Drumwright honored by Henricus

Longtime Henrico Deputy County Manager George Drumwright holds a sword he was presented at Henricus Historical Park Sept. 14, as Executive Director Charles Grant provides narration.

George T. Drumwright, Jr. may have retired from his position as deputy county manager for Henrico.

But on Sept. 14, Drumwright’s friends at Henricus Historical Park let him know emphatically that he will not be allowed to retire from his role as a Henricus Foundation board member and long-time volunteer.

At a reception honoring Drumwright and celebrating the opening of 2012 Publick Days, friends, family, colleagues and fellow members of the Henricus Foundation Board of Trustees gathered to dedicate the Drumwright Education Fund, a component of the Henricus Annual Fund that will enable the Foundation to expand interactive history program offerings for students.

Drumwright’s colleagues also presented him with gifts and mementos, and spoke at length about his 25 years of contributions to the park.

Henricus Executive Director Charles Lewis Grant pointed out that when Drumwright first became involved, the park was just a place “covered in vines.”

Today, Henricus boasts a dozen re-created colonial structures, including a hospital, parsonage, tobacco barn and planter’s house.

“But it’s not just about the buildings,” emphasized John Siddall, chairman of the Henricus Foundation. “It’s about the 25,000 schoolchildren that come through here every year.”

And the Drumwright Education Fund, added Grant, will help students from the most disadvantaged schools gain access to park programs.

“If they can’t get here,” said Grant, “we go to them.”

Jurisdictional cooperation
Siddall, who led off his remarks by telling Drumwright, “The first thing I want to say is you are not retiring from here,” also praised Drumwright’s role in supporting the partnership between Chesterfield and Henrico counties that has helped made the park so successful.

Through a fluke of history, said Siddall, both counties own land in Henricus -- even though today’s park lies south of the James River in what is technically Chesterfield.

During the Civil War, Union troops began digging a new channel near the James so they could bypass Confederate fortifications that blocked approaches to Richmond. The new channel, completed after the war, left a part of Henrico across the river — surrounded by water.

“Because of this, we benefit,” said Siddall, “and not only because we have this beautiful bluff. We also benefit from a great partnership between Chesterfield and Henrico; we get the support of both counties.”

Ken Perry, former chairman of the board, noted that Drumwright had first visited the site in 1977. “I visited this site in 1985,” said Perry, “and we both saw the same things: a bunch of trees and a beautiful river view.”

He and Drumwright worked together on the board for 15 years, said Perry, during which the jurisdictional cooperation was “marvelous.”

‘He knew every inch’
Dorothy Jaeckle, vice chairman of the board, recalled that when first elected to the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors, she was taken aback by the number of boards on which she was expected to serve, and overwhelmed by the steep learning curve required to learn about the various organizations.

Appointed to the Henricus board because the park was in her district, Jaeckle said that joining a board with Drumwright only magnified her feelings of inadequacy.

“George was the one,” she said, “who took the sickle and cleared the way in [to the historical area]. He knew every last inch of this place.” But her feelings of inadequacy were soon eased, said Jaeckle, because Drumwright was so clearly passionate about the park, and made it clear that he wanted only to share his knowledge of it with others.

Chesterfield County Manager Jay Stegmaier, noting that Henricus was recently named the best park in Central Virginia by readers of Richmond.com, credited Drumwright with being one of the key players that helped the park succeed.

“You’ve become an icon for Central Virginia,” Stegmaier told Drumwright, jokingly inviting him to use a sword to carve his initials in a tree on the site. “[Henricus] is a treasure for Chesterfield and Henrico County, and it’s rapidly becoming a treasure for the entire country.”

“And,” added Stegmaier, echoing the previous speakers, “we’re not going to let you totally retire.”

A radiant light
In thanking his colleagues for gifts that included colonial-era replicas of a hat and a lantern, Drumwright cited “huge support” from the community as his inspiration, and noted that like the lantern, Henricus had blossomed from a tiny spark of a concept into a radiant light.

Only days before, said Drumwright, students visiting the park from Lucille Brown Middle School had been using a newly re-created platform overlooking the bluff to calculate the trajectory of cannon fire needed to bridge the river – demonstrating just one of the unique hands-on lessons that the park provides to schoolchildren.

Upon being presented with a sword, Drumwright reminisced about his first job in Norfolk, during which he occasionally perched on the rails of a replica ship and played the role of pirate.

“We used to break these swords once a week,” he said, “fighting each other.”

Everything a miracle
As the celebration moved into the dinner-and-music phase – featuring favorite Drumwright band Steve Bassett and Friends – incoming Henrico County Manager John Vithoulkas read a letter from Tuckahoe Supervisor and fellow Henricus board member Pat O’Bannon, who could not be present at the celebration.

Addressing Drumwright, O’Bannon wrote, “Before Google, George, we had you to ask for answers. Now we can ask Google, but it’s not nearly as good.”

Thanking Drumwright for serving as a mentor, O’Bannon went on to quote Albert Einstein, who once said, “There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle, and you can live as if everything is a miracle.”

“George,” wrote O’Bannon,”lives his life as if everything is a miracle.”

Echoing O’Bannon’s sentiment, Vithoulkas recalled visiting the undeveloped, overgrown future site of Henricus decades ago, when he worked under Stegmaier as a budget analyst.

“It wasn’t nearly what we’ve got here now,” said Vithoulkas.

“George, you’ve done a phenomenal job.”

For details about Henricus and the Drumwright Education Fund, visit http://henricus.org.
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