014 interview with the Capital Gazette. “That sparked an interest in history.”
One of the ranger’s proudest moments was during the 200th anniversary celebration of the Battle of Baltimore. Vaise arranged for the Park Service to raise the same flag that flew over the fort then exactly 200 years later, on September 14, 2014, at precisely 9 a.m., down to the second.
Youtube has a clip of a fired up Ranger Vince in an old interview with Jeff Salkin when he was on WBAL-TV. Practically no news report about Fort McHenry is complete without mentioning him. Here is a sample of past headlines:
“National Park Service Ranger Vince Vaise Steals the Show at Star Spangled Celebration.”
“Ranger Vince Emcees This Morning’s Programs.”
“Ranger Vince and The Fort McHenry Guard Have Something to Celebrate.”
“Local Ranger hopes 1812 celebration is cure for “historical amnesia.”
First, the dolphins are leaving the aquarium and now Ranger Vince is leaving Fort McHenry. It’s a sad week for Baltimore attractions.