Phyllis Whitley melding family & memory
talk of the town
By emily hollingsworth
Rarely does a person choose a career at a very young age and then follow through with it. From the time he was a kid with a radio glued to his hands, Ted Schubel has known he wanted to be on the air. Though other interests came and went, radio remained a constant. Schubel studied English and journalism in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His first local gig was at a Christian radio station and later with B101.5, where Schubel has hosted Town Talk ever since the first episodes aired in 2003. Focusing on local organizations, the arts, people of interest, and politicians, Schubel views Town Talk as a vehicle for weaving a tighter community through revelations of its commonalities and humanity. According to Schubel, the show’s conversational tone and focus on local interests is intentional. He says, “The program manager, Mark Bass, and the program director, Chuck Archer, have always been hugely supportive, giving me leeway as far as content is concerned. When they first pitched Town Talk to me, it was a shorter show. It went so well that they expanded the format. My first thought was how I was going to do an hour each day, but it turned out to be easy due to the interesting people and events in Fredericksburg. It’s important to have local people, because it’s their chance to introduce themselves to the community.” Between tracking down interesting leads and staying abreast of current events, Town Talk keeps Schubel on his toes. Some lessons he’s learned are that the conversation during a live program can divert quickly into unrelated topics, and guests will reveal things after
the interview that you wish had been part of the show. Schubel says, “At 8:59 the show’s over. It really only lasts about 40 minutes with commercials and news breaks, so if we don’t get it then, it doesn’t get said.” On Town Talk, Schubel introduces a wide variety of guests to Fredericksburg, presenting different viewpoints from around our region. A typical line-up over a two week period this summer shows the rich diversity of our community, including Empower House, shows about Germanna’s workforce program, the Spotsylvania Spectacular, an introduction to Spotsylvania County’s new county administrator, the Fredericksburg Regional Alliance, Central summer reading at Rappahannock Regional Library, the local food bank, and Friends of Chatham. Recently, Schubel has added local artist Lara Klopp as a monthly guest to bring a new voice to the show. Schubel says Town Talk and Front Porch Magazine have the same mission, to connect the community. He partnered with Rob Grogan after Town Talk began and would invite Grogan to come on for a Sunday morning show with some of the people who were written up in Front Porch. The two struck up a comfortable comradery, easily bantering back and forth with guests. Schubel and Grogan were diagnosed with different types of cancer during the same period of time and served as moral support to one another throughout. Schubel felt Grogan’s death in 2014 keenly, and says he feels Grogan’s influence to this day: “We struck up this partnership. I still have Rob’s wristband on my equipment bag. I see it and I feel like he’s still going along with some of this because he was so community minded. Rob was always out listening to the community. We used to say what we do here is like what Front Porch does in print. It’s like an audio Front Porch, and that’s intentional.” Of radio, Schubel says, “When you hear people being interviewed, there’s a humanness revealed about them. Today, it seems people aren’t listening to one another. On Town Talk, we try to engage in dialog with people of differing opinions so the community has a chance to get to know and listen to one another.” Ted Schubel interviews his variety of local guests on Town Talk, daily at 8 a.m. on WFVA 1230AM. A.E. Bayne is a writer, visual artist, and an editor of the Fredericksburg Literary Review.
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Phyllis Whitley spent her summers as a child with her grandparents in Summers County, West Virginia. Family became a central component of her life, even as far back as childhood. The artistic component would come later. Whitley took art lessons in high school, but she never pursued it intensely until she moved to New York. Since then, Whitley’s paintings and portraitures have been featured in galleries in Virginia, West Virginia, New Jersey, and Fréjus, France. Photography was an interest and ability Whitley developed later on. It was in 2008, while visiting Summers County, that her two interests, family and photography, united. The barn that her grandparents owned, the one she remembered so well
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from spending summers there, was being torn down. Whitley regretted that she had not taken more photos of the barn when it was in better shape. According to Whitley, the barn’s demolition was not an isolated incident: barns all over the area were becoming dilapidated. Like the barn belonging to Whitley’s grandparents, they might one day be demolished, and the barns and the stories surrounding them would be forgotten. Whitley was determined to preserve their memory. Accompanied by one of her cousins and her husband, a sculptor, Whitley took her camera and went all over Summers County and photographed every barn in the county. She also recorded the stories of the residents in Summers County, who remembered when the barns
were used and thrived. Overall, the process took two years. Each trip from Fredericksburg, where Whitley has been a resident for 38 years, to Summers County, was 250 miles. Whitley collected both the photos and stories and compiled them into Barns of Summers County, which was published by Dementi Milestone Publishing in 2011. For Whitley, combining photography, barns and stories was a way to keep the life she grew up in from being forgotten, and to teach others about what it was like. “It was primarily to preserve heritage of rural life by using the barns as a subject,” Whitley said. For Whitley, combining family and photography is not only a way to record their presence in the moment, but to honor them in the future. The cover photo is of her cousin, Michelle Radolinski. Radolinski and her family live in Mechanicsville after formerly living in Fredericksburg. Whitley not only works to stay close with her own family, but she also
creates a sense of family between Fredericksburg and a city in another continent. Whitley has been involved with the Fredericksburg Sister City Association since 1990, which partners Fredericksburg with Fréjus, France. Sharing a mutual love and appreciation of art, Whitley and members of Fréjus have hosted exhibits both in Fréjus and in Fredericksburg. Whitley’s favorite painting for Fréjus was painting a copy of George Washington for Fréjus’ Masonic Lodge. It was originally painted by 18th century portraiture artist Gilbert Stuart. “It’s a lot of fun,” Whitley said about the association. Whether it’s through painting or photography, Whitley constantly uses art to make connections and to preserve memory, for her immediate family and the family she creates around her.
Emily Hollingsworth is a UMW student NOTE: Phyllis is this month’s cover photographer
Snead’s Asparagus Farm Support Local Green Space & Local Farmers
Raspberries, Blackberries, Peaches, Sweet Corn, Blueberries Concord Grapes,Tall Tunnel Tomatoes, Heirloom Watermelons & Cantaloupes PLUS Snead Farm Raspberry & Blackberry Preserves, Concord Grape Butter, and Free Range Eggs 10 mi. S.E. of downtown on right side of Rt. 17 Open 9-5 Daily
Enjoy Snead Farm Produce at Sunken Well Tavern, LaPetite Auberge, Bistro Bethem, J Brian’s, Vivify, Kybecca, Castigllias Olde Town Butcher, Spencer Devon Brewery, Kickshaws, Ellwood Thompson’s, & Fresca
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