Remembrances of 2017 

A look at some Richmonders and Virginians who made lasting contributions.

click to enlarge Martha Orr Davenport

Martha Orr Davenport

Virginia lost some of its best and brightest in 2017. Some of these people were widely known for their many years of public service. The names of others are emblazoned on buildings. There are many who worked quietly, effectively and generously to better their communities. They were athletes, artists and, in some cases, real characters. They left an indelible impression and will be missed.

Flags flew at half-staff at Henrico County public buildings in late January honoring David A. Kaechele, who died Jan. 20 at 85. He represented the Three Chopt District for 36 years on the county Board of Supervisors where he worked effectively — and famously — to keep Henrico real estate taxes low.

click to enlarge Richard “Dick” Glover
  • Richard “Dick” Glover

On Feb. 2 his former colleague, Richard "Dick" Glover, who represented Henrico's Brookland District for more than 33 years, died at age 82. A persistent, wise and beloved advocate for the county, Glover promoted youth sports, preserved the character of the Mountain Road corridor and established the Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen as a vital regional amenity. Some 700 people attended his funeral at Grove Avenue Baptist Church.

Dennis Patrick "Pat" Mullins, who was esteemed in Republican Party circles and served as state party chairman from 2009 to 2015, died tragically in an automobile accident May 28 at age 79.

E. Hatcher Crenshaw, an irrepressible Richmond real estate developer who represented the Richmond area in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1986 to 1989, died Oct. 14 at 94. He became to first delegate to speak on the House floor using sign language in 1987, a skill he learned through classes at his church, St. Paul's Episcopal.

click to enlarge Clarence L. Townes Jr. - EDWIN SLIPEK
  • Edwin Slipek
  • Clarence L. Townes Jr.

Few figures in recent times proved more effective at bridging often wide gaps in race relations than Clarence L. Townes Jr. who died on Jan. 11 at 88. He served effectively for 17 years as the executive director of Richmond Renaissance, now known as Venture Richmond, a public- private partnership for downtown development. In 1965 he became the Virginia Republican Party's first black candidate to run for a seat in the House of Delegates since Reconstruction.

Representatives of a dozen not-for-profit organizations, including Virginia Commonwealth University's Medical Center, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College Educational Foundation, Jewish Family Services and the University of Richmond School of Law, were present at Beth Ahabah Synagogue for the funeral of Jeanette Lipman. The philanthropist who passed away April 8 at 102 was as low-key, whip-smart, caring and intuitive as she was generous.

It's hard to know what real estate developer William E. "Bill" Singleton loved more — jazz (he was a founder of the Richmond Jazz Festival) or donating millions of dollars to educational causes. He combined his interests when he and his wife gave $3 million for a jazz studies program at Virginia Commonwealth University where the W. E. Singleton Center for the Performing Arts bears his name. His other philanthropies included major support of the university's medical school, Goochland's Elk Hill School, St. Michael's Episcopal School and George Mason Elementary on Church Hill, where he underwrote a refurbishing of the school playground. Singleton died June 11 at 83.

Church Hill native Benjamin L. Wigfall, who studied art at Hampton Institute (now University) on a Virginia Museum of Fine Arts fellowship, died in February at age 86. He later received a master's degree in fine arts from Yale University and taught art for many years at the State University of New York in New Paltz.

Richmond enjoys both a deep bench and talented roster of visual artists, but all who knew Bill Fisher — the man, his artwork, and his guidance as an instructor at the VCU School of the Arts — mourned the talented painter's death on April 24 at 59.

Harry W. Robertson III, a prominent Richmond painter and sculptor who successfully and adventurously wove fishing and hunting trips to Africa, South America and the Arctic into his repertoire, as well as a deep appreciation for conservation into his worldview, died May 8 at age 80.

Richmond native Hansford H. Rowe Jr., who dazzled thousands during his esteemed career as an actor on local stages, died Sept. 5 at 93. He performed regularly at the Virginia Museum Theater (later TheatreVirginia), Theater IV (now Virginia Repertory Theatre), Barksdale at Hanover Tavern and Swift Creek Mill Playhouse. Importantly, his longest-running role never received a formal theater review as the Miller & Rhoads department store's Legendary Santa.

click to enlarge Donald W. Corker - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Donald W. Corker

A more impromptu, part-time performer, and a familiar and memorable figure on city streets, was Donald W. Corker. Dirtwoman, as he was widely known (don't ask), died Sept. 26 at 65.

click to enlarge Lorna Pinckney - ASH DANIEL
  • Ash Daniel
  • Lorna Pinckney

Lorna Pinckney, a vital force in Richmond's cultural scene died at 43 on Oct. 5. For some 15 years she presented Tuesday Verses, a gathering of poets and musicians that created collaborative work. Her goal was to expose the community to a broader range of cultural options and opportunities.

Martha Orr Davenport, one of the savviest and brightest individuals ever to grace the city, died Oct. 10 at age 99. She was a daughter of the Deep South, but also a progressive and delighted to have lived to vote for her country's first black president. A volunteer force at the Virginia Museum for many years, her greatest passion was literature, especially for children. A legacy of her efforts is the Martha Orr Davenport Special Collections Room at the Richmond Public Library and a collection of children's books at the University of Virginia.

Joseph M. Dye III, beloved and esteemed friend, educator, and as one of the nation's authorities on Asian art, died Oct. 21 at 72. A Kansas native, Dye worked at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts from 1980 until his retirement in 2010 where he was the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter curator of South Asian and Islamic art.

The Most Rev. Francis Xavier DiLorenzo, who served as the 12th bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, died Aug. 17 at 75. Named bishop in 2004 by Pope John Paul II, DiLorenzo's outlook and leadership as the spiritual leader of more than 200,000 Virginians was decidedly more conservative than his progressive predecessor, the late Bishop Walter Sullivan.

Virgie Mattie Binford, who for 60 years was an educator, died March 19 at 92. She began her influential teaching career at Richmond's A.V. Norrell Elementary School before being named director of the city's Head Start program. After receiving doctorates in elementary education and theology, Binford taught early childhood development at J. Sergeant Reynolds Community College. The Richmond Juvenile Detention Center is named for her.

A son of Southside Virginia, Lt. Gen. Samuel Wilson built a military career that included advising the nation's presidents and being part of the team that created the Army's secret Delta Force of the U.S. Special Operations Command. Wilson passed away June 10 at 93. From 1992 to 2000 he served as president at Hampden-Sydney College where he previously taught popular courses in political science, leadership and ethics.

Hundreds of VCU students reside each year in the high-rise Brandt Hall dormitory on West Franklin Street. But how many know the building's namesake is Warren W. Brandt, the university's first president? Brandt died July 4 at 93. The chemist and educator came to Richmond in 1969 when the Richmond Professional Institute and the Medical College of Virginia merged. It was a tumultuous time with campus unrest and protests associated with the war in Vietnam: Even the president's office on West Franklin Street was fire-bombed. He later served as president of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

Galax-born James Curtis Hall, the first dean of the VCU School of Business who served in that capacity for 26 years, died July 20. He was 91. The founder of the Virginia Council on Economic Education, Hall was an ardent supporter of Rams basketball, often traveling out-of-state to watch the Rams.

The visionary James E. Carrier, who transformed James Madison University from a small teacher's college into a large university, passed away Sept. 17 at age 85. He served as the Harrisonburg institution's fourth president from 1971 to 1998 and the Carrier Library bears his name.

Hundreds of parents and former students recall fondly Bill Jordan, who was principal of William Fox Elementary from 1960 to 1985. He died Feb. 21 at 91. Jordan expanded the school's playing fields, helped found the Strawberry Street Festival and guided the student population to a true interracial mix.

Award-winning journalist Estelle Jackson, whom a former colleague once called "feisty and fun," died July 6 at 82. Reared in Chicago and after newspaper stints in Battle Creek, Michigan and at the Washington Post, Jackson joined the Richmond Times-Dispatch in 1963. There she wrote a highly regarded consumer column. Jackson later served as the editor of another Media General publication, Virginia Business Magazine.

Broadcaster John Thomas "Tiger Tom" Mitchell, a third-generation journalist who was reared in Jackson Ward, died July 10 at 100. He was great-nephew of John Mitchell Jr., the legendary editor of the Richmond Planet (and would, himself, work for the crusading paper). Mitchell later served as a pressman for the St. Luke Herald (a newspaper published by Maggie L. Walker), wrote for the Richmond Times-Dispatch and the Richmond Afro American newspapers, and for Jet magazine. In 1937 he became a radio disc jockey and newsman with his voice and views airing on WANT-AM radio from 1951 to 1982.

Sumpter T. Priddy Jr., who died Jan. 12 at 92, was a long-time resident of his beloved Hanover County but his reputation and reach was statewide. He served from 1957 to 1991 as head of the Virginia Retail Merchants Association. For decades he was one of the most indomitable lobbyists at the State Capitol.

Frank A. Chiocca, whose last name is well-known to old-time Richmonders, owned Chiocca's Park Avenue Inn, a restaurant he operated from 1964 to 2004 at Park Avenue and Meadow Street. He died Aug. 21 at 91. Frank's father, Peter, established the first restaurant to bear the family name in 1937 with Chiocca and Sons at 327 E. Franklin St.

Jacqueline Rixie Lake Carmine died May 19 at 99. She lived a remarkable life: During World War II Carmine was one of 1,097 women pilots in the Army Air Forces. After the war she and her husband joined his family's businesses, Carmine Foods, a wholesale food operation, and ran Richmond's popular Flying Cloud Restaurant. While rearing three children, she won drag racing competitions and at 72 became a realtor.

Robert Kline, who following service in the Navy during World War II joined the local advertising agency of Cargill, Wilson and Acree, died May 31 at 96. He later founded the Morrison and Kline agency and later the U. S. Historical Society, which marketed products to museums and nonprofit organizations.

Norfolk-born Macon F. Brock Jr. made a big impression in greater Richmond. The success of Dollar Tree, the company he co-founded in 1986, and his subsequent purchase of Family Dollar, led to philanthropic gifts totaling $33 million to his alma mater, Randolph-Macon College. Today several campus buildings honor him and his wife. He died Dec. 9 at 75.

click to enlarge Hugh C. Waters III
  • Hugh C. Waters III

Few individuals, in a town that loves tennis, sparked more passion for the sport in more people, than Hugh C. Waters III. He died April 24 at 83. The St. James's Episcopal Church sanctuary was full as friends and family bid farewell. The native Floridian came to Richmond in 1970 to be tennis director of the Westwood Racquet Club. He later co-founded the Richmond Tennis Academy and owned the Raintree Swim and Tennis Club. In the early '80s he was an organizer of the World's Largest Tennis Tournament, which put some 2,000 players on 300 Richmond courts.

Another tennis aficionado, E. Massie Valentine, died Aug. 3 at 82. The former president of Johnson & Higgins Virginia, an insurance company, Valentine won multiple tennis championships beginning in his youth. He was instrumental in establishing the Fidelity Bankers Life Tennis Tournament here, a grand midwinter sports event for many years, and in 2009 was inducted into the Richmond Tennis Hall of Fame.

Those old enough still savor the glorious moment in June 1973 when the Doswell thoroughbred, Secretariat, won the Triple Crown — the first such achievement in 25 years. The champion's determined owner and breeder, Penny Chenery, who lived to see herself portrayed by actress Diane Lane on the big screen in the 2010 Disney film "Secretariat," died Sept. 16 at 95.

Buildings on our downtown skyline are as likely to house law firms as banks or investment companies and this year saw the passing of some highly respected attorneys. These included Dennis I. Belcher, who was an estates and trusts attorney with McGuire Woods for 41 years. He died April 27 at age 65. Among many civic activities, Belcher was instrumental in establishing the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.

Richmond had few gentlemen as fine and erudite as Aubrey Bowles III, an attorney who died April 28 at age 83. A member of many historical organizations, his great love was the continuing restoration of the historic and architecturally distinctive Wirt-Caskie House in which he lived and practiced law on North Fifth Street.

On May 18, John Paul "Jack" Ackerly, a former rector of the University of Virginia, died at age 82. He served the firm that became Troutman Sanders for some 50 years and worked tirelessly on behalf of many historical, educational, political and legal organizations, as well as his church, Second Presbyterian.

Highland Park reared Everette G. "Buddy" Allen Jr., a force at the Richmond bar for half a century, died May 29 at 76. He joined what is now the Hirschler Fleischer firm in 1970 and was appreciatively known as a mentor to young lawyers.

George C. Freeman Jr., who specialized in environmental law and policy at Hunton & Williams (where he established the firm's nuclear licensing practice), died in June at 88. Freeman, known for his wit and legal creativity, wrote the 1966 Virginia Open Space Land Act which currently protects some 800,000 acres from development. He also was instrumental in establishing the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

Finally, a man synonymous with late-20th century Richmond architecture, David Warren Hardwicke, died Dec. 18 of last year. He was 88. In a span of some 50 years at the helm of Hardwicke Associates, he and his colleagues designed the Hyatt Hotel-Richmond and the north wing of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, both demolished, and the West End Assembly of God. In Williamsburg he designed the Cascades Center and for Washington, the White House Visitors Center.

These are but a few of the lives that collectively have shaped contemporary Richmond. The list could be much, much longer. S


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