The health, worth and prospects of a community can be measured in many ways. But the greatest harbinger of a town’s wealth flows from the talent, heart, vision and yes, both toughness and sensitivity of its people. By that measure, we are the richer because these individuals — some of them real characters — passed this way.
Texas-born Allix B. James, former Virginia Union University president, died Sept. 26 at 92. During his 1970-’79 tenure, he clicked with the broader community like no other VUU chief. He chaired the city Planning Commission and served as president of the Virginia State Board of Education.
Richmond has had few more capable leaders than Hunton & Williams attorney Lewis T. Booker, who died April 4 at age 85. He served three terms as University of Richmond rector and was Richmond School Board vice chairman in 1970, when resistance to busing led to school closures in other places such as Norfolk and Charlottesville. “We never closed,” he later said proudly. “We never lost a day.”
During the holidays last year Milo Russell, a distinguished professor of painting and print-making at Virginia Commonwealth University (1958-’85) and surely in the pantheon of Richmond’s artists himself, died Dec. 22 at 93.
Robbin Thompson, who entertained locals and the world for four decades and once was lead singer for Brue Springsteen’s Steel Mill band, died Oct. 10 at 66. Earlier this year, “Sweet Virginia Breeze,” which he wrote with Steve Bassett, became the official popular state song.
Another musical star burned out with the death of Suzanne Kidd Bunting, a gifted organist and highly respected professor of music at UR on Oct. 30 at age 79.
The talented Terry Snyder saw his first puppet show as a boy in Italy, where his father served in the U.S. military. He knew that puppetry would be his life’s work. He designed, built, scripted and performed puppet productions internationally. He was 67 when his final curtain fell Sept. 7.
Often cast in comic roles, actress Ales Rowe was a beloved member of the local theater world. She graced the stage in some 20 Barksdale productions and was an outspoken grande dame of Ginter Park. She marched for civil rights, women’s rights and against the Vietnam War. She died in June at age 89.
Some people make art and others support the arts. Louise Cochrane, who died Dec. 10 at age 99, did both. Her canvases were impressionistic. When she died, her union with trucking magnate Harwood Cochrane was the world’s 10th longest marriage, at 81 years. Their gifts to the Richmond Symphony and Virginia Museum of Fine Arts were magnanimous.
On Jan. 1, public servant Mac McGeorge died at age 87. The former high-school coach, who started a Henrico summer recreation program in 1956, became the county’s first full-time director of recreation and parks. When he retired in 1988 the department had 326 full- and part-time employees.
Moses Malone, a gentleman and basketball hall-of-famer who thrilled millions during a legendary career, died Sept. 13 at age 60. In 1974 he jumped straight out of Petersburg High School to play for the Utah Stars of the American Basketball Association and then to 21 seasons in the NBA.
For 55 years, Jack M. Kreuter brought sparkle into many patrons’ lives, serving for many years as president of Schwarzschild Jewelers and later as owner of Jack Kreuter Jewelers. He died Oct. 9 at age 79.
Two other Richmonders now in fashion heaven also died in October. Burnett Kastenbaum died Oct. 3 at age 90. During the 1950s and ’60s she owned Burnett’s, a sportswear shop at Willow Lawn Shopping Center. She later moved her shop to Carytown. She also taught fashion merchandising at Richmond Professional Institute, now VCU.
“This is Rosalie Nachman for Lady Jefferson,” was the distinctive voice heard on radio commercials for Jefferson Clothing, a longtime retail institution on West Marshall Street, which closed in 2002. Nachman, a manager of the haberdashery, died Oct. 4 at the age of 89.
Some savvy and far-sighted prime movers in protecting and building awareness of Richmond’s distinctive architecture and neighborhoods died this year.
Former City Attorney Drew Carneal, whose love of Richmond was reflected in years of service to the Historic Richmond Foundation and by his book, “Richmond’s Fan District,” a definitive tome, died Sept. 25 at age 76.
Mitchell Kambis was a visionary real estate broker who restored the historic Empire Theater, now the November Theatre at Virginia Repertory, in the late 1970s — when Broad Street downtown was given up for dead. He died Oct. 16.
James H. Whiting, another dedicated Historic Richmond leader, preferred scraping paint to board meetings, determined that the National Theater not be demolished but resuscitated. He died Nov. 12 at age 86.
During the 1970s, Norvell Henley Lamb focused laserlike on restoring the White House of the Confederacy in Court End to its Civil War appearance and building a modern museum next door to better examine the most challenging years in the city’s history. She died at age 94 on Dec. 3.
C. Edwin Estes, a member of the greatest generation, returned from World War II and in 1957 acquired the company that became Great Coastal Express, a leading East Coast trucking company. He died in April at age 92.
Anthony “Tony” Dowd, also a World War II veteran, devoted his entire career to enhancing and expanding Richmond International Airport. He also was influential in establishing the Virginia Aviation Museum. He died in July at age 90.
Capitol Square had never seen the likes of firecracker Betty Jane Diener, who served as secretary of commerce and natural resources in Gov. Charles Robb’s administration from 1982-’86. She fought for coal miners’ safety and removed the word “plantation” from travel literature. She died Jan. 23 at age 74.
The Hon. Franklin P. Hall, whose shock of white hair and ready smile made him easily recognizable as a Richmond representative to the House of Delegates for 34 years, died May 18 at age 76. He championed programs that funded mental illness treatment, public schools and highway construction in the area.
The Hon. Leonard Lambert, a member of one of the city’s most accomplished families, died Nov. 18 at age 77. In 1973 he made history as the first appointed black judge in the city, in the Richmond Juvenile Court. He later led the Arthur Ashe Monument Committee.
Edna Ipson, born in Lithuania, was imprisoned in a German concentration camp during World War II before escaping with her family and spending six months in hiding. Relatives in Richmond attracted them here after the war, where she and her husband, Israel, bought a gas station. She became the first woman in Richmond to pump gas commercially. Their son, Jay, co-founded the Virginia Holocaust Museum. This remarkable woman died in October at age 103.
An icon of compassion, Alicia Rasin founded Citizens Against Crime in the 1990s. Sadly, she organized seemingly endless vigils for homicide victims where she served as comforter-in-chief. She died Oct. 9 after a long illness.
Covington native and popular WRVA-AM 1140 radio host Larry Dodd began his career here in 1959 as morning anchorman for WTVR-TV 6. He soon was recruited to WRVA, where he served as news reporter in the mid-’60s, creating and hosting “Open for Opinion,” a pioneering talk show. He died April 11 at age 80.
Television news journalist and anchor Stephanie Rochon-Moten died June 3 at age 50. She joined WTVR as an evening anchor and continually raised awareness of cancer through her special reports, Buddy Check 6. CBS-6 dedicated its newsroom in her honor.
For 30 years, Ed McLaughlin was welcomed into Richmond homes as a television reporter and anchor for NBC-12. A Richmond Broadcaster Hall of Fame laureate, he died in July at age 78.
Lindy Keast Rodman, a photojournalist whose images enlivened the pages and enlightened readers of the Richmond Times-Dispatch for 31 years, died July 6 at age 60.
The death of another committed and talented former journalist, John Maloney, who served Style as news editor from 1993-’97, especially saddened the newsroom where he once served with gentle humor, a solid work ethic and sound judgment. Maloney, who went on to a career as a financial adviser with Wells Fargo Advisors, died in April at age 50.
We will miss these and many other people who no longer grace our community but left unique marks.
On March 10 Gary Thomas, owner of Governor’s Antiques & Architectural Materials in Mechanicsville for 45 years, died at 73. It was one of the largest antique companies on the East Coast. Before that he owned The Crow’s Nest antiques emporium in Carver.
Bruce Reiss, a merchandising executive who helped catapult the former locally-based Best Products Co. into a nationwide catalog-showroom giant, died April 2 at 73.
Richmond artists will certainly miss Janet DeCover, one of their own, who was also the founder of Main Art, a Fan District gallery and art supply company. She died Aug. 28 at 65.
Ebullient Brenda Cummings was known as the Glass Lady and operated one of the nation’s most distinctive stores with an encyclopedic selection of vintage china, crystal and pottery first in Richmond and later in Chesterfield County. She passed away on Nov. 10.
J. R. “Bunny” Tucker Jr., who fought for his nation in Europe in World War II, served in the Virginia House of Delegates (where he co-sponsored the bill establishing the Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike) and sat on the bench of Richmond Hustings Court, died on Nov. 27 at 101.
Another World War II veteran who passed away this year was Ida Ann Schreiber, Sept. 1 at 96. She served in the Women’s Army Corps, rising to the rank of captain as a dietician assigned Fort Lee and Fort Story. She later served Johnston-Willis Hospital as a dietician for 25 years.
A player in both the corporate and public sectors, Charles Walker died Feb. 16 at 76. During the 1970s he worked in finance and administration for both the Godwin and Dalton gubernatorial administrations and later joined Ethyl Corp.
Jim Roberts, as director of the Virginia Department of General Services from 2003 to 2006, was responsible for the state’s 11,000 buildings. This public servant died on May 30 at 62.
McEva R. Bowser, who taught in the Richmond Public Schools for 24 years and served on the Richmond School Board from 1994-98 died on Feb. 10 at 92. She also lent her talents as a board member of the Maymont Foundation and Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.
Jackie Woolfolk was a lover of animals. The former member of the Richmond Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals board of directors, who volunteered to make the organization’s Fur Ball a great success, died May 19 at 72.
A lady who worked wisely for many years to have the historic treasures of Henrico County more widely recognized, Jean Gibbons, died May 27. She was a leader in having Route 5 designated a Virginia Scenic Byway and served for 11 years as chairwoman of the Henrico County Bicentennial Commission.
William Morrison, former director of public relations at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, a founder of the Richmond advertising agency, Morrison & Kline and later head of communications and development for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, died July 2 at 86. S