By Patty Kruszewski, Citizen Managing Editor 07/28/11
Kathryne and Robert Louzek left Henrico County three decades ago, but they still think of it as home.
In the intervening years, the Stafford residents (pictured at right after their wedding in 1981 and, below, recently) have criss-crossed the country, setting up household in locations ranging from Florida and California to Georgia and Louisiana. But whenever possible, they get back to eastern Henrico to visit the many family and friends still here.
On Aug. 1, they will no doubt entertain a few of those family members and friends as they hold a cook-out to celebrate a double 30th anniversary.
Not only does the date mark 30 years of marriage, but it also marks the end of Robert's 30-year career with the Navy. After spending the last few years at the Pentagon, he will retire from military life on the day of their wedding anniversary.
On the move
Although Robert Louzek grew up in an Air Force family and did not move to Sandston until he was 13, Kathryne (also known as "Nip") grew up in Varina. Her parents ran a grocery store, “Eberly’s Place,” on Route 5 near Curles Neck Farm.
In 1970, Kathryne graduated from Varina H.S, and Robert graduated from Highland Springs H.S. Both were living and working in Henrico when they met in 1977 at a mutual friend's home in Sandston; they married four years later at Kathryne’s home in Varina.
Following graduation from college and a couple of civilian jobs, Robert joined the Navy in 1981, progressing through Officer’s Candidate School and flight school. A month after their wedding, Ensign Louzek got his first military orders, and he and his new bride plunged into the Navy way of life. In the ensuing years the couple added two children and moved around to Pensacola, Fla.; Virginia Beach; San Diego, Calif.; Kennesaw, Ga.; Monterey, Calif.; and Mandeville, La.
The nomadic life held both challenges and blessings, says Kathryn.
"Robert’s job always came first, and the rest of the family adjusted whenever he received orders to move to another command," she says. Among the challenges of being constantly uprooted were having to make regular farewells to friends, seeing extended family for only rare visits, and being apart as a family for special events.
One such special event that stands out in Kathryne's mind was the birth of their first child, Robyn, now 27. "Robert was deployed [at the time of the birth], and did not meet her until she was four months old," she says.
A return to roots
Robyn and her sister Jayne, now 23, also had to change schools often – sometimes in the middle of the year.
"When we moved, it wasn’t just across town," says Kathryne. "It was across the country." She adds that while moving in elementary school was fun for the girls, they found it harder in middle and high school; Robyn attended high school in three states, and Jayne attended high school in two.
"But both are college graduates," she says, "so all the moving did not hinder their ability to do well in school."
In addition, says Kathryne, the Louzek family has reaped a number of rewards from their frequent moves.
"We lived in really wonderful places on the East, West, and Gulf Coasts of the United States," she says. "We always found good friends wherever we lived. Our children have an appreciation of other communities that comes from living in so many different areas of the United States."
Another advantage of all the moving around, Kathryne believes, is that it helped strengthen the marriage.
"Our frequent separations from family and friends required us to rely on each other," she says, while adding that "love, humor, patience, tolerance, forgiveness . . [and] our belief that family is forever" also contributed to the longevity of the marriage.
Although the Louzeks cannot say for certain what the next step will be after Aug. 1, it's clear that more frequent visits to Henrico County are in their future.
"Even though we have been gone for 30 years, we still consider Henrico home," says Kathryne. Among the family and friends who live in eastern Henrico are Robert's mother, Jean Poole of Sandston, and Kathryne's siblings.
"Since we are only an hour and a half up [Interstate] 95, we visit often," says Kathryne. "We have a dream of one day returning to live in the area."
The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.
Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.
The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.
Canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts soon will have a new access point to the Chickahominy River. VDOT, the James River Association and Henrico County Parks and Recreation are teaming up to establish a new site in Eastern Henrico.
The James River Association negotiated the deal with VDOT to procure official access to the area located just east of I-295 on North Airport Road in Sandston. The site includes a park-and-ride commuter lot bordering the Chickahominy River and has been an unofficial launch site used by paddlers for years. > Read more.
Take in a show at several locations this weekend! West End Comedy will provide laughs at HATTheatre; the production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes” will close Sunday; and the youth theatre company CharacterWorks will present “Footloose” at The Steward School. Another show perfect for the kids – “Despicable Me 2” is playing at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center tonight. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
‘Earth to Echo’ aims to become this generation’s ‘ET’
It’s no secret that all found-footage genre movies are the same. Grab a couple of characters, give one of them a camera, and expose them to something supernatural that’s content to lurk just off-screen until the last five minutes. Everything else will just fall into place.
But that formula isn’t particularly family friendly, if only because that thing waiting a few feet to the left of the cast is usually plotting their violent doom.
That’s what sets Earth to Echo apart from the pack. It, too, follows a group of characters armed with a camera and a tendency to encounter unknown life forms. But all those familiar parts have been rearranged just enough to make it suitable for a much younger audience. > Read more.
An eclectic array of events are taking place this weekend throughout the county. In the West End, we have the Richmond Wedding Expo, the Under the Stars Family Film Series and Henrico Theatre Company’s production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes.” In the eastern part of the county, we have a blood drive at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, Gallmeyer Farm’s annual Sweet Corn Festival and an origami workshop at Fairfield Library. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
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