NRVâ€™s Premier Lifestyle Magazine
New River Valley September/October 2019
Retirement Mercedes Gullwing High School Football VT Uniforms / Helmets
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Wednesday, October 16, 2019, 7:30 PM
CAMILLE A. BROWN & DANCERS Through theatricality and dance aesthetics of modern, hip-hop, tap, and more, this Bessie Award-winning company makes a personal claim on history and examines the culture of black life that is often appropriated, rewritten, or silenced.
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When it comes to always our best,
we mean business. When you’re passionate about something, you give it your all. Your business is proof. We’re passionate about delivering a great banking experience, supporting your business and elevating our community. So we carefully think through your challenges, come up with creative solutions, and embrace enthusiasm, kindness and inspiration in all that we do. It’s how we give you always our best. Your business will get nothing less. Contact us for your business banking, lending and cash management needs. We look forward to serving you.
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MOVE BOLDLY At Nest, we believe that buying and selling real estate is the most important decision you will ever make. That belief guides us to make your decision-making process as stress-free and enjoyable as possible. How can we help you Move Boldly in the New River Valley?
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Pa sture Ta l k
Hard headed Resea rc h 1 0 G obb l er G et U p 1 6 Hi gh S c ho o l Fo ot ba l l 20 2019 Fo ot ba l l S c hedul e 24
Ri de: Mercedes G ul l wi ng 26 NRV G reat for S eni o rs 3 0 No Pl ace L i ke H o m e 32 Ro oted i n t h e N RV 3 6 A ssi sted L i v i ng 40
Fo o d Fa re 42 Cemeter y Restorat i o n 4 4
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NEW RIVER VALLEY M
P. O. Box 11816 Blacksburg, VA 24062 o: 540-961-2015 firstname.lastname@example.org www.nrvmagazine.com
PUBLISHER Country Media, Inc. Phillip Vaught MANAGING EDITOR Joanne Anderson ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE Sabrina Sexton ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE Kim Walsh DISTRIBUTION MANAGER Dennis Shelor WRITERS Joanne Anderson Karl Kazaks Krisha Chachra Emily Alberts Jennifer Cooper Becky Hepler Astleigh Hill Nancy Moseley
PHOTOGRAPHERS Kristie Lea Photography Kevin Riley Always and Forever Photography Tom Wallace Silver Pebble Photography Nathan Cooke Photography Cover image courtesy of: Virginia Tech Athletics ÂŠ 2019 Country Media, Inc. Country Media, Inc. will not knowingly publish any advertisement that is illegal or misleading to its readers. Neither the advertiser nor Country Media, Inc. will be responsible or liable for misinformation, misprints, or typographical errors. The publisher assumes no financial liability for copy omissions by Country Media, Inc. other than the cost of the space occupied by the error. Corrections or cancellations to be made by an advertiser shall be received no later than 5 p.m. the 20th of each publishing month. No claim shall be allowed for errors not affecting the value of the advertisement. Paid advertising does not represent an endorsement by this publication. Content cannot be reproduced without written consent from Country Media, Inc. All rights reserved. Real Estate advertised in this publication is subject to the Federal Fair Housing Act of 1968.
Looking for a new experience, I headed to The Blacksburg Tavern owned by Daniel Riley. I don't know him, but he greeted me by name. I was quite flattered, though it would take good food, a nice atmosphere and excellent service to really impress me. The service was excellent. The atmosphere is appealing historically and aesthetically. After one warm biscuit and a moist piece of warm cornbread, I was duly impressed. There is a family style plating option (similar to The Home Place in Catawba), and prices are comfortable. My in-town office and fave lunch spot is Macado's. They have advertised in this magazine and our other publications kind of forever, along with having consistently good food, a cool atmosphere and excellent service. I am planning to check out Dogtown Roadhouse in Floyd this fall. The food is always good at Bull & Bones, though I do not venture often past the she crab soup and chicken barbecue, both terrific. For me, unless restaurants advertise herein or have a visible presence on a major street, I simply don't think of all of them. Sure, that's an unabashed plug to advertise. I met Joshua Roseberry, general manager at Clay Corner Inn, along with the new owners (as of March), Pawel and Katy. It was a real walk down memory lane for me. Many in-town folks have mentioned outside changes. The location is ideal, and it's always been a great place for small meetings, small weddings, small special events and local family overflow. They Sept/Oct
are still updating and tweaking things. I especially love that they installed A/C units in every upstairs guest room and added keyless entry combo locks. I started Christmas shopping which is sort of Buy Local with a twist. Artist Leana [Hearn] Fischer grew up in Blacksburg, graduated from Blacksburg High School and Virginia Tech (Architecture, class of 2009). Her parents, Walter and Diane Hearn, still live here. She has painted every state's bird and flower together and sells both paintings and prints at maywefly.com. Prices are reasonable, and my mind whirs from Christmas to housewarming, birthdays and no-reason-at-all gifts of someone's current state (geographically, of course!), home state, favorite state. I think it's clever, and there are other fun things for sale as well. [Note to gift shops: I see a wholesale button on the online menu.] Becky Hepler and I go back decades to working together on the editorial team at The Roanoke Times in the late 1990s. She likes to be a helper as needed in life, but we misspelled her last name that way on the masthead a couple times. Sorry, Becky. It is Hepler, and it's great fun to work with you once again! Many of her articles (Joshua Langfitt the blacksmith and Shave 'Em to Save 'Em, for example) are her ideas, too. It's my favorite time of year for cooler temps, football, sweatshirts and all the flavors, flowers and fun that autumn brings. And this issue's Pasture Talk always ends with: Go Hokies!
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Joanne Anderson ManagingEditor email@example.com
Hardheaded Research how Virginia Tech revolutionized helmet construction for concussion prevention
Text by Nancy S. Moseley
Photos by Kevin Riley Photography Now a beacon for branding and sparkly nuance, the American football helmet was once made of nothing but hardened leather. It is inarguably the most important part of the uniform yet, shockingly, after the leap from leather to plastic in the '50s and to polycarbonate (better plastic) in the '80s, very little has changed in helmet construction over the years. Protecting the head was a priority, but a prevalent apprehension in the industry made it not that much of a priority. “It was an environment of ‘what we don’t know, we’re not responsible for,’” offers Mike Goforth, Virginia Tech’s Associate Athletics Director in Sports Medicine. “Cadavers and injuries were studied after the fact. There was never the ability to measure real-time impacts on live subjects.” Cue modern technology. And Dr. Stefan Duma. 10
Duma, founder of the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest Center for Injury Biomechanics, attended a military conference in Puerto Rico in the early 2000s. He saw a presentation on the use of electronic sensors in soldiers’ helmets as a way to better understand injuries sustained in combat. Interpreting the technology as a potential gamechanger for football game safety, he returned to Blacksburg and partnered with team physician Gunnar Brolinson and former head coach Frank Beamer to champion the use of accelerometers in football helmets to record impact data. The big-picture goal? Construct better, smarter headgear to streamline the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of concussions and head-related injuries for any helmeted sport or activity. Shortly thereafter, approximately half of the Virginia S eptemb er/Octob er 2019
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Tech football team was equipped with helmets bearing six sensors spread out across the crown of the interior. In 2007, the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab opened in the bottom of Kelly Hall to process what the accelerometers were reporting. “We’ve sort of become the consumer’s report of the helmet industry,” states Barry Miller, Director of Outreach/ Business Development. “Since helmets are certified on a pass/fail basis, our objective testing has allowed us to create a ranking system to tell you which ‘pass’ helmets are better.” That grading system, released in 2011, utilizes data from 37,000 impacts and is called STAR: Summation of Tests for the Analysis of Risk. STAR disseminates all of the research down to a simple, visual interpretation. Five-star helmets are the best at reducing adverse effects on the brain; one-star, not so great. Top-rated helmets can take a 350 g-force hit
down to 130 g’s. For context, roller coasters average around 5 g’s. All testing is done with respect to the dominant risks of a particular sport. For example, for football and hockey helmets, a swinging pendulum is used to change the angle and energy of impacts to four different places on a head form. Each helmet is hit 12 times. In soccer, since most concussions are head to head, not head to ball, two head forms are set up to smash together at varying speeds and angles. In life, cycling helmets are built to sustain a crash and be discarded, so six of the same helmet are required to fulfill the testing parameters of bicycle helmets. In addition, the lab tests lacrosse, equestrian and catcher’s helmets. Last March, results were released on the first ever research conducted on youth football helmets.
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Once a hit occurs in a game, the sensors go off, and the sports medicine staff immediately starts concussion evaluation. Physical information is collected (symptoms, time span of unconsciousness, doctor’s official diagnosis, etc.) and brought to the biomechanics folks who pair it with data from the accelerometers (what type and how many g’s was the blow). A data set results and becomes available to the public. Private companies can then use the results to design new helmets. The prototypes often given to the lab for testing and eventually the helmet will go to market. Virginia Tech, like any other team, has the option to buy them. The NCAA and NFL also use the helmet data to facilitate changes in game rules. The Center for Biomechanics conducted a study on little league players and found that most injuries occurred in practice, not during the game. Why? Rules govern a game, but nothing governs the design of practice drills. The historical perturbation was all but gone. A new sense of urgency to fully understand the prevention of head injury had moved in. In 2014, two likely powerhouses, 14
the NCAA and the United States Department of Defense, established The CARE Consortium (Concussion Assessment, Recognition and Education). It was created to spearhead the effort to define the clinical and neurological characteristics of concussive injury. Since Virginia Tech was already sitting on a mountain of relevant data, it was selected to be one of six schools in the “Advanced Research Core.” Now there are 30 schools and more than 40,000 participants. Roughly 4,300 (and counting) concussions have been documented. It is the largest concussion research project to date. This fall approximately 30 VT football players will wear a sensored helmet. “We still don’t have all the answers, but at least we’re getting good questions,” Goforth concludes. So the next time all of those shiny helmets hit the playing field, remember, it’s what shining underneath that, quite literally, counts. Nancy Moseley is a freelance writer from Blacksburg who turned down the offer to try on one of the helmets in the lab. It’s a decision she regrets. S eptemb er/Octob er 2019
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Fo ot ball
The Gobbler Get Up
“Uniform designs and combinations are something that both our players and fans are passionate about," Pete Moris, Associate Athletics Director – Strategic Communications Text by Emily Kathleen Alberts Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech Athletics If your favorite color is not Burnt Orange or Chicago Maroon or the unusual combination of both, and you visit the Virginia Tech campus during Hokie football season, you might just change your mind. The Virginia Tech Hokies have always faced a challenge when trying to make orange and maroon look good. Let’s face it, these current school colors were chosen back in 1896 because “no one else was using them at the time” -and probably for good reason. At least they’re more colorful than Virginia Tech’s original school colors, black and grey, 16
which were said to resemble prison garb. Over the years, the Hokie football uniform has undergone as many transformations as there are plays in the playbook. Online, you can view every single combination (there are 2,233,440 combos) at www.cruhland.com/ unibuilder.html if you are itching to see the history and evolution of this athletic uniform. One of the most disliked uniforms was an ill-fated orange (some called it the candy corn look) when playing against Old Dominion University in 2018. Twitter fans were not happy to
see its return when @VTEquipment posted the 2019 uniform reveal this past July. A design element that fans almost unanimously agree on is the Hokie stone. This year’s uniform does feature a Hokie stone pattern within the numbers again, though it remains difficult to discern from a distance. At least they have found a way to make Hokie stone a permanent part of the uniform. Although this year’s uniform resembles the 2018 style, the addition of a patch donning the number “150” with a football inside the zero is brand new. Fans may be conflicted
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as to the meaning of the patch. Does it symbolize 150 years since the first football game? How about 150 consecutive wins against UVA? Ha! Actually, every Football Bowl Subdivision [FBC] and Football Championship Subdivision [FCS] college football team will be wearing the patch this year, along with game officials. Coaches will don the logo during the first week. It actually represents the 150-year anniversary of college football. The familiar ACC patch is there too, and yes, the single diagonal stripe is back, albeit with mixed reviews. Though many teams are wearing throwback jerseys lately, Virginia Tech is no longer traditionally classic, and yet not excessively modern. The Hokie football uniforms are playing it safe in the middle. This approach is likely in response to a decision made in the fall of 2016 for all 22 athletic programs to begin phasing in new uniforms that feature consistent logos, colors, lettering and numerals. As part of this effort, Nike has been working with Virginia Tech on branding and uniform design since 2006, the year the "swoosh" symbol first appeared on Hokie jerseys. Innovators like Susan Sokolowski, who worked for Nike in apparel and equipment design for nearly 20 years, are committed to meeting the needs of athletes performing on elite levels of fitness. While working for Nike, her roles ranged from being a soccer and fitness equipment designer to women’s footwear innovation designer. Her last role was in apparel innovation leadership, where she had oversight on women’s sport bras, muscle compression, impact protection, World Cup uniforms, NFL uniforms, Olympic uniforms, thermo-regulation and digital fit and sizing. “Uniform designs and combinations are something that both our players and fans are passionate about," Pete Moris, Associate Athletics Director – Strategic Communications, acknowledges. "We have always sought to blend tradition and new looks together at Virginia Tech. We value our relationship with Nike and the various uniform combinations that they have provided to our program over the years.” Sokolowski offers insight on how uniforms are constantly evolving to be lighter in weight, more breathable
and even customizable -- all while striving for the highest levels of athlete protection. “The three most important pieces of this innovation are materials, manufacturing and the market itself,” Sokolowski explains. “Materials innovation, especially in foam and highdensity polymers, along with new product development and manufacturing methods, are changing the game.” She adds that 3D CAD, 3D printing, molding and color/graphic applications for local production are allowing for more customization during the manufacturing process. “In the future, I think there is an opportunity to better address user-specific sizing and fit with digital tools like 3D body scanning,” she adds. With marketing, Sokolowski says that new players in the space are disrupting the status quo. “For a long-time, the same manufacturers were involved. For years, the sports industry really only focused its efforts on footwear innovation. New players like Vicis (https://vicis.com/products/ zero1) are pushing the field and make the space really exciting.” Looks aside, when purchasing equipment and uniforms for any team, safety always comes first. Being knowledgeable about testing standards and certifications is key. “With the growth of internet shopping, sometimes there are products available from other countries that may be developed and produced under different specifications and requirements – which may not hold-up to U.S. standards,” Sokolowski explains. Fit and size both play a role in safety, especially with young athletes. Poor fitting equipment and uniforms can affect performance. They can slip off, impede motion, and leave parts of the body exposed. Of course, the biggest challenge is budget. Reusing equipment such as helmets, pads, shoes and even uniforms beyond their lifespan may cut costs, but it can also impair safety. This may be why the Hokies seem to have a new look for every game. They are just playing it safe! Go Hokies! Emily Alberts is a local freelance writer who knows that Blacksburg is a special place with some truly special school colors, and an EXTRA special mascot *gobble gobble*!
Gallery Kent Square, 216 S. Main Street Blacksburg, VA 24060 (540) 552-6446 New River Community College
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NRV Fo o t bal l
2019 High School Football around the New River Valley
Auburn High School brought to you by:
The Eagles are anxious to get on the field in their traditional blue and white uniforms. Fourth year football coach Cam Akers also coaches indoor and outdoor track and is especially optimistic about the upcoming football games. "We are a more experienced football team this season," he explains. "We have several players who have been in our system a few years. They work hard and do not need to be chased around to do the right things in practice." Akers cautions opponents that the team "hangs its hat on great effort, physical football and terrific execution."
Blacksburg High School brought to you by:
The Bruins take to the field in blue and gold, representing one of the largest high schools in the New River Valley with around or a few more than 1,200 students. "I'm very pleased with the work the players have put in this off season," reports Coach Eddie Sloss. "We have had a good summer camp, and we all look forward to the season." They face a brutal schedule, but will have hometown advantage with six Friday night games on home turf." 20
Christiansburg High School brought to you by:
"The 2019 rendition of the Blue Demons will feature more experience than they've had in several years," states third year Head Coach Alex Wilkens. The offense has returning players at every skill position and at least three offensive linemen. The defense will return six starters. "We expect a continuous upward trend after improving our win total last year and making the playoffs for the first time in four years. These guys spent collectively 10,000 hours in the weight room with 42 of them having 90% or higher weight room attendance. When you commit to the program and work that hard you should expect good things to happen."
Eastern Montgomery High School brought to you by:
The Eastern Montgomery Mustangs are coming into the 2019 football season after making it into the first round of the playoffs last year before being beaten by Galax High School. "Several key players graduated, but we have had a strong off season in the weight room and 7-on-7 competitions," Coach Jordan Stewart relates. "We have a lot of young players with key roles on both sides of the football, so the pre-season practices and scrimmages were used to get everyone up to speed at the varsity level." The Mustangs opened the regular season with a long bus ride to Damascus to take on the Holston High School Cavaliers. S eptemb er/Octob er 2019
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NRV Fo o t bal l
Floyd County High School
Narrows High School
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The 2019 Floyd County Buffalo football team returns
with six starters on offense: QB- Jared Nichols, FL- Tyler Fenton, SE- Caleb Webb, Offensive Linemen: Mitch Cook, Shane Monk and Cody Bledsoe.
The seven returning
defensive starters are: DT- Mitch Cook, Wahlberg, ILB- Reece Conner,
OLB- Matthew Cockram,
defensive backs Caleb Webb, Tyler Fenton and Jared Nichols. Long-time coach (39 years!) Winfred Beale says the team has had a very productive off season in efforts, energy and
This football team proudly wears green and gold and plays as the Green Wave near the western edge of the New River Valley. "We lost last year in the state quarter finals," laments Coach Kelly Lowe, "finishing the season 103. Several excellent players are returning, and everyone has worked extremely hard in the off season. The entire team is determined to improve over last year and play to the end of the state championship playoffs."
Pulaski County High School brought to you by:
enthusiasm. "Players are on a mission of redemption from a disappointing 2-8 season (losing two overtime games by one
point, one game by a late field goal and two by a touchdown
or less). The players are going on the field with an attitude of no excuses, no regrets and want to be known as a hardnosed, blue-collar football team."
Giles High School brought to you by:
Expectations are running high for the Cougars this football season. "Last year we finished 8-4 with a 2nd round playoff loss," Coach Stephen James recalls. "A great core of young men return this year, and both our offensive line and defense should be our strong points, along with a high quality group of running backs." Sporting uniforms and helmets in gold and cardinal red, the Pulaski team plans to be a reckoning football force in the NRV this season.
Radford High School brought to you by:
This rural school now tops 625 in enrollment and
finished last season with an even 5-5 with a loss to Appomattox
in the Group 2A playoffs. The Spartans plan to rely heavily on
a talented group of running backs and the patented singlewing blocking up front on the offensive side of the ball.
Sporting a young team this year, Coach Jeff Williams hopes his "Bandana Boys" will improve each week on the defensive
side of the ball. "We were excited to open the 2019 season
against Group 4A Blacksburg at Stephen C. Ragsdale Field in Pearisburg."
The Bobcats enjoyed a great season last year with its 12-2 record, and they intend to improve on that. Coach Matthew Saunders knows they lost some key starters, but have five offensive/defensive starters returning. "We have some young men stepping up this year to take us into a run at a state championship. We had a pretty good off season and may not be able to sneak up on anybody this year. Our team has a target on our backs, and if we stay healthy, we have a good shot to make it far in the playoffs." S eptemb er/Octob er 2019
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New River Valley AUBURN High School
CHRISTIANSBURG High School
BLACKSBURG High School
8/30 @FLOYD COUNTY 9/6 GILES 9/13 PATRICK COUNTY / ROCKBRIDGE COUNTY 9/20 @ ROCKBRIDGE COUNTY 10/4 @ SALEM 10/11 @PULASKI COUNTY 10/18 PATRICK HENRY / HIDDEN VALLEY 10/25 PATRICK HENRY 11/1 @ CAVE SPRING 11/8 BLACKSBURG
EASTERN MONTGOMERY High School 8/30 @HOLSTON 9/6 RURAL RETREAT 9/13 NORTH CROSS 9/20 @ AUBURN 9/26 BLAND-ROCKY GAP 10/4 GRAYSON COUNTY 10/11 BATH COUNTY 10/18 @NARROWS 10/25 @ COVINGTON 11/1 MCCLUER 11/8 @ CRAIG COUNTY
8/30 @ GILES 9/6 LORD BOTETOURT 9/13 AMHERST COUNTY 9/20 STAUNTON RIVER 9/26 SALEM 10/4 @PATRICK HENRY 10/11 CAVE SPRING 10/18 PULASKI COUNTY 10/25 @HIDDEN VALLEY 11/8 @CHRISTIANSBURG
The 2019 Football Schedule brought to you by Blue Ridge Heating & Air
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Pull Out Here
Football Football Schedules Schedule
8/30 NARROWS 9/6 @ CRAIG COUNTY 9/13 FLOYD COUNTY 9/20 EASTERN MONTGOMERY 9/27 WYTHE 10/4 @ FORT CHISWELL 10/11 GRAYSON COUNTY 10/18 @ BLAND-ROCKY GAP 10/25 @ GALAX 11/1 @ HURLEY
Football Schedule 2019 NARROWS High School
FLOYD COUNTY High School
Football Schedule Football Schedules 8/30 @ AUBURN 9/6 BLAND-ROCKY GAP 9/6 NORTHWOOD 9/13 CHILHOWIE 9/20 @ GILES 10/4 @ HOLSTON 10/11 COVINGTON 10/18 EASTERN MONTGOMERY 10/25 @ CRAIG COUNTY 11/1 @ BATH COUNTY 11/8 MCCLUER
8/30 CHRISTIANSBURG 9/6 @PATRICK COUNTY 9/13 @ AUBURN 9/20 FORT CHISWELL 9/27 @ CARROLL COUNTY 10/4 GILES 10/11 @ ALLEGHANY 10/18 GLENVAR 10/25 @ JAMES RIVER 11/1 RADFORD
GILES High School
PULASKI COUNTY High School
8/30 BLACKSBURG 9/6 @ CHRISTIANSBURG 9/13 @ GRAHAM 9/20 NARROWS 9/26 RADFORD 10/4 @ FLOYD COUNTY 10/11 @ CARROLL COUNTY 10/25 @ ALLEGHANY 11/1 GLENVAR 11/8 JAMES RIVER
8/30 9/6 9/13 9/20 9/27 10/4 10/11 10/18 11/1 11/8
NORTHSIDE BASSETT @ ABINGDON @ BYRD CAVE SPRING @ HIDDEN VALLEY CHRISTIANSBURG @ BLACKSBURG @ PATRICK HENRY
RADFORD High School 8/30 9/13 9/20 9/26 10/4 10/11 10/18 10/25 11/1 11/8
WYTHE @ FORT CHISWELL GRETNA @ GILES @ RICHLANDS JAMES RIVER ALLEGHANY @ GLENVAR @ FLOYD COUNTY CARROLL COUNTY
VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES 8/31 @ BOSTON COLLEGE 9/7 OLD DOMINION 9/14 FURMAN 9/27 DUKE 10/5 @ MIAMI 10/12 RHODE ISLAND 10/19 UNC 11/2 @ NOTRE DAME 11/9 WAKE FOREST 11/16 @ GEORGIA TECH 11/23 PITT 11/29 @ VIRGINIA
The 2019 Football Schedule brought to you by Crab Creek County Store
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Mercedes AMG Gullwing ~ The Real Deal
Text by Karl H. Kazaks Photos by Tom Wallace Mickey Hayes’s first hotrod was a 1934 Ford sedan with a Chrysler hemi engine. His most recent hotrod came off the factory line fully optimized, with no improvements necessary: a 2011 Mercedes SLS AMG 6.3 Gullwing. Capable of going 0 to 60 in 3.7 seconds and with a top speed of close to 200 mph, the car is about as fast as you can get. The hand-assembled coupe is impressive in many ways. The throaty rumble which pours forth when Hayes cranks the ignition is reminiscent of the roar at a racetrack. Its doors are hinged at the top and lift upward, giving the car, when its doors are open, its distinctive 26
forward and rear profile, like that of a seagull in flight (giving rise to the gullwing name). Hayes purchased the car new in 2011 when the model had just been released. The car continued to be produced until 2015. But another Mercedes Gullwing was in Hayes’s mind when he bought the car, sight unseen, in 2011. “Here’s where it all got started,” Hayes explains, pointing at a photo on the wall of his garage of a former car of his, a 1955 Mercedes 300SL Gullwing. Widely considered the most significant road-going Mercedes of the postwar era,
the 1955 300SL is a classic car in the truest sense. Its sportiness and gullwing profile provided the inspiration for Mercedes and its in-house performance division, AMG, in the creation of the SLS Gullwing. AMG was not always part of Mercedes. It began as an independent enterprise in the late 1960s when two German engineers banded together to build performance racing engines. In 1971, an AMG modified Mercedes 300 SEL 6.8 took second place overall at the 24 Hours of Spa, schooling a field of lighter race cars and giving notice to the automotive world of the engineering prowess of the upstart firm.
S eptemb er/Octob er 2019
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AMG continued to design performance improvements for stock Mercedes models until the firm was eventually bought out by Mercedes’ parent company. The 2011 SLS AMG is the first Mercedes designed and built entirely from scratch by AMG and has no shared structural components with other Mercedes-Benzes built at the time. The car has an aluminum body and an aluminum shell, designed to provide rigidity while also being light. The driveshaft is carbon-fiber, the engine a V-8, and the transmission a 7-speed automated manual with paddles on the wheel. Even though the vehicle is referred to as 6.3, the engine is 6.2 liters, a modified version of AMG’s standard 32-valve aluminum engine, with improvements including a lowback-pressure exhaust system, a stronger crankshaft, a stiffer crankcase and drysump lubrication. All told there are
more than 120 parts in the engine and a nameplate on top indicating the craftsman who built it. Add it together, and it equals 563 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque. The handling is tight as you would expect from a performance racecar, with speed-sensitive, variable-assist power steering. You can also switch from sport to non-sport mode with the touch of a button in the cabin, but Hayes will attest that you still know you’re riding a sports car when you drive in non-sport mode. “It’s a tough-sprung car,” he relates. “It’s built for going around corners at 100 mph. It’s not a soft ride. It’s the real deal.” It also has a stout braking system and a back fin for down force traction enhancement which raises automatically at 70 mph or at the touch of a button. This car has 4,000 miles on it, none of those driven in the rain. Hayes (who was featured with his 1960 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud II in an issue of New
River Valley Magazine last year) bought the car new from a Northern Virginia Mercedes dealer, trading a 2002 Rolls Royce Corniche convertible for it in a straight up deal. Hayes, a 1964 graduate of Virginia Tech, is a noted donor to the university. He has been part of the Hokie Club since 1967, when it was known as the Virginia Tech Student Aid Association. He remains active in his DKE fraternity, mentoring current Virginia Tech DKEs. It was his wife, Sarah, who suggested they move to the hometown of his alma mater when he retired as a real estate developer, primarily on the Outer Banks. “Other than marrying Sarah, moving back is the best thing I ever did,” he admits. “I absolutely love it here, and I love Virginia Tech. I got a great education. We always have something to do, and we are huge fans of Virginia Tech athletics. Go Hokies!”
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Ways to Make the NRV Great for Seniors
By 2050, the senior population of adults age 65 and older will be more than double that of the world’s youngest citizens, and the number of people living beyond age 80 is expected to triple over the next 30 years. As the aging population increases, some 11.3 million seniors are living alone, according to the Institute on Aging. In addition, women are twice as likely as older men to live by themselves. Without proper support, seniors can face a wide range of issues including limited mobility, chronic conditions, improper nutrition and feelings of loneliness. For example, older adults can have problems chewing or may take medications which interfere with their appetites. However, research shows lack of companionship may be the biggest challenge.
An AARP survey found 1 in 5 adults over the age of 40 were “socially disconnected,” which can impact health. People who reportedly experienced loneliness and isolation had lower mental well-being scores, and those who were dissatisfied with their level of social engagement were more likely to report a decline in cognitive function as well. While anyone can benefit from a kind gesture, seniors are some of the most in-need members in many communities. There are abundant opportunities to enhance the lives of seniors in the New River Valley independently or through programs and agencies. One example is Ready to Care at imreadytocare.com, an initiative from Home Instead Senior Care that challenges people to complete weekly care missions. Each activity guides members through various ways to give to senior-related
causes, learn about the aging crisis and issues impacting seniors, and serve them through small actions of kindness. Most care missions are simple acts, such as opening a door, learning about dementia or helping with a chore. Each week, a new mission is delivered to a participant's phone via text message. Small gestures can go a long way toward improving a senior’s day or week. Physical assistance: Most seniors are eager to retain their independence, but everyday tasks can pose fall risks or require exposure to harsh weather conditions. • Offer to bring in the newspaper or mail. • Mow the lawn or offer help with yard work. • Lend a hand caring for pets. • Offer moral support and a sense of physical safety by volunteering to go for a walk.
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Social support: Loneliness is common among old folks, especially those who live alone. • Offer a friendly wave and say hello. • Invite one to dinner at your home or a restaurant. • Have children draw pictures or write sweet notes. • Make a date for entertainment like playing cards, movie or board games. Practical solutions: For various reasons, some seniors may be unable to complete everyday tasks. • Offer to take them to run errands. • Deliver baked goods or a home-cooked meal. • Help arrange professional assistance and services, such as an audit to ensure homes are safe.
To find more ways you can care for the seniors throughout the New River Valley and beyond, visit imreadytocare. com. The website is filled with information and sends weekly tips and inspiration on how you can offer assistance and brighten an older person's day.
How You Can Help • Lend your voice. Be an advocate for change in public actions and medical research for the aging society. If you’re an expert by experience, share your knowledge about senior-related issues and public policy measures. • Give from your heart. Less than 1% of charitable donations go to organizations that help seniors. Find senior-focused non-profits to give your next charitable donations to, such as one dedicated to
raising awareness, inspiring change and accelerating progress in Alzheimer’s care and research. • Get prepared to care. Educate yourself on issues that impact seniors and complete small acts of kindness for seniors in your life. Sign up for weekly care missions and find additional information to better equip yourself to care for seniors at imreadytocare.com. • Give your time. Volunteer with local non-profit organizations that help seniors or offer support related to senioraffiliated issues. Spend time with a senior living alone or at a nursing home or assisted living facility. Even around lots of people, loneliness for lack of one-on-one connections can be uncomfortable.
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There’s No Place Like Home
weighing the decision of how and where to best age gracefully Text by Nancy S. Moseley
Growing old gracefully certainly has a delightful ring to it. Perhaps we picture ourselves flitting about our homes, doing much of the same things we’ve always done, living out the days surrounded by family, friends and the greater community we love. According to both national and local surveys about 90% of older adults (age 60+) want to stay in their homes. However, for many, the decision is not quite that simple. Tina King, executive director of the New River Valley Agency on Aging, says there are five main factors to consider when weighing the decision of how, and where, to best age gracefully. 32
Housing: Is your home affordable? Is it
accessible; are you able to move around the house without issue? Are there many fall hazards? Is the upkeep manageable? Are there attentive neighbors nearby?
Health and Wellness: Approximately
70% of older adults need some form of routine care. Regularly “checking-in” on your overall wellness is key. Are you still maintaining good health? Do you have any chronic conditions? Are you still able to accurately administer medication?
Transportation: Are you still able
to drive safely? Is there reliable public transportation nearby?
Personal Finance: Are you able to
support yourself on a fixed income? Have
expenses been evaluated? Is all estate planning up-to-date?
Connections: Combating social isolation when deciding to age at home is huge. Local AARP chapters and parks and recreation departments with active senior programs are good places to start. The NRV Agency on Aging has many resources to help older adults make connections. The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program for adults 55+ provides a way to give back to the community. The Friendship Café program organizes lunch dates, meal deliveries, shopping trips and speaker presentations two to three days a week. Additionally, the NRV Time Bank is a neighbor-to-neighbor exchange of skills and special abilities that is currently 150 members strong.
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The NRV Agency on Aging started in 1975 and serves the counties of Floyd, Giles, Montgomery, Pulaski and the City of Radford with funding primarily through the Older Americans Act. King also heads up the Aging in Place Leadership Team, a group focused on navigating the choice to stay at home after retirement. They distribute a comprehensive workbook to help families walk through the fine details, even down to evaluating the handles on kitchen cabinets. “We’re all about keeping someone in their home as long as possible, but not if it’s against their best interest,” King states. On that note, if physical or mental abilities begin waning, the agency employs care coordinators who help facilitate appropriate conversations with caregivers. Gloria Roberts, an 87-year-old Blacksburg resident, recently moved to English Meadows in Blacksburg. It was a decision she and her family made after Roberts had several surgeries that required significant post-op care. Having her medication managed by someone else is one of Roberts’s favorite aspects. “It is a relief to me that I do not have to worry about that now. If an emergency arises, I know someone will be there immediately to assist me if needed,” Roberts offers. Her daughter, Leslie Roberts Gregg, is pleased with the move. "Our family realized that once mother was released from the hospital and rehab care, it would be beneficial to find a place where she would get daily monitoring to address her medical needs as well as opportunities to be in a more social environment. Living on a rural farm and not being able to drive anymore was making her too isolated from community and friends." One of the first people Mrs. Roberts met was Tony Campesini, 80. "Tony greeted us immediately with a welcome and has been a friend since day one - along with many of the other residents. He is a pure joy - taking time with many of the residents, helping others, and taking care of the vegetable and herb garden," Gregg relates. He and his late wife Betty fell in love with Blacksburg passing through and decided this was the place to retire. 34
What does Tony like best? "Friendship first! I love that there are people from different walks of life here and how close the residents become as they get to know each other." Friendship and socializing positively contribute to quality of life in every decade. The Aging in Place Leadership Team, along with the New River Valley Livability Initiative, the Community Housing Partners Design Studio and the New River Valley HOME Consortium, has created a guidebook called "Home Matters." It aims at designing and implementing lifespan-friendly homes, neighborhoods and communities which consider the social aspect of aging and reducing isolation. The old Prices Fork Elementary School project is a prime example of this way of thinking about housing. Former classrooms have been turned into a mix of market value and low-income apartments for folks 55 and older. A manufactured community can be a very workable bridge between aging at home alone or moving into a long-term care facility. Shared housing allows people to collectively support each other while helping them stay as independent as possible. Getting out to the community centers, library, senior activities, volunteer or part-time work, church, music events and farmers markets help older folks feel engaged and energized. One lady who no longer could drive was given two sets of season tickets by her kids for Christmas each year to musical performances at Virginia Tech. She tapped different friends with a car and both would head out for concerts. A home is a home because of the love and warmth and life an individual brings into it. Otherwise, it’s just a house. After all, Dorothy eventually realized, despite adventuring to new surroundings, that she had really been home all along. Nancy Moseley is a freelance writer from Blacksburg who watches Wizard of Oz at least once a year, but she still finds the flying monkeys creepy.
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Rooted in the New River Valley
Text by Joanne M. Anderson Photos by Kristie Lea Photography Greg and Debbie Miller are not the first, and will not be the last, Virginia Tech grads to have arrived in the New River Valley for college and stayed for life. He grew up near Ashland, Va., and came to major in business management. Debbie spent much of her childhood outdoors in Isle of Wight County and attended VT for her horticulture degree. Both graduated in the '70s with no desire to leave. Greg and his brother, Jeff, purchased Laurel Creek Nursery from the founders, and Debbie got her first job out of college managing the retail garden center. She and Greg married in 1981 and built their contemporary passive solar house the same year in a field on six acres. While Jeff stayed on with the retail, landscaping and flower aspects of the business, Greg branched off to raise big ornamental trees and evergreens 36
on a large scale. Their property now encompasses 130 acres, most of it devoted to trees, and they own land elsewhere in the NRV for growing trees. Debbie stayed with the nursery for 14 years managing the retail arm and working as a landscape designer. Her passion is gardens, and she readily quips: "Everyone can have a beautiful garden; even one window box will bring daily enjoyment." Back then, landscaping was fairly simple with trees, shrubs and some flower beds. "Perennial gardens are especially tedious to design," she reveals, "and when adding waterfalls, rock gardens and ponds, it is important that they are somewhat deer proof and sustainable." However, as the years unfolded, landscaping evolved into a significant design industry with increased hardscaping and elaborate outdoor living
spaces that should fit comfortably into the space and architecture.
The Gardens If their property is any measure of Debbie's talent and experience, then she ranks at the top of her game. Their beautiful house is now shaded with gigantic oak trees, beeches, ginkgos, spruces and maples, and the gardens are stunning. "We created the garden in the middle of a field, and it is similar to Gertrude Jekyll's vision of expansive perennial borders. There is always something in bloom from February to November," Debbie states. Jekyll [1843-1932] was a British artist, writer and garden designer who approached gardening with bold color and artistic arrangement which may have
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been influenced by impressionism. There is speculation that poor eyesight curbed her art career, and garden design then fulfilled her creative mind. "She totally upended the British formal garden into long, sweeping, natural looking perennial borders," Debbie adds. The perennial border is very beautiful, in large part because it has been designed not to be appealing to deer. Black-eyed Susans, sedums, Siberian iris, Shasta daisies, tall phlox and countless other flowers of varying colors, heights and textures grace the property, winding around the lawn as well as around the house. Greg built the stone walls, and Debbie has crafted enchanting spaces to relax and entertain, and she continues to enjoy being outside. If she desires new walking trails, she pulls out the tractor and bush hog and makes them herself. NRVMAGAZINE.com
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The House The home's entry foyer leads into a gorgeous open kitchen and family room with large glass doors to the solarium. Soft, tranquil, aquamarine walls, white trim, quartz counters and high ceilings create an inviting aura, replete with a 2-layer coconut cake under glass. "Our kids enjoy cooking, so we can all gather and prepare meals together when they visit," Debbie says of their four grown sons and daughters who have departed the New River Valley for careers of their own. The south-facing solarium that looks out over the gardens and meadow may be Debbie's favorite place inside. And Gracie's, too. The exuberant 10-year-old Golden Retriever has a bed and toys at one end, and there's a round glass and rattan table at the other end. In between are several cozy conversation spots and comfy cushioned chairs for reading, relaxing or chatting. A formal dining room is furnished with classic mahogany table, chairs and china hutch, and a charming library to the left has that cozy lived-in look. It opens to a porcelain floor patio they use often for outdoor dining. "I like the porcelain for its wood look and skid proof texture," Debbie points out. "Also, it does not change color or get darker when it rains and doesn't compete with the stone retaining walls and rock garden." 38
The 4,200-square foot home was expanded in 1992 from three bedrooms to five when Debbie left the [plant] nursery to double the family kid size with a different nursery. They had two children when she became pregnant with twins. After they arrived, Debbie engaged in her own professional landscape design business where she could work from home while serving her family of six. Gorgeous oak floors, beams, stone fireplaces - one in the sitting area off the kitchen and one in the library - and lovely art pieces create a natural warmth, complemented by Debbie and Greg's personalities and Gracie's fun-loving spirit. It is an elegant home tempered with natural materials, soft leather furnishings and a distinctive country allure. The Millers later built a freestanding 3-car garage with space over it used for storage, though it could be an apartment. Her organic garden beyond the garage is fenced from deer, rabbits and other veggie-loving critters and yields tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, peas, beans, cabbage, broccoli, garlic and greens of all types. The privacy of this home sanctuary and tree farm is cherished, yet Debbie has always enjoyed the fact that she can be in town in a matter of minutes. Combining their passions for gardens, trees, landscaping, entrepreneurship, family life and a rural lifestyle keeps Greg and Debbie Miller rooted in the New River Valley. Exactly where they want to be. S eptemb er/Octob er 2019
October Glory Red Maple Trees Photo Courtesy of the Millers
To express their support for the Friends of the Montgomery-Floyd Library, the Millers graciously participated this year in the New River Valley Garden Tour. It is an annual event each July sponsored by the Friends of the Library in cooperation with the New River Valley Master Gardeners’ Association. Proceeds from ticket sales support library needs. The 2019 sponsors were: • • • • • • • •
Blacksburg Breakfast Lions Club Bonomo’s Brown Insurance Capone’s Jewelry Crow’s Nest Greenhouse Shelter Alternatives The Oaks Victorian Inn (temp closed) Van Tyne Family
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Ret ire m ent
NRV Senior Assisted Living: Exceptional!
Text by Lesley Howard Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying: "In this world, nothing can be said to be certain but death and taxes.” Franklin wrote these words in 1789, when the average life expectancy for women was 62, and for men, mid-40s. Although his bon mot remains true, today’s Americans enjoy a much longer average life expectancy: For women it’s 81, and for men, 76. One way to meet this expectation has been the development of senior assisted-living “campuses” providing residents with community opportunities such as farmers markets and walking trails, access to services like yard maintenance and meal delivery — plus on-site physical therapy, physicians and skilled nursing care. Support for this model came in 2018 when the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced payment reform for post-acute care, which includes both skilled nursing facilities (typically part of the continuum of services in assisted living communities) and home health agencies. Senior Housing News notes that this will make senior living campuses attractive as partners to health care systems (like hospitals), which under the new payment models are incentivized to keep patients out of emergency rooms. In addition, CMS announced that the federal program Medicare Advantage will 40
begin to cover some services that were previously not covered, such as nonskilled in-home care. Mike Williams, founder and CEO of English Meadows, states that the expansion of Medicare Advantage did not play a role in their decision to add a Blacksburg campus (formerly The Crossings), but notes: “This will be an amazing thing for both residents and senior living providers. The federal government is finally realizing the need to help pay for senior living. Imagine if the average monthly bill for senior living could be cut in half for families. It’s coming.” Williams also states that the under-occupancy trend reported by the national organization Health Dimensions Group (HDG) has evened out in the New River Valley. “For the last five years, new communities opened left and right. Supply rose way too quickly. We were on both sides of that. Our occupancy dropped at several campuses, but two of our places were part of that new inventory. Things have evened out now. However, my belief is that there are still not enough communities to deal with the demand that we will see in the next five to 10 years.” Given that we’re in the early years of the aging baby boomer
population, this belief seems wellgrounded — and the exceptional quality of the senior assisted living places in the NRV underscores the likelihood that this sector of our communities will continue to grow. Warm Hearth Village is a nonprofit in Blacksburg established in 1974 by Wybe and Marietje Kroontje, who immigrated here after World War II. Their initial concept still guides Warm Hearth: “... a person-centered approach to aging in an inclusive environment that redefines retirement.” Housing options range from Woods Edge, an active adult (55 years old and up) neighborhood with a traditional layout to skilled nursing care. And as the unavoidable process of aging progresses, residents are given priority admission to the next level of care. Warm Hearth is certified as a “dementia-friendly” business by Dementia Friends USA which indicates that staff has been trained in how best to serve those with dementia and memory challenges. Williams started English Meadows after growing up with senior living. “My grandmother and my father owned and operated communities in Roanoke. By the time I graduated from Radford University, I had worked every role inside a senior living building. Waking each morning, with a true mission to serve others, is a wonderful thing.” There are
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Mike Williams, founder and CEO of English Meadows English Meadows campuses throughout Virginia in Abingdon, Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Culpeper, Elks Home (Bedford), Louisa and Warrenton. "My first impression of English Meadows in Blacksburg was how welcoming everyone was here," relates Gloria Roberts, 87. "The attitude of the staff is wonderful, and they greet everyone with a smile. The apartment my family arranged is lovely and being able to move my own things into it made it feel like a bit of home. The staff is constantly encouraging all residents to participate in a multitude of fun daily activities. I have my privacy and can choose when I actively socialize." Corinne Shelor, activities director at Wheatland in Christiansburg, plans events that its residents can relate to. “We’ve had theme parties for every decade since 1900 this year,” she says. “It’s important to do things that our residents will connect with.” Wheatland is part of Commonwealth Senior Living, which has multiple Virginia locations, including Radford. Highland Ridge Rehab Center in Dublin opened in 1969 and operates under The Landmark Group, Inc. Heritage Hall operates senior living places in Blacksburg, Radford and Giles County. Skyline Nursing and Rehab Center in Floyd County is a 90-bed facility. Exceptional staffing is another area where our region is bucking national trends, as HDG reports that rural areas like ours face staffing challenges. But Williams says: "We have an amazing group of caregivers! We employ more than 100 people in the NRV who do a wonderful job. Our turnover rate is less than half of our industry average. It’s also great to have students from Virginia Tech and Radford University work with us during the semesters.” Death and taxes are certain, but before the final one rolls around, residents of the New River Valley can also be certain they will have the good fortune of exceptional staffing and a full life if they move into one of the senior assisted living communities. Lesley Howard holds an MFA from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers and lives in Blacksburg's only co-housing neighborhood. She occasionally blogs at afiercelykindword.com NRVMAGAZINE.com
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NR V F o o d F a re
Tailgate Season! Compiled by Joanne M. Anderson
The best tailgate food needs a game strategy that meets a few simple conditions:
portable bite or 2-bite size single-handed tasty
Pretty much everything is portable in some fashion. Bite or 2-bite size finger food makes for easy tailgate consumption. The single-handed consideration involves the fact that many tailgaters hold a drink in one hand that they simply will not let go of. That leaves just one hand to pick up, dip and consume. Dips need to be soft enough to gather substance on something like a chip or cracker. Here are some smooth, tasty tailgate dip ideas perfect for hosting football game day at home or bringing from the oven to a tailgate party.
Creamy Hummus Dip 1 cup dried chickpeas 1/2 tsp. baking soda 3/4 tsp. salt 1 Tbl. lemon juice 1/2 cup tahini 2 cloves garlic, optional 1/4 cup cold water Olive oil, for serving Paprika and fresh parsley, for topping In a medium bowl, cover chickpeas with water 2 inches above the chickpeas and soak for 12 hours. Drain and rinse, then place in a large saucepan with baking soda and 1/2 tsp. the salt. Cover with 1 to 2 inches water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until chickpeas are very soft, about 2 hours. Drain, cool, and place into food processor. Add lemon juice, tahini, 1/4 teaspoon salt and garlic, if using, and blend until very smooth, about one minute. With the motor running, drizzle in the 1/4 cup cold water and continue to blend another minute. Taste and add salt if desired. Transfer to a serving dish and drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle of paprika and fresh parsley. Serve with pretzels and raw veggies.
Avocado Dip • 2 avocados, pitted and chopped • 1/2 cup sour cream • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro • 2 Tbl. fresh lime juice Puree everything in a food processor. Season as desired with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, minced garlic and/or cumin. Good with tortilla lime chips and multigrain crackers.
Cajun Smoked Salmon Dip • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened • ½ cup sour cream • 1 Tbl. fresh lemon juice • 1 tsp. horseradish • 1 tsp. hot sauce • 1 tsp. dry dill weed • ½ tsp. salt* (optional, see note) • ¼ tsp. black pepper • 2 Tbl. capers • 2 Tbl. shallots • 4 ounces Cajun smoked salmon, shredded Mix cream cheese, sour cream, lemon juice, horseradish and hot sauce until smooth. Add dill weed, salt and black pepper. Gently fold in capers, shallots and Cajun smoked salmon. Chill about 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Serve with melba rounds or other sturdy crackers. *Do not add salt until you taste test the dip. Capers tend to be salty. If you use Cajun Smoked Salmon, there's salt in Cajun seasoning. NRVMAGAZINE.com
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Rest in Pieces What do we do when a direct link to our past has a questionable future? Text and photos by Nancy S. Moseley
When April Martin Danner set out to locate the graves of Civil War soldiers buried in our area, she kept happening upon something else [literally] hidden in the bushes - several small, family graveyards, roughly 600 actually, all in varying stages of disarray. â€œI had an eye-opening realization that hardly any of these small family cemeteries were being taken care of,â€? states Danner, the programs director for Wilderness Road Regional Museum and museum coordinator for The Raymond F. Ratcliffe Memorial Transportation Museum. From the time of initial European settlement, the New River Valley was 44
unique for having been the great wagon road. Families that settled here naturally formed cemeteries on their land. When the families moved on to follow jobs and opportunities elsewhere, the cemeteries remained. More families moved in, more dead were buried and so forth. As older generations die off and land is subdivided and sold, the care for these cemeteries falls between the cracks. Thomas Klatka, an archeologist for the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, offers that most governments consider cemeteries to be church property or spiritual property, not public property. If land is purchased
with a cemetery on it, the owners are considered to own the land around the cemetery, but not the cemetery itself. There is no legislation in the Commonwealth of Virginia that requires property owners to take care of cemeteries on their land. They can be found tucked between frat houses, in the middle of cow fields, behind abandoned houses, and even in the middle of subdivisions. Cemeteries are often perceived for the economic value of the land on which they sit, not in terms of reverential value. History doesnâ€™t outtalk money. Property owners are, however, required to allow descendants or anyone conducting genealogical or historical
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research access to the cemetery. But due to private property and trespassing laws, permission from the landowner is required. Sometimes conflict between property owner rights vs. descendant rights results in a custody battle of sorts. Occasionally conscientious citizens, like Jon Dudding of Blacksburg, choose to adopt the cemeteries themselves. “When I was a kid. we drove by the Barger cemetery on Toms Creek Road on the way to school every day. It was always very overgrown and creepy,” he remembers. Years later, in 2009, he drove by and noticed the grass was easily two feet tall, so he showed up with some free time and a trimmer to clean up the curious spot he remembered as a child. And then he kept coming back. Buried in the weeds, he has removed stop signs, bicycles, black magic paraphernalia and lots and lots of beer cans. He has facilitated the removal of trees that were endangering neighboring buildings, taken away small brush and welded hinges back on fences. He rakes leaves the day after Thanksgiving, mows every summer and mulches every other spring. He receives assistance from local companies at low or no cost, most notably Shelton’s Tree Landscape Maintenance and JWB Contractors. A direct descendant, whose grandmother was the latest addition to the cemetery in 1985, periodically sends him a check at Christmas. “We are a temporary vessel in a forever world, “ Dudding reflects. “A lot of my friends and family wonder why I do this. And I’m not really sure either. I just think it’s my civic duty.”
“A lot of my friends and family wonder why I do this. And I’m not really sure either. I just think it’s my civic duty.” Cemeteries are great reflections of the spiritual landscape of any given time. Studying graveyards and specifically the headstones – the dates inscribed, design, artwork, construction material - can tell us which religions were prominent and their corresponding traditions. They can shed light on available local resources, mortuary practices, varying cultural definitions of death and afterlife and socioeconomic status. We can also use cemeteries to glean how social thought has changed. Ironically, the very elements used to study how societies perceived death and burial have fallen prostrate to weather and decades of neglect. After years of caring for the land itself, Dudding started setting aside money to care for one of the headstones. This past spring he drove the broken, barely legible headstone of Rebecca Virginia Barger to a stonemason company in Indiana to have it recreated. She was seven years old when she died. “I chose her stone for sentimental reasons. She was a little girl who seemed to have lost her name in the world.” In the tedious re-creation process, it became obvious that matching the original detailing exactly was impossible given modern means. Dudding contacted local art historians affiliated with Virginia Tech to have the cemetery and all the headstones therein, digitally scanned to archive their vintage state. April Danner also mows several cemeteries on her own and is hoping to recruit enough help to launch a more official group entitled Gatekeepers of the Cemetery Project of Montgomery County. Big change starts with someone who takes the time to not only notice, but also care enough to act. “These touchstones are our history told in small, individual, sacred monuments,” she concludes. “It’s something we need to do out of our own goodness.” Nancy Moseley is a freelance writer from Blacksburg who helped document the installation of Rebecca Virginia Barger’s new headstone. She was proud to be a tiny part of improving the forever world.
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