Rock Hall, MD

"Nice people live here - it's our motto!"

Named a Finalist Because: On Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay, this town treats strangers like neighbors and neighbors like family. “Nice” is even part of this 310-year-old town’s motto: “Nice People Live Here.”

From the Editors: They call it the “Rock Hall Wave.” It’s a little salute that residents extend to everyone they pass on the street, strangers and locals alike. “Most people visiting will think they are being mistaken for someone else because of the Rock Hall Wave,” says Kathi Donegan, who nominated Rock Hall. “Whether you’re walking or driving, everyone gives a little salute as they pass by. And before long, you’re doing it yourself.”

That spirit of togetherness seems to blanket the town like mist from the Chesapeake. When a local boy was diagnosed with cancer, almost every Rock Hall resident put red ribbons on their mailboxes—and spontaneously mailed donations to the family to help pay for his treatment. When a painter in town died of a heart attack, residents went out of their way to hire his painting company because they knew the money would go back to the family.

And then there’s the story of Benny Gerlock and his dog, Holly. Gerlock, a long-haul trucker, had Holly with him on a trip to Dallas when he collided with a concrete column and died. Holly survived, but she had no way to get home. So Rock Hall residents raised the money to send two neighbors on the 1,400-mile trip to Dallas to collect the Chesapeake Bay retriever. Now, Holly is the town’s mascot. In fact, Holly leads the Thanksgiving Day parade every year.

Read Kathi Donegan’s nomination below to learn more about why Rock Hall might just be the Nicest Place in America.

—The Editors

Rock Hall residents are a tight knit community full of love and support. (Credit: Kathi Donegan)

The sign that greets everyone coming into Rock Hall says it all, “Nice people live here.” And it’s true. Most people visiting will think they are being mistaken for someone else because of the Rock Hall Wave. Whether you’re walking or driving everyone gives a little salute as they pass by. And before long, you’re doing it yourself.

We are a very small town (2,200 people) on the eastern shore of Maryland, and we try to live up to our town motto. Our town swells with out-of-towners in the summer and we try to be kind to all. We are also dedicated to our friends and neighbors as you will see with the story of my friend Benny Gerlock’s dog, Holly.

There was a contest recently to send in your favorite Rock Hall story and one of the winners pretty much summed up what it’s like to live here. Benny Gerlock, a long-haul truck driver always brought his faithful canine companion Holly with him for every ride. Sadly, Benny was killed in a tractor trailer accident in Dallas, Texas. At the scene of the accident, rescue workers found Holly trapped in the back of the truck and had to cut her out. Frightened and confused, the pup was taken to the Dallas Animal Shelter to be cared for until she could be brought home.

After Holly’s owner was killed in a fatal trucking accident, the town rallied together to bring her back home all the way from Dallas, Texas. (Credit: Kathi Donegan)

After learning of this tragedy, our little community pulled together and arranged for a few of Benny’s closest friends to drive down to Texas and bring Holly home. The outpouring of love shown towards Benny and Holly was heartwarming. It shows how the companionship of “man’s best friend” and simple kindness can overcome even the most difficult adversity!

Locals built a make-shift Christmas tree using hand-painted crab pots to honor the loved ones they’ve lost. (Credit: Kathi Donegan)

Holly was adopted by Benny’s friends and has been in nearly every town parade since that fateful Thanksgiving week.

In our town, people help each other in large and small ways without another thought. The team who won a trivia contest donated their winnings to the local food bank, a school maintenance worker was losing his sight so a house was built for him, and when one of our children was diagnosed with cancer the town was covered in red bows to show support and to raise money.  

Two boys blow bubbles in celebration of Independence Day. (Credit: Kathi Donegan)