St. Gertrude to build ‘field of dreams’ in Henrico

St. Gertrude High School students gather at the site of what will become the school’s new athletic complex in Henrico County.
It took nearly a century, but the St. Gertrude High School “Gertie Girls” will finally have fields of their own – and a presence in Henrico County.

At a fundraising campaign kick-off held April 28, parents, students, alumnae and friends of the school gathered at the site of a future athletic complex off Park Central Drive to envision the soccer fields, softball diamond and tennis courts soon to take shape. In addition to a turf field for soccer, field hockey and lacrosse, the Outdoor Athletic Center will boast a grass field, concession stand, restrooms, storage space, athletic training room, meeting room and a walking path that can be used by the cross country team.

The complex will be a godsend for families and staff at SGHS, who have relied on a cobbled-together network of rented and borrowed playing fields, a handful of buses and “the patience of our parents” to keep track of the teams’ whereabouts and schedules, said Margaret Shibley, director of alumnae & public relations.

“Our students play in 12 different places; our buses are going all over town,” said Shibley. “We’re at Byrd [Park] for tennis matches; we’re practicing at Humphrey Calder [Community Center]. We play soccer and lacrosse at St. Joseph’s Villa, and we’re at Dumbarton for softball.”

Among the alumnae at the kick-off ceremony was Joanne McDonald, who played field hockey at St. Gertrude in the 1960s – when finding a playing field was considerably simpler.

“Back in our day there just wasn’t the amount of [athletic] associations; there were not as many people vying for space,” said McDonald. When she watched softball games at Humphrey Calder back then, said McDonald, “It felt like our own private little field.”

But in recent decades, as St. Gertrude athletic programs grew and community organizations multiplied, the land-locked school on Stuart Avenue in Richmond found itself with no room to expand its fields.

The committee of SGHS staff and alumnae that went in search of a site walked some 40 different properties, said Susan Walker, the school president. And with 20 minutes travel time established as the outside limit of distance from the school, Henrico County sites were high on the list.

“This is only an 11-minute drive from the school,” said Walker of the Center site, noting that St. Gertrude has students hailing from 20 different zip codes. “This way, no one has to go too far.”

The 16-acre tract is not only easily accessible from Interstates 95 and 295, said alumna Leslie Koenig Stack, but also adjoins the former Best Products parcel recently purchased by Henrico County that has been proposed for use as administrative offices. “It’s going to be a real win-win for us,” said Stack, whose two daughters also attended St. Gertrude.

Susan McNamara, chair of the board of trustees, noted that the land was also the site of the proposed NASCAR Hall of Fame, which ended up locating in Charlotte, N.C.

“So, obviously,” exclaimed Stack, “that wasn’t meant to be!”

All zoning has been approved for the athletic center, and officials at the 90-year-old school are ready to start building – as soon as enough funds are raised. If the campaign can attract an additional one million dollars in donations by July 1, said Walker at the kick-off, “We can be playing on this field by fall.”

“So I want you now to imagine these fields alive with the shouts of our Gertie Girls,” Walker told the gathering of alumnae and parents, adding that when she first opened up the architectural rendering of the center on her computer, she had almost cried.

“The buses will all be in one spot,” she told the audience. “The trainer will be in one spot.

“And now you parents will know where your daughters are. You won’t have to look at the website to know where to find them.”
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Varina meeting May 2 to address opioid crisis in Henrico


Varina District Supervisor Tyrone E. Nelson will hold a Community Conversations meeting Tuesday, May 2 to discuss the opioid epidemic in Henrico County.

The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Henrico Theatre, 305 E. Nine Mile Road. Nelson will be joined by County Manager John A. Vithoulkas and members of the Henrico Heroin Task Force for a discussion of heroin and opioid abuse and ways to prevent it. > Read more.

Baker ES to remain closed until fall


Baker Elementary School students will complete the 2016-17 school year at other locations and will return to a restored building in fall 2017, school leaders have decided.

The decision was made in order to provide ample time for repairs to be completed at the fire-damaged school and to avoid additional interruptions to instructional time. > Read more.

Henrico Police arrest 2 Georgia men in connection with January murder


Henrico Police have arrested and charged two Georgia men with first-degree murder in connection with the Jan. 18 murder of 36-year-old Lamont Cornelius Baldwin in the 1200 block of Dominion Townes Terrace.

Antonio Tyrone Johnson (above, left) and Santonio Rodrigus Brown (above, right), both 24 and both of Atlanta, were charged. Johnson also was charged with use of a firearm in commission of a felony and possession of a firearm by a felon. > Read more.

Man struck and killed in western Henrico hit-and-run

A 24-year-old man died after being struck by a hit-and-run driver in western Henrico April 23.

The victim, Emmanuel Isaiah DeJesus, was found lying on the side of the roadway at about 10:25 p.m., April 23 near Patterson Avenue and Palace Way. He was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. > Read more.

Henrico woman earns national pharmacy fellowship


Henrico County native Nilofar “Nellie” Jafari recently was named the American College of Clinical Pharmacy-American Society of Health-System Pharmacists-Virginia Commonwealth University Congressional Healthcare Policy Fellow for 2017-18.

Jafari is a 2007 graduate of J.R. Tucker High School.

Pharmacists selected for the fellowship have the opportunity to gain real-world insight into health care policy analysis and development via immersion in the congressional environment. > Read more.

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April 2017
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The Henrico County office of Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Henrico Master Gardeners will present a series of free workshops this spring to help residents care for their lawns and gardens. The third workshop, “Planning and Planting the Perennial Flower Garden,” will take place from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Deep Run Recreation Center. The session will focus on laying out a garden, selecting plants and seeds, and strategies for growing flowers that return each spring with little maintenance. To register, call 501-5160. Full text

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