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sounds Trains, Drum beaTs, bells anD silence

januar y/februar y 2014 • vol. 5, no. 1

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jan.-feb. | 2014 contents EDITORIAL R.E. Spears III Editor Tracy Agnew News Editor Matthew A. Ward Staff Writer



Earl Jones Marketing Consultant Shelby Palmer Marketing Consultant Leanne Hundley Marketing Consultant Nathan Richardson Marketing Consultant

Lonesome whistles

If you think trains make the defining sound of Suffolk today, imagine what things would have been like when there were 32 passenger trains and 70 freight trains that regularly passed through the city.

on the cover:

PRODUCTION Troy Cooper Designer


ADMINISTRATION Steve Stewart Publisher

Suffolk Living is published six times per year by Suffolk Publications, LLC. P.O. Box 1220, Suffolk, VA 23439 (757) 539-3437

Sign language

Anita Fisher teaches students to communicate in sign language, because not everyone in Suffolk hears the sounds of the city.



The Sunset Drummers bring the sounds and instruments of Africa to Suffolk. Just try not to dance. We dare you.



GET TO KNOW | Sean Bilby


WHERE AM I? | Guess the location correctly and you could win a $25 gift certificate.

Trains, Drum beaTs, bells anD silence

januar y/februar y 2014 • vol. 5, no. 1

Courtesy of Suffolk-Nansemond Historical Society

Advertising rates and information available upon request. Subscriptions are $20 annually in-state; $25 annually out-of-state; $30 for international subscriptions. Please make checks payable to Suffolk Publications, LLC• P.O. Box 1220, Suffolk, VA 23439

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what to do

Suffolk City-Wide Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration

Continuing “With my own hands, through my own eyes,” a juried exhibition of work by African-American artists, continues at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts, located at 110 W. Finney Ave., through Feb. 28. The exhibition is free and open to the public from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, visit Winterim, an annual exhibition at the Suffolk Art Gallery, features the photography of Glen McClure in a collection called “Faces of Suffolk.” The exhibition, which is sponsored in part by the Suffolk Art League, is free to the public and open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. The annual event closes Jan. 25 with a Fine Craft Expo from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and a reception from 2 to 4 p.m. The gallery is located at 118 Bosley Ave. Call 514-7284 for more information. Saturday January 18 The Children’s Theater of Hampton Roads will present “The Last Great Race: An Alaskan Dog Tale” at 11 a.m. at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts, located at 110 W. Finney Ave. A few hilarious

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misfit pups must learn that teamwork and friendship are the only things that can help them with the great Iditarod race. Be prepared for noisy, physical fun and a lot of laughing. Tickets, which are $5 each, will be available at the door before the shows. Visit for more information. The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, located at 3100 Desert Road, will hold a Lousy Bird Walk at 7:30 a.m. Dress warmly, and keep an eye on the refuge’s Facebook page for weather announcements, because the walk will be cancelled if it’s raining. The walk is free, but reservations are required. Call 986-3705 or visit Girls 5 and up can get a chance to “Meet Julie Albright” during Riddick’s Folly’s continuing American Girl series. The event is free, and there will be four different showings through the day, but reservations are encouraged by calling 9340822 for more information. Riddick’s Folly House Museum is located at 510 North Main St. Monday January 20 The Suffolk City-Wide Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration will be held at New Mount Joy Food for Living Ministries, 307 County St., at 10 a.m. Call 539-3324 for more information.

Saturday January 25 Suffolk Parks and Recreation will hold a Nature Detectives program for ages 5 to 11 from 10 a.m. to noon at Sleepy Hole Park, 4500 Sleepy Hole Road. Discover how plants and animals survive the season, take bark imprints and bring home a gift. Registration is free and runs through Jan. 24. Call 514-7262 for more information. Friday January 31 The Bethlehem Ruritan Jam will be held at the Ruritan Club, 140 Manning Road, from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. featuring Jimmy Ricks and the Shiloh Blue Grass Band. There is no admission charge, but there is a tip jar for the band. Soft drinks, hot dogs, barbecue and snacks will be sold at the concession stand. Saturday February 1 Get ready to paw-ty with the Suffolk Humane Society during the organization’s first Paws for the Arts Gala, from 7:30 to 10 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn Riverfront, located at 100 E. Constance Road. The semi-formal event will feature heavy hors d’oeurves, wine and cash bars, a live auction and musical entertainment by local artists. Auction items will include an original oil painting, hand-blown glass artwork, original 1964 Beatles memorabilia, jewelry, a weekend getaway and more. Tickets are $50 and are available at Mike

Great Dismal Swamp Safari – Life After Wildfire

suffolk living


what to do GRoundhog day celebration

Duman Auto Sales, 2300 Godwin Blvd., or at the Suffolk Humane office, 4300 Nansemond Parkway. All proceeds benefit the Suffolk Humane Society. Monday February 3 Suffolk Tourism, the Early Childhood Education Center, the Suffolk Public Library and the Suffolk Art Gallery are teaming up to celebrate Groundhog Day at the Suffolk Visitor Center Pavilion, 524 North Main St., from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. This free, kid-focused event will include a petting zoo, Groundhog Day crafts, building stations and storytelling. Be sure to bundle up! For more information, call 514-4130 or visit Friday February 14 Be transported to the height of the swing era with the best of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Glenn Miller and more during the Virginia Symphony Orchestra Series presentation of “Jazz for a Swinging Valentine’s Day” at 8 p.m. at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts, located at 110 W. Finney Ave. Tickets are $25. Call 923-0003 or visit for more information.

8 suffolk living Suffolk RESTAURANT WEEK

Thursday February 27 Suffolk poet Nathan Richardson will host Poetry, Prose and Pizza, an open-mic event at the Suffolk Art Gallery. This is a chance for folks to share their written and spoken words or just to come out and enjoy the works of others. Sign-ups for the mic time begin at 5:30 p.m., and the performances are from 6 to 8:30 p.m. The event is free, and the gallery is located at 118 Bosley Ave. For more information, call 925-0448. Saturday March 8 The Suffolk Art Gallery’s 30th annual Photography Exhibit, which is open to all professional and amateur photographers, begins with an opening reception from 4 to 6 p.m. March 8. There is a $25 entry fee. For more information or to register, call 514-7284.

Saturday February 15 The Children’s Theater of Hampton Roads will present “Let My People Go: A Journey on the Underground Railroad” at 11 a.m. at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts, located at 110 W. Finney Ave. Since its founding in 2005, the Children’s Theater has strived to provide educational and interactive theater that is accessible and affordable and that explores different times, places and cultures. Tickets are $5 and will be available at the door prior to the show. Visit for more information.

Saturday February 22 The Suffolk Art League will hold its 31st annual Antique Show and Sale from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 22 and from noon to 5 p.m. Feb. 23 at King’s Fork Middle School, 350 Kings Fork Road. With 40 antiques and collectibles dealers, there will be a wide variety of items for sale, including silver, jewelry, furniture, linens and porcelain. Concessions will be available, too, including Brunswick stew, barbecue, hot dogs and homemade desserts. Admission is $5. For more information, call 925-0448.

Saturday March 15 The Children’s Theater of Hampton Roads will bring its “Bucket Full of Monkeys Improv Troupe” for an 11 a.m. visit to the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts, located at 110 W. Finney Ave. Tickets are $5 and will be available at the door prior to the show. Visit for more information. Suffolk Restaurant Week begins at eateries around the city. The event features fixed-price, three course meals at participating restaurants. For more information, call 514-4130 or visit www.suffolk-fun. com.

suffolk living


suffolk scene SugarPlUM Tea

The Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts ballroom was turned into a winter wonderland Dec. 14 for the annual Sugarplum Tea. Clockwise from below: Robert and Meredith Grzyvowski said the Sugarplum Forrest put a smile on the face of their 4-year-old daughter, Claire; Alison Montgomery, 11, playing the character of Clara, smiles for the camera with Isabela Glass, 14, playing The Nutcracker; Evelyn Sheehan said it was 5-year-old daughter Faith’s first time to see “The Nutcracker,” which followed the tea; 6-year-old twins Finley and Anne Ruffin House, 6, were at the tea with grandma, Pat House; and Harper Ferguson-Costin, 3, was excited to meet “princess” Sheldon Babiy of NansemondSuffolk Academy.


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suffolk living


suffolk scene

Peanut Fest

The 2013 Peanut Festival brought thousands to a soaked festival site at the Suffolk Executive Airport. Despite rainy and dreary weather, most folks still managed to have fun. Clockwise from below, the aptly-named River Johnson, 2, plays in a puddle; Collin and Maddy Bunting fish for sharks in a midway game; Lauryn Williams, Elizabeth Williams, Djemila Bayor and Latoya Dawkins pause for a photo; Cindy Lou, 7, and Susan Parker enjoy the dragon roller coaster; Harlow Helms, 2, looks pensive during her pony cart ride. PHOTOS BY Tracy Agnew

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on vacation

SL in Las Vegas

Mike Tompkins headed to Las Vegas for the Thanksgiving holiday, and he spent time seeing some of the sights that you won’t find on The Strip — like the pawn shop made famous by the History Channel’s “Pawn Stars” reality show, where he apparently was unsuccessful passing off his copy of Suffolk Living magazine as anything but the priceless keepsake it is. He also made a stop at Rick’s Restorations, famous from “American Restoration.”

SL in Orlando

Joyce Garretson spent two weeks with friend Gail Hinton-Copeland at the Legacy Vacation Resort in Orlando this summer, and the ladies made sure they had a copy of Suffolk Living magazine along for the trip, where it joined them on visits to the Holy Land Experience and other tourist sites.

Submitted Photo

Submitted Photo

SL on the Disney Dream

Enrico Jamieson, Tahyi Jamieson and Elyssa Jamieson, a 12-year-old John Yeates Middle School student, spent their Christmas vacation aboard the Disney Dream cruise ship, which visited Nassau, Bahamas, and Disney’s private island Castaway Cay. This photo was taken in the ship’s atrium on Dec. 26. We like to think their copy of Suffolk Living magazine helped them get over the legendary stress of a cruise. Or something like that.

Submitted Photo

suffolk living


on vacation SL Goes to Oderzo

After Suffolk officials gave a bronze plaque last year to a delegation of visitors from Oderzo, Italy, the Italian town built a monument to house the plaque. When a delegation of folks from America visited Oderzo earlier this year, the Italians held a ceremony in the 300-year-old municipal building, before closing the city streets for a parade with a brass band, fire and police, along with city officials and the entire group from Suffolk. When the group arrived at the monument, the unveiling was done by Jolyne Dalzell, great-niece of Amedeo Obici, who spent his early years in Oderzo before moving to America and, ultimately, Suffolk. Participants in the unveiling all got a copy of Suffolk Living magazine, which had included a long feature on Planters Peanuts, the company Obici founded.


SL in the Bahamas

Amanda Phelps, a lifetime resident of Suffolk, and Matt Wells of Norfolk visited the majestic island of Nassau in the Bahamas. They relaxed on the sandy, white beaches at the Atlantis Resort before attending a wedding in Freeport. With Suffolk Living magazine on hand, homesickness was kept at bay, leaving the couple free to enjoy the paradise. We’re only glad to help you on your next vacation, too. Take a copy of Suffolk Living along with you, snap a photo somewhere cool and send it to us at Your friends will be SO jealous.

Submitted Photo

SL at Walt Disney World

Desiree and Paul Page of Carrollton took a copy of Suffolk Living magazine along on their recent trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., where it made an appearance on the train platform at the Main Street station in the Magic Kingdom, left, and with Buzz Lightyear in the background while in line for the Toy Story Midway Mania ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Submitted Photo

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suffolk living


suffolk scene


Hundreds turned out for the Grand Illumination ceremony Nov. 23, enjoying various activities including the illumination of the city's Christmas tree. Clockwise from right: Chloe Block, 5, and Kelsey Banton, 6, marvel at the decorations; Hannah Forguson, 9, smiles for the camera on the knee of grandma Elaine Jones; the Wolford family, Katelyn, Michael and Ryleigh, 2, enjoy the occasion; and the lights are switched on, to the delight of those gathered. Photos by MATTHEW A. WARD

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suffolk living


suffolk scene


The Crittenden, Eclipse and Hobson Ruritan Club held its annual oyster roast outside Ruritan Hall in Eclipse on Nov. 9. Clockwise from below: Darrin Allen, Whitney Loving and Terry Nealy catch up for a yarn; Chandler and 3-year-old Josephina Cutright play on the grass; Jimmy White shows he is serious about eating mollusks; and the grounds outside Ruritan Hall are packed with folks for the event.


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suffolk living


suffolk scene SHRIMP Feast

The Shrimp Feast was rained out and eventually ended early this year, but folks who showed up got in a few minutes of good times. Clockwise from below, Ashley Reed gets her takeout meal; Norman Wilkins, Linda Wilkins, Jenna Powder, Jerry Cannaday and Beth Cannaday; Travis Fowler, Nick Howell, C.J. Gregory, Aaron Darden; and Brittany Gregory, Brittany West and Lauren Crocker.

PHOTOS BY Tracy Agnew

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lonesome whistles Six railroads once ran through Suffolk. Below, from left, are a Norfolk-Southern engine; a message on a Seaboard Airline car advertising it as “The Route of Courteous Service�; an Atlantic and Danville engine. In the background, a 1990 photograph of a man walking on the tracks with a train approaching on a parallel track.

suffolk living

Railroads echo through Suffolk’s past story by Tracy Agnew photos courtesy of the Suffolk Nansemond Historical Society


he blast of train horns and the rumble of freight cars rolling along the tracks are the bane of many Suffolk residents’ existence, but they still are undeniably part of Suffolk’s aural fabric. The sounds of trains first began disrupting life in Suffolk in 1834, when the arrival of the first cars on the Portsmouth and Roanoke Railroad was heralded not by horn blasts and clanging gates but by the neighing and clopping of horses, which pulled the cars on that railroad for the first few months until steam engines arrived with their whistles. It took mere decades for miles of track owned by six different railroads to weave across Suffolk’s map — not to mention the spider’s web of rail spurs built to move lumber out of the Great Dismal Swamp. The fabric of life was forever changed — shipping products to and from market was easier, economic development boomed, flagmen and stationmasters had employment and became local institutions, and trips into town from the county became easier and more frequent. See TRAINS page 22


22 suffolk living TRAINS continued from page 21

In the same way the railroad shifted Suffolk’s economic center, it created tiny whistlestop towns throughout the county. Some names, like Holland, Whaleyville and Driver — already important crossroads before the railroads came — are still recognizable, while others are marked by little more than a bump in the road where the rails once crossed and perhaps a church or Ruritan Club bearing the name. Lest some be tempted to wax nostalgic about the early days of rail in the city, a roar was created in 1837 when Suffolk was the site of one of the earliest railroad tragedies. A passenger train from Portsmouth collided head-on with a freight train carrying lumber, killing three people and injuring 140. The frequency with which the trains came in those days, too, would have been much more bothersome to today’s motorists. In 1918, the Chamber of Commerce listed 32 passenger trains and 70 freight trains passing through the city. But those trains were much shorter and on a somewhat regular schedule, unlike today, and fewer people lived within earshot of their eardrum-shattering blasts. Most current residents consider them a nuisance, but trains have a long connection to the city that will likely never be undone. ← — Compiled from information found in newsletters from the SuffolkNansemond Historical Society. Visit the organization’s website at www.

suffolk living


The arrival of trains changed life in Suffolk and across the country. Clockwise from top left, bags of agricultural commodities wait at a station to be shipped; Lady Bird Johnson campaigns in Suffolk on a whistlestop tour in 1964; a Seaboard engine waits in Suffolk; the Norfolk and Western Station around 1950 near what is now East Washington Street.

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Suffolk resident Sean Bilby is the chimes master at Suffolk Christian Church, where his duties include helping to program the music that is played on the church’s 61-note digital carillon system.

suffolk living


Bells Bells Bells Digital carillon rings over downtown story and photography by R.E. Spears III


aybe your church has a nice praise band. Maybe they use electric guitars and drums as backup. Maybe there is a bell in the bell tower and a handbell choir that performs selections for various holy days throughout the year. But does your church’s music ministry send its peal into the surrounding community each day, proclaiming the gospel in the dulcet tones of bells chiming beloved hymns, some well-known and others seldom-heard? The music ministry at Suffolk Christian Church does it every day, broadcasting hourly chimes every day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., along with musical selections each day. The music emanates from speakers installed at the top of the church’s bell tower, but it originates from an electronic keyboard located in a cold little room off the side of the circa 1892 sanctuary, where the surprisingly small setup for the church’s 61-note digital carillon is located. A carillon, according to the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America, is a “musical instrument composed of at least 23 carillon bells, arranged in chromatic sequence, so tuned as to produce concordant harmony when many bells are sounded together. A digital carillon achieves much the same effect without the actual bells. Suffolk Christian’s digital carillon is one of five in the city — others can be found at Bethlehem Christian Church, Ebenezer United Methodist Church, Liberty Spring Christian Church and Suffolk Presbyterian Church — but it has arguably the largest daily audience, considering its location right at the heart of the downtown business district. “There has been a carillon on Main Street for a long See BELLS page 26

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Sean Bilby, who works as a librarian in Norfolk, has been a member of Suffolk Christian church for about nine years. He coordinates (and sometimes plays) the church’s carillon music. He also plays a 10-bell chime at Freemason Street Baptist Church Wednesdays at noon. BELLS continued from page 25

time,” says Sean Bilby, the chimes master at Suffolk Christian. In fact, this is the third “electric carillon system” the church has had, according to its historic records. The first was given to the church in 1963 by Emmett H. Rawles in memory of his uncle, Judge Richard Henry Rawles. In 1993, Emmett Rawles Jr. presented the church a new system in memory of Emmet H. Rawles and Katherine H. Rawles. A 2011 electrical damaged that system beyond repair, and a bequest by Annie Maude and Clarence "Red" Jones allowed the church to install the latest one. Bilby develops the program of music for the instrument and coordinates with a few other church members to record songs or even play them live. Between the recorded songs that came with the system, the songs members of the music ministry record and the ones they play live, there is a variety of music available for the five

or so selections heard daily throughout downtown Suffolk. “Mostly it’s hymns,” Bilby says. “But we’ll let our hair down occasionally.”

Secular arrangements have ranged from the “Linus and Lucy” theme song from “Peanuts” in support of the Peanut Fest Parade to music from the Harry Potter series for Halloween to a special 10-bell pattern marking the anniversary

of the War of 1812. Bilby says the live performances can be especially nerve-wracking, as any mistake will be heard by folks all over downtown. “You just know you have to get it perfectly right,” Bilby says. He gets a bit of practice each week playing a 10-bell chime live at noon on Wednesdays at Freemason Street Baptist Church in Norfolk, where he is a librarian for the Norfolk Public Library. He also works on the carillon program at Suffolk Christian “nearly every week” to ensure that it’s appropriate and euphonious. The carillon, he says, “can be a point of civic pride. I think the sound of the bells is an ancient part of the cityscape in any town, whether in Europe, Asia or America.” For a schedule and more information about the carillon, visit the music ministry page at ←

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Signing the night away

story by Matthew A. Ward photography by R.E. Spears III


ast-food eateries on busy Saturday evenings aren’t the quietest of places. But a pocket of silence holds court in Chick-fil-A on North Main Street, drowning out the clamor. On a vacant table inside the front door, a sign written in pen on a nutrition guide proclaims: “Reserved: Silent Dinner.” It’s a rainy December night, and only the second installment of the twicemonthly event, started by Suffolk Public Schools American Sign Language interpreter Candice Gallop and special education student teacher Ella Mae Anderson. They did so at the urging of Lakeland High School ASL teacher Anita Fisher, a friend of theirs from Southside Baptist Church who’d planned to start the group

herself but didn’t have time. “Suffolk had nothing for our deaf population” before the group, Gallop said, explaining folks would drive to Norfolk, Virginia Beach, sometimes even further. Sitting across from her, Ella Mae’s husband, Bryan Anderson, reads a newspaper. Sarah Bowyer, 17, Fisher’s student at Lakeland High, shares a set of booths with the home-schooled Miller kids: Katie, 14, Alicia, 13, and Donnie, 17. “When I grow up, I want to at least have a job as an (ASL) interpreter,” says Alicia. The 10 or so eloquent pairs of hands are amiably signing the evening away over chicken sandwiches and sodas. Presently, wearing a Chick-fil-A uni-

form, Neil Phelps joins in. He says he took ASL in high school, because he needed a language for an advanced diploma, which Fisher says is why a lot of her students take the subject. “I just fell in love with it and stuck with it.” Phelps said. Fisher is proud of Gallop and Anderson for fulfilling her vision by starting the monthly dinners. “They did a very good job,” she said. When she discusses former students who’ve continued studying ASL beyond her classroom, Fisher gets emotional. “It’s a joy beyond anything I could ever want,” she said recently, just before the tears began. “When I see them” pursue ASL at colSee SIGNS page 30

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Anita Fisher, who teaches American Sign Language at Lakeland High School, gestures during a review after school for a small group of students preparing for a make-up quiz.

30 suffolk living SIGN continued from page 28

lege, “and I have had a little bit of influence on them to go, I’m just happier than words could express.” Fisher’s opportunity to learn the silent music of signing and become a qualified instructor was born of adversity, or at least a family setback: In Pennsylvania in 1997, the law firm her husband worked for laid him off. “The kids started college, and I was chief everything,” Fisher said. Her husband suggested she might like to improve her earning potential by taking a course, and Fisher decided to indulge a latent interest in sign language. At Mount Aloysius College in central Pennsylvania, she studied under a professor whose son was deaf. “She just showed the love in the language, the love of the people, and she made me fall in love with it,” Fisher said. Those were continuing-education classes. Fisher commenced college-level classes at Mount Aloysius in 1998, graduating at the turn of the millennium with an associate’s in interpreting. With that, she was able to work as a substitute interpreter while working toward a degree in deaf education at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, graduating in 2003. By the time Fisher chanced across Suffolk Public Schools — and the prospect of becoming an ASL teacher — at a Pittsburg job fair, her husband had found a good job with the multinational Siemens and escaped unemployment. It could have been a complicated situation. Fisher went home and told him, “Would you like to move to Suffolk, Va.?” He said, “Where’s that?” Fisher said, “I don’t know.” After consulting an atlas, learning Suffolk is an easy drive to the beach and praying for guidance, the Fishers plunged into new, warmer waters. Arriving in Virginia, it took her husband nine months to find a job, and it still “wasn’t the one he wanted,” Fisher said. (He now happily works for a private technology firm contracting with the Navy.) The Suffolk move led to their son Seth’s introduction to lacrosse, which he now plays at Shenandoah University. “We didn’t have lacrosse where we were before,” Anita Fisher said. Fisher had four classes and about 90 kids when she started with Suffolk Public Schools in 2003. She now has six classes, including three

Lakeland High School student Sarah Bauder laughs as her American Sign Language teacher, Anita Fisher, demonstrates the right way — and then the wrong way — to get a deaf person’s attention from behind.

ASL 1, two ASL 2, and one ASL 3, and 153 budding signers. ASL is so popular, they turn kids away, she said. Fisher’s ASL education colleagues within the school district are Rebecca Carter at King’s Fork High School and Cleo Dickinson at Nansemond River High School. As Phelps at Chick-fil-A demonstrated, students need a foreign language for an advanced diploma, and ASL meets that requirement. Kids think ASL 1 will be a home economicslike easy ride, Fisher says, but soon learn they’re mistaken. “Some kids will decide (they’re) still going to learn it, and do quite well,” she said; however, “It’s not easy just because it’s not spoken: You still have to memorize. You still have grammar rules; you have different things that spoken language doesn’t have. You have facial expressions that are the adverbs. You have sounds.” Fisher said its practicality also draws students to ASL – the need to communicate with

a deaf person in Suffolk is arguably greater than with a foreign language speaker with no English, for instance. And, like she did, they fall in love with it. As the drizzle outside Chick-fil-A continues, the first deaf person of the evening joins: 25-year-old MeMe Bennett. Gallop said another deaf individual, a Zuni woman, attended December’s inaugural dinner. The woman’s husband, who never learned to sign, came with her. The experience gave him insight into what it’s like for his wife when he’s conversing with friends and she can’t understand what they’re talking about, Gallop said. The plan is for the silent dinners to continue the second and fourth Saturday of every month, Gallup said, from 6 to 9 p.m. Attendees don’t need to be connected to Southside Baptist Church or current or former ASL students at Suffolk Public Schools, she said. “We want it to be open to everyone.” ←

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The American manual alphabet. Letters with asterisks are shown from the side (*L left or *R right), rather than as the viewer would see them.


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feel the beat For these men, percussion is soul-deep

story by Tracy Agnew photography by Troy Cooper


usic and dancing — or at least the urge to do so — are a common combination for most people. Rare, though, is the music that vibrates the soul, pierces the heart, commands sweat and tears to flow and transports both musician and listener across oceans to other islands and continents. But the kind of music that has built cultures, sustained them through the Diaspora and re-created them in a new location has a way of doing all those things. The Sunset Drummers, a 12-person group of mostly Suffolk residents, has helped keep that music resounding throughout its adopted hometown. See DRUMS page 33

Top, members of the Sunset Drummers play a calypso beat. From left are Guinelle Koonce, Vivian Jack, Geoffrey Outlaw with Eleanor Jack hidden behind him, and Isaac Baker. Left is an authentic, handmade drum.

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DRUMS continued from page 32

“It’s in my blood,” says Vivian “Brother” Jack, a member at First Baptist Church on Mahan Street and leader of the Sunset Drummers. “(The music makes me) feel (the) dance, but a lot of things are against me now — age is one. But I can still feel the vibration in my soul.” Jack’s first home was in Trinidad and Tobago, an island country just off the northeast coast of South America, where he was involved in musical groups advancing the craft of calypso music. He moved to England as a young man and got involved there with a group that practiced West African music, an ancestor of the calypso that developed on the islands of the Americas as slaves tried to keep their home cultures alive in the midst of brutal circumstances. He brought along his knowledge and extensive collection of handmade, natural instruments — djun-djun, conga and djembe drums, cowbells and steel pans, tambourines and maracas — when he moved to America, first settling in New Jersey and then deciding he would prefer the more relaxed pace of the South. Jack’s migrations almost mirror the transporting quality of the music he plays and teaches. “When you feel that thump inside, it takes you to a place you’ve never been before,” member Shelly Boose said. As hands and sticks beat and shake the See DRUMS page 34

Among their instruments are members of the Sunset Drummers: at top, Vivian Jack, Isaac Baker and Geoffrey Outlaw; center, Ophelia Russell; at right, Shelly Boose; and at far right, Dale Sparrow. Not pictured in this feature are members Vy Daughtrey, Deborah Jennings, Azaliyah Outlaw and Miguel Ramos.

34 suffolk living DRUMS continued from page 33

instruments in a chaotic rhythm, most folks find it difficult not to dance. “When you hear the drum, your body can’t sit still,” said Ophelia Russell. Hearing the drums is almost a religious experience for some, including Isaac Baker. “The spirit takes hold of me,” he said. “You’re going to feel the vibration inside of you.” But for others, the drums have more of an intoxicating effect. Shelly BooSe — Drummer “It’s almost like I’m drinking alcohol,” said Geoffrey Outlaw, whose 10-year-old daughter Azaliyah is the youngest member of the group. “I get seduced. It’s better than any kind of medication or therapy.” ←

“When you feel that thump inside, it takes you to a place you’ve never been before.”

Isaac Baker plays a cowbell during a calypso tune. The Sunset Drummers band practices at director Vivian Jack’s home.

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suffolk's voice poem by Nathan Richardon photography by R.E. Spears III

Suffolk has a collective voice a sound distinct in Hampton Roads A downtown not so loud it drowns out the sounds of surrounding neighborhoods The bells still ring clear from church steeples on Main Street Although traffic is getting heavy on the bypass farm tractors still plow through acres of rich soil and seagulls from the Chesapeake Bay fly in daily for a very lively lunch, we have a unique mix of classic sounds and scenic views Our train station has become a museum but more trains than ever rumble along the tracks more boxcars and coal than passengers these days automobiles get people around in less efficient ways but nightfall amplifies the locomotive's horn like long questions still asking sleepy travelers Where are you coming from and where are you going Pick any deck or back porch on a Friday night and turn your ear in the direction of the lights and hear the distant drums of high school bands the faint sound of cheers from the stands the home team just scored a touchdown Urban sprawl and nature's call have found a healthy balance summer nights when whippoorwills and children break the silence with a tale of two cities, a uniquely blended sound reassuring voices of the citizens who have found that whether you were born here or have been here for a week neighbors almost always take the time to speak

38 suffolk living

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where am I?


n each edition the Suffolk Living staff provides a challenge of sorts, testing how much of Suffolk you really know. We photograph some location in Suffolk that is readily accessible and open to the public, and see if you can tell us where it is. If you know where this photo was taken, submit your answer, along with your name and contact information to If you’re right, you will be entered for a chance to win a $25 gift certificate to any one of our partner advertisers. So, if you know where this is, let us know. If you’re right, you could be a winner. Go out and enjoy Suffolk!

Suffolk Living All Year

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suffolk living 41

index of advertisers Academy Animal care.......41 Anderson & Anderson......16 Autumn care.....................18 Korving & company..........41 Bayport.........................35 Bennett's creek Pharmacy..43 Blair Brothers...................18 Bond's Fine cigar shop.....38 Bronco FcU......................36 c-Fit............................16 charter communications..18 christian & Pugh Well.........10 chorey & Associates.........44 consulate health care......35 cornerstone Private Practice....16 cort Wagner......................14 the cove...........................14 Davenport & company......35 Davis Lakes........................38 D.B. Bowles Jewelers.......10 Drs. Jett, sellers and Larusso..14 Dr. steven Gwaltney, DDs........3 Duke Automotive......................34 east end Baptist church….38

Last edition’s Where Am I?

ellen Drames.......................2 Farmers Bank.....................7 harbour veterinary office...18 home video studio............38 Isle of Wight Academy.......14 Jani-King.......................10 Mega 'Dors........................38 Moe's...........................16 Mike Duman Auto sales......8 nansemond veterinary hospital.....38 rawlings Mechanical.........18 r.L. howell........................27 sage organics...................38 smithfield & IoW visit Bureau...27 suffolk christian Academy....18 suffolk Public schools........10 triple t sports..................10 velveteen rabbit...............38 the village at Woods edge.....4 have your business listed here! call 539-3437 to advertise in suffolk Living.

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Readers of the November/December edition of Suffolk Living magazine might have thought they were looking at a prop from some apocalyptic science where am I? fiction movie when I they saw the metal dinosaur that was the subject of the Where Am I contest. Our most observant readers, however, recognized the metal monster as a stalwart guardian outside Rio Grande Traders in Driver. Jim O’Quinn, who lives just up the road from there, was the winner and earned a $25 gift certificate to the advertiser of his choice for having his correct answer randomly selected. For this month’s challenge, see Page 39. 36 suffolk living

n each edition the Suffolk Living staff provides a challenge of sorts, testing how much of Suffolk you really know. We photograph some location in Suffolk that is readily accessible and open to the public, and see if you can tell us where it is. If you know where this photo was taken, submit your answer, along with your name and contact information to news@ If you’re right, you will be entered for a chance to win a $25 gift certificate to any one of our partner advertisers. So, if you know where this is, let us know. If you’re right, you could be a winner. Go out and enjoy Suffolk!

42 suffolk living


CHurCH CHoir: Among the many wonderful sounds of Suffolk is the sound of church choirs. This undated photo of a choir is from First Baptist Church.




suffolk living 43

Suffolk Living Jan/Feb 2014 edition  
Suffolk Living Jan/Feb 2014 edition  

January/February 2014 edition of Suffolk Living magazine