FedEx Contractor Said Confrontation With Hogg ‘Like From the Old West

By Linda Cicoira — The FedEx contractor thought he was encountering a man who wanted to learn about a delivery. But the former Northampton supervisor thought he had found another thief on his property.

Kyle Miller, who lives in Chesapeake, Va., was delivering packages with an employee, who lives in Norfolk, Va., on Sept. 23. They were near Cherrystone on the Eastern Shore.

“I got a smile on my face,” Miller said late last week. “Maybe, he is asking us about a package,” he thought when former Supervisor Granville Hogg blocked the delivery van’s path.

Instead, Miller said, the man had a gun and started yelling. “What the hell are you doing here? Who are you?” Miller said Hogg demanded to know. “After I gave him our information and everything, he was looking at us like ‘make a move.’ Like (from) the Old West,” Miller said. “You’re on my f…… property and I can do what I want to do,” Hogg told them, according to Miller.

The contractor said he objects to Hogg’s “insinuation that we were doing something wrong. He was acting like a vigilante.”

Miller said he asked Hogg to put the gun away. But Hogg wouldn’t. “He took both of the IDs into his hand,” Miller said, contrary to Hogg’s claims that he never got close enough to the vehicle to see them.

“I have had several issues in the past,” Hogg wrote to an Eastern Shore Post reporter Wednesday night. “Stolen vehicles, stolen equipment, break-ins, trespassing on oyster grounds, removal of oysters, theft of a house full of antiques. Three or four of these were foiled by me. I either had them on camera, been alerted by a security service that there was an intruder, or observed the persons in the act. The theft of the antiques has not been solved.”

He got trespassing warrants for Miller and his employee, Anthony C. Sivels.

“It is my belief they have been sent to the law enforcement agency … where FedEx is located. This is likely due to the limited information which I had,” which did not include their addresses.

Miller said he did not know why the GPS directed them to Secretairy Road when they were looking for Oyster Cape Road, which they later found out was on the other side of Lankford Highway. “We are numb to the fact that it wasn’t on that street,” Miller said.

Miller said his deliveries were backed up because of the threat of the hurricane and because the Chesapeake Bay-Bridge Tunnel had several closures around that time.

“There were probably 4,000 packages in the terminal” waiting to be delivered, Miller said. “Close to 200 to 210 packages (in the van) that day. That’s why I had a helper … I don’t want my reputation tarnished … It was Sunday. I wanted to be home drinking a beer, watching football. I didn’t want to be out there. I wanted to be home with my family … I couldn’t allow my truck to come over sooner.”

Miller said Hogg continued to hold on to the gun while they waited between five to 10 minutes for police to arrive.

“It floored me when he said he was in fear of his life,” Miller continued. “He literally came from down the road to block us in. I don’t see how he was in fear of his life.”

Miller said they called 911. When the deputy arrived, he told them that Hogg “and the sheriff are friends. They are buddies.” Miller said the deputy talked to the sheriff who referred the deputy to the commonwealth’s attorney. He was later told Hogg would be charged with a felony.

Instead, Hogg was charged with two counts of brandishing a firearm, which are misdemeanors, according to records filed in Northampton General District Court. The charges were brought by Miller and Sivels.

Northampton Commonwealth’s Attorney Beverly Leatherbury, who also serves as the county attorney, asked to be removed from the case. Accomack Commonwealth’s Attorney Spencer Morgan was appointed by Judge W. Revell Lewis III of the local county circuit courts. Morgan would not comment on the case when asked about it Tuesday.

In an email, Hogg indicated the men were not in a FedEx vehicle. Instead, they were in a Penske rental truck. He said they were trespassing. The property is posted.

“Based on the conduct I witnessed, out of fear and respect, I have never been close enough to the individuals to read any identification they presented and (that was) the reason the sheriff’s department was notified,” wrote Hogg. “To my knowledge, they did not have a parcel addressed to me or the tenant nor any former tenant … When you see individuals driving recklessly, acting totally out of character, not being able to provide good reason for being on your property, I believe I have good reason to think my life is being threatened.”

Eastern Shore Man Dies Sunday From Gunshot Wounds

By Linda Cicoira — A 21-year-old Cape Charles native died from multiple gunshot wounds early Sunday morning, Alvin Hopson, of the Medical Examiner’s Office in Richmond, Va., reported Wednesday. The incident is being investigated as a homicide.

Sheriff Todd Godwin identified the victim as Hasaan Burton, of Virginia Beach, Va. Another gunshot victim was treated and released from the local hospital but was not identified.

Godwin said at nearly 4:30 a.m. his office received a report the two victims were being taken to Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital from the Exmore area. Upon their arrival, deputies learned Burton had died from his injuries.

Godwin later said the unnamed victim is not being cooperative with authorities in providing information about the incident. Godwin said it is believed the shooting occurred on Lankford Highway in Keller when shots were fired from one car into another. The other victim was the only other person in the vehicle with Burton.

Godwin also said authorities think an argument may have started at the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore. There were also incidents at the Royal Farms in Princess Anne, Md., and in New Church that may have been related. Videos of the properties are being analyzed by authorities, Godwin said.

No other information was released and no arrests have been made. The Burton family has declined to comment. Burton’s Facebook page said he was a 2015 graduate of Landstown High School in Virginia Beach.

A spokesperson for the Eastern Shore of Virginia 9-1-1 Center reported that Northampton EMS and Accomack Public Safety responded to the call. Sprint vehicles from both counties also went to the site at the intersection of County Line and Main Streets.

Officers from the state police, Northampton County Sheriff’s Office, and Exmore Police Department assisted Godwin’s deputies. Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call 757-787-1131 or 757-824-5666. Tips may also be submitted through Godwin’s website at www.accomackcountysheriffsoffice.org

VDOT Offers Light at Cape Charles Food Lion

By Stefanie Jackson — A last-minute change was made to Northampton supervisors’ agenda for their Oct. 9 meeting to accommodate a surprise visitor, Virginia Department of Transportation Accomac Residency Administrator Chris Isdell.

After VDOT’s safety improvement plan for Route 13 by the Cape Charles Food Lion was carefully reviewed and an additional traffic study was conducted, Isdell was able to offer supervisors three new options, including the installation of a traffic light at the intersection of Route 13 and Country Place at the shopping center’s busy south entrance.

A VDOT public hearing held in July had garnered much criticism from Cape Charles area residents. VDOT’s original proposal mainly consisted of widening and lengthening turn lanes, but it made no provisions for safety at the dangerous intersection where there have been many accidents and close calls, residents said.

Previously, when supervisors requested adding a traffic signal to the safety improvement plan, Isdell cautioned them that it might drive up costs too high for the project to qualify for VDOT’s Smart Scale program.

Furthermore, the county did not request a traffic signal on the original Smart Scale application it submitted in 2016, and if the application was amended, there was no guarantee it would be approved a second time, Isdell had told supervisors in August.

But this time, Isdell seemed confident that the traffic signal is a favorable option.

The project’s “scope would have to be re-evaluated to make sure that the funding that is currently there will work, and by doing so, it has the potential to trigger a rescore of the project,” Isdell said.

“However,” he continued, “we feel like the project is a strong project and may score as well” as previously.

All three options for amending the safety improvement plan are: closing the intersection to all traffic except vehicles making left turns; converting the intersection to an RCUT or J-turn intersection, achieving the same outcome as the first option but enabling vehicles to make U-turns; or installing a traffic signal preceded by warning beacons and rumble strips.

The new traffic signal would be near the existing traffic signal at the intersection of Route 13 and Stone Road, leading into the town of Cape Charles. Isdell said the traffic lights would be timed similarly to the series of traffic lights seen on Route 13 in Exmore, Onley, and Oak Hall.

According to Isdell, at least two turn lanes would still be widened and/or lengthened on the stretch of road less than half a mile long, including the turn lane leading to Cape Charles. The original safety improvement plan included widening and lengthening eight turn lanes, which some citizens deemed unnecessary.

But the project would not include a speed reduction from 55 mph to 45 mph, as occurs in most other towns in Northampton and Accomack counties where there are multiple traffic signals close together.

“That may be something to look at later, but this is definitely progress,” Chairman Spencer Murray said.

Isdell agreed and said the traffic signal would be taken into consideration when the next speed study is done.

Supervisor David Fauber asked everyone to recognize former supervisor Granville Hogg, who was in the audience, for all his hard work on the project. Hogg advocated for road safety improvements at the Cape Charles area shopping center both as a county supervisor and, after his term ended, as a concerned citizen.

Supervisor John Coker said, “Granville deserves all the credit for this. He’s been working on this for over a decade.”

Cheriton Police Chief Sacked in August, Citizens Want Answers

By Stefanie Jackson  — At Cheriton’s latest town council meeting on Sept. 26, unrest among citizens persisted and questions remained unanswered about the police department and its future.

Marc Marshall was the chief and sole member of the newly formed Cheriton Police Department that had been in operation for barely one year when the council voted 5 to 1 on Aug. 29 to terminate his contract.

No reason for the termination was provided by the council or Mayor Larry LeMond, who cited a “personnel matter.”

Councilman Wesley Travis, who cast the only opposing vote, was not present at the Sept. 26 meeting. Instead, he left a resignation letter for Town Clerk Stacey Salenski to read into the record.

According to the motion to terminate Marshall’s contract, “The police chief was put on administrative leave with pay, pending an investigation,” Travis wrote.

“I voted ‘no’ because there was no investigation and no due process,” he explained.

“Since that meeting, I have experienced many forms of harassment by the general public and council members’ families. I have been cursed out, given dirty looks, been the subject of rumors and accusations. This pains me because there was no content to go along with the vote, and for that reason I am resigning from Cheriton council effective immediately,” Travis concluded.

LeMond responded, “I’m sorry to hear that. … He has his opinion. Five of the other council members didn’t agree with his opinion.”

About one month following Marshall’s termination, the council had no plan to replace him and voted to cancel an eSummons software maintenance agreement and return related computer equipment for refunds totaling more than $19,000.

During the public comment session, Jason Van Marter, a Cheriton resident and restaurant owner who some citizens hope will be appointed to the open seat on the council, said, “By canceling the eSummons and sending back all the equipment, at least to me, it appears that you’ve already made a choice on the Cheriton police force whether you voted on it or not.”

Councilman Matthew Yancy responded, “A final decision has not been made concerning the Cheriton police department. … it will be inactive until either A) a police officer is hired, or B) this council votes to disband it.”

“Relax your minds, we still have a police department, it’s just not active right now,” he said.

“And will remain so until we hire a certified, fully trained law enforcement employee, or send our employee to the police academy and get certified,” LeMond said.

According to LeMond, the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice said the police department could remain inactive indefinitely.

Neither LeMond nor the council provided the rationale for canceling the eSummons or deciding to return the equipment hardly a month after terminating the police chief.

In response to concerns that Cheriton is once again relying solely on the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office to patrol the town and provide revenue through traffic tickets, LeMond said, “The sheriff’s department is doing what they always have done. They’ve always patrolled this town. … Even when we had a police department, the sheriff’s department was patrolling the town.”

Travis’ letter stated, “I believe that Cheriton needs to move forward and not backward. We spent many years getting from out underneath the county and to run back to them as soon as there’s a problem shows a lack of leadership for our town.”

Citizen Joanne Fitchett said, “I was very taken aback with the way that the council didn’t include the town people before a lot of these decisions were made.”

“I feel like we don’t have a voice in the community. We just come here and sit, you make the decisions, and it’s a done deal,” she said.

Fitchett spoke out about Marshall’s termination. “We need to know why you fired him,” she demanded. “He lives in our community. His children, wife … it puts a burden on his family to be looked at, and everyone has a story to tell, but we never got the story.”

LeMond repeated that neither he nor the council can discuss personnel issues.

“Forgive us that we can’t bring you in on every decision … unfortunately, this was one of them,” Yancy said.

Fitchett also wanted to know why council had not followed through on its plan to form a committee to find alternative sources of revenue for the town, “so that you’re not putting pressure or putting a dollar amount or ticket amount on one person, which I thought was very unfair,” she said.

“We just haven’t had time,” Yancy answered. “I’m hoping after tonight … that we now can move on.”

Another citizen, Nancy Brown, had no harsh words for new council members Yancy and Mary Mears, but told Barry Downing, Norma Spencer, and Bo Lewis they have “done nothing” about revenue generation.

“You just put it all on Marc Marshall and said, ‘Yah, mule,’ kept cracking the whip, and told him to bring in more tickets,” which was “unfair” and “unsustainable,” Brown said.

She wanted to know why the investigation of Marshall was not done. “Where’s any accountability for that?” she asked.

“We’re not going to comment,” LeMond answered.

A few minutes later, a soft voice spoke up. It was Mears. “I hope we will move forward. We just haven’t got there yet, but we’re working on it,” she said.

Elaine Meil from the Accomack-Northampton Planning District Commission will visit the council next month to discuss funding sources the town can pursue, Mears said.

Both Spencer and Downing admitted mistakes had been made, and Spencer said, “We definitely don’t want to repeat those, so we wanted to carefully move forward.” Downing echoed Spencer’s statement and asked citizens for their “cooperation to help us move forward from this situation.”

In Latest Elder-Care Shuffle, The Hermitage Is Sold, Buyers Dropping Skilled Nursing

By Linda Cicoira — A deal to sell the Hermitage on the Eastern Shore in Onancock has been made and the buyer is promising to invest $3 million for capital improvements, convert the skilled nursing wing into memory care for residents with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and add independent living services to the already upscale retirement center.

The sale price was not disclosed in an announcement made late Wednesday by the buyer, Commonwealth Senior Living, of Charlottesville, Va., which has 21 such communities in Virginia, and Pinnacle Living, of Glen Allen, Va., a not-for-profit organization that was formerly United Methodist Homes and currently owns the Hermitage. The facility will be renamed Commonwealth Senior Living at the Eastern Shore.

The new company will take over management next month “once the nursing beds are converted,” the announcement stated. “The transaction is expected to be complete before the end of the year with construction starting shortly thereafter.”

Residents “are expected to remain and will not see any increase to their base rate for at least 12 months,” according to the announcement. The two companies “will work together during the transition from nursing to assisted living to determine staffing needs … associates not retained will be offered a severance package from Pinnacle Living.” The announcement said future job opportunities are anticipated as “renovations are completed and occupancy grows.”

“Those residents currently residing in nursing will be assessed in the coming weeks to ensure their needs can be met in assisted living or memory care” with “a reduction in their monthly fee once the transition to assisted living is complete. Skilled nursing services will continue to be available through local home health providers,” the announcement continued.

“We understand the importance of continuing the mission Pinnacle Living has so capably carried on for more than 50 years, and we are both excited and honored to have the opportunity to bring our passion and our expertise in caring for seniors to the Eastern Shore.” said Richard Brewer, Commonwealth Living’s CEO. “While nursing home utilization has declined over the last 10 years, the need for more affordable options such as independent living, assisted living and memory care has grown. We are making a significant commitment to ensure those needs are met.”

“This decision came after many months of careful consideration and research into who would be a good partner to continue our mission of enriching life’s journey,” said Pinnacle Living President and CEO Christopher P. Henderson. “We are pleased with CSL’s plan to further invest in the community, the additional services and its commitment to ensuring the community will remain a resource to seniors on the Eastern Shore for the long term.”

Commonwealth Living has “successfully operated communities throughout the state for almost 17 years, including buildings in the nearby Southside, Peninsula, Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck areas,” the announcement stated.

Former Supervisor Granville Hogg Accused of Brandishing Firearm in Trespassing Dispute

By Linda Cicoira — Former Northampton Supervisor Granville Hogg was accused late last month of brandishing a firearm at two men he says were trespassing on his property. The men claim they identified themselves as Fed-Ex workers and were trying to make a delivery but were still “held hostage” by Hogg.

Complaints were taken out against Hogg, 71, of Butler’s Court near Cape Charles. They were filed by Kyle Edward Miller, of Quarterpath Triangle in Chesapeake, Va., and Anthony C. Sivels, of Aggonne Avenue, in Norfolk, Va.

According to papers filed in Northampton General District Court, the misdemeanor offenses occurred Sept. 23, and involved brandishing “a firearm in such a manner as to reasonably induce fear in the mind of another or hold a firearm or an air or gas operated weapon in a public place in such a manner as to reasonably induce fear in the mind of another of being shot or injured.”

“I called 911 dispatch because me and my helper were being blocked in a driveway by a man holding a gun,” Miller wrote. “The road was Secretairy Drive and we were delivering to 21444 Oyster Cape Road, off Secretairy. He pulled out in front of us, blocking me from exiting or even getting away … while holding us up from performing service to the Eastern Shore. We are employees of Fed-Ex ground.”

“Already shaken up by being held hostage, we produced paperwork and badges showing (our) reason to be there,” Miller continued. “He said he didn’t care and wouldn’t let us leave. I have a picture of him standing in front of my van with gun in hand.”

Sivels wrote, “Me and my driver were pulling out of a driveway (to) deliver a box to someone and this man had pull(ed) in front of our truck and block(ed) us in. Then got out with a gun and ask why we (were) on his property. So we told him and show(ed) him ID information. But he still don’t let us leave and refuse to put gun away.”

Commonwealth’s Attorney Beverly Leatherbury, who also serves as the county’s attorney, asked to be removed from the case saying in a court document that it would be improper for her to handle the case. Judge W. Revell Lewis III appointed Commonwealth’s Attorney Spencer Morgan of Accomack to the case.

In an email, Hogg indicated the men were not in a Fed-Ex vehicle. Instead, he said, they were in a Penske rental truck. Hogg said they were trespassing and obtained warrants for them in that regard. The warrants were not yet returned to the court because they are in the process of being served and were not available for inspection by a reporter.

“Based on the conduct I witnessed, out of fear and respect, I have never been close enough to the individuals to read any identification they presented and (that was) the reason the sheriff’s department was notified,” wrote Hogg.

He said a “No Trespassing” sign is on Secretairy Road about 500 feet south of the intersection of Secretairy and Townfield roads. “Don’t proceed beyond the sign without an invitation … as a citizen, how many times have you noted a delivery vehicle like UPS, FedEx, or DHL delivering packages on Sunday? How many persons does it take to drive a delivery van? Do logistics companies like  UPS, FedEx, DHL have requirements for their vehicles to be identifiable? … In today’s world, most logistics companies have GPS units. Did they have that capability? … To my knowledge, they did not have a parcel addressed to me or the tenant nor any former tenant … Is there anything wrong with contacting the sheriff’s department and requesting assistance in determining the identity of someone acting out of character that is trespassing on your property? When you see individuals driving recklessly, acting totally out of character, not being able to provide good reason for being on your property, I believe I have good reason to think my life is being threatened.”

A hearing will be held at 10 a.m., Nov. 14. Jack Wescoat of Eastville has been retained to represent Hogg.

Sheriff David Doughty said the incident occurred on a road belonging to Hogg, the warrants didn’t require an arrest or bond, only a promise to appear. A deputy went to the scene and will be subpoenaed as a witness. Due to Hogg’s previous position as a supervisor, “any other potential criminal issues will be investigated by the state police,” Doughty said.

Truck Scrapes Tunnel Top and Halts Travels for Hours

By Stefanie Jackson — A tractor-trailer traveling northbound on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel was involved in a single-vehicle accident inside the Thimble Shoals tunnel on Monday at approximately 11 a.m.

No one was injured, but traffic delays persisted for about 16.5 hours until approximately 3:30 a.m. Tuesday. Some travelers reported on Facebook being delayed as much as 6-8 hours.

The tractor-trailer belonged to Chesapeake Tunnel Joint Venture, the company constructing the new parallel tunnel at Thimble Shoals channel. 

Bridge-tunnel officials gave details about the accident in a follow-up press release. The truck was transporting a piece of heavy construction equipment from Island One to Island Two, one of four manmade islands that are part of the bridge-tunnel system, when the tractor-trailer struck the tunnel ceiling. Because the truck did not pass through the toll lanes at either end of the CBBT, it was not subjected to a height check.

The bridge-tunnel was completely closed until 3:20 p.m., or about 4.5 hours. After two failed attempts to clean up the debris and remove the tractor-trailer and equipment from the tunnel, “motivated by the knowledge that our customers have no viable alternative to this route,” according to the CBBT press release, a single lane was opened to alternating northbound and southbound traffic.

This process is frequently used when work is being done inside either tunnel at night. It generally adds 15 to 20 minutes to a CBBT customer’s travel time, but “a series of events conspired to delay travelers far beyond anything that we would have anticipated,” the press release continued.

Larger vehicles were having trouble navigating through the 10-foot-wide travel lane.

Some drivers encountered “car trouble of their own after being delayed for such an extended period,” furthering the overall delay for all involved.

Travelers made the best of the situation. “The weather is nice, the windows are down (and the car turned off) and I’m listening to a good book on CD,” posted Channing Warick Guvernator, of Onancock, to Facebook. She spent 2½ hours trying to cross northbound. She was alerted early about the shutdown and spent time at the nearby outlet mall before venturing onto the bridge-tunnel. She fared better than most.

Deborah Martson spent six hours trying to cross with a 3-year-old in tow.  “It was insanity,”
she posted on Facebook. “I feel the bridge should have been closed. No food, water or bathroom is crazy!” she continued. “Why were they taking our toll money? Makes me a little crazy just thinking about it.”

Usually, the proportion of northbound and southbound vehicles crossing the bridge-tunnel is 50-50, but on Oct. 1, there were 20 percent more southbound vehicles on the CBBT.

At 9:30 p.m., southbound vehicles were prioritized to alleviate traffic delays. At 10 p.m., about 6.5 hours after the single lane had been opened to traffic, the bridge-tunnel closed again so all remaining vehicles could exit.

A third attempt to remove the tractor-trailer and equipment from the tunnel was made around midnight, which eventually succeeded, allowing the bridge-tunnel to reopen at 3:30 a.m.

The CBBT issued an apology on Tuesday for the “extreme inconveniences” its customers experienced. Due to “legislative enablement and bond contracts,” the CBBT is unable to refund tolls, but Chesapeake Tunnel Joint Venture, who is responsible for the accident, is setting up a toll relief fund for travelers who were inconvenienced.

That was cold consolation to Jennifer Oneil Slovinski. “I want my time back,” she said, adding the toll “is nothing.”

The CBBT will release further information on the toll relief fund as it becomes available.

Tangier Seawall Clears Another Hurdle, Should Be Complete Next Year

By Linda Cicoira — Nearly 25 years after Congress authorized the study of a jetty aimed at protecting Tangier Island, the project appears to be closer to a reality.

This week, Gov. Ralph Northam announced an agreement made between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) to design and construct the $2,646,000 seawall. 

With more than $2 million in federal money and about $529,200 in state funds, the jetty would protect the western portion of the island, channel, harbor, and associated seafood industry. The straight stone jetty would start at the southwestern tip of Uppards Island and extend south nearly 500 feet into the channel. 

“I am pleased to finalize this critical state-federal partnership that will advance harbor protections long sought by the mayor and citizens of …Tangier,” said Northam. “A clear and open navigation channel is key for public safety and for the local economy, which counts the Chesapeake Bay and tourism among its central assets.” 

“The jetty project will help protect the … channel and harbor from wave action and adverse weather conditions that can damage workboats, docks, and crab houses,” said VMRC Commissioner Steven G. Bowman.

“The signing of this document is an incredibly important milestone and another example of our great partnership with … Virginia,” said Col. Patrick Kinsman, commander of the Corps’ Norfolk District. “It will provide critical protection for the harbor to support its people and its economy—and now it’s time for us to move dirt and get this project built.”

Mayor James “Ooker” Eskridge thanked local, state, and federal officials “as they have all been instrumental in making this finally a reality. That it will be built gives our Island and residents young and old renewed hope that we can save our homes and our way of life. This is the way that good government should work.”

“Gov. Northam and I are committed to helping Tangier and other coastal communities plan and prepare for the increasing risks posed by climate change and the more severe natural hazards that come with it,” said Matthew J. Strickler, state secretary of natural resources. “This jetty will help the people of Tangier in the short term but it is not a long-term solution to the greater problems the island faces. It is clear that in many areas we will not be able to engineer our way out of trouble.”

The jetty is expected to be completed next year.

Tony Washington Remembered as Coach, Mentor, and Friend

By Bill Sterling — Second chances in sports usually come for those who prepare for the opportunity. Tony Washington, who coached football for most of his 76 years, knew about second chances in life, a well-lived life that ended when he died Sept. 19. 

Twelve years ago, Washington spent two months in the hospital when a respiratory ailment shut down his kidneys. Washington was completely unaware of his surroundings, but his wife Earline spent every day by his side and fought for his recovery.

Former players, coaches and faculty members called daily to check in to see how Coach Washington was doing. When he emerged from his semi-coma state, doctors had to tell him two months had elapsed since he entered the hospital. He then faced a long rehabilitation process.

Again, Earline drove him much like he had sought the extra effort from his football players. Washington was eventually able to return to the sidelines as an assistant football coach at Nandua. But he knew where the credit should go for his new lease on life. “I tell everyone I can the only reason I am here to enjoy all this is because I’ve got a wife who wouldn’t let me die,” said Washington shortly after he returned to coaching. 

Washington always felt he received a bonus of 10 years following that health setback. “Tony loved coaching and loved his players. He felt very blessed to be able to do it again after being so sick,” said Earline Wednesday.

He finally stepped away from coaching a few years after his illness but continued teaching driver education in Accomack County, primarily on Chincoteague when they needed a teacher there. Chris Holland, then the principal of Chincoteague High School and now the superintendent of Accomack County Schools, said Thursday morning, “I know they loved Tony at Nandua, but we loved him at Chincoteague too. He really cared for his kids and would come watch them play football, basketball or whatever sport they were playing.”

Washington was one of the first calls Holland made when he was named superintendent. “He was a coach, mentor and friend to me,” said Holland. “We were both from North Carolina, and we talked about sports and barbecue all the time. He had such a way with people, and I wanted his advice. I owe a lot to Tony and will always be indebted to both him and Earline. What a couple they were.”

In the early years of Washington’s return to coaching after his illness, his wife would drive him on the field because of his weakened condition. “I guess people thought I was crazy when I was driving Tony on the field to coach when he could barely walk, but that is where he wanted to be,” said Earline. “Football was a reason for him to get better. He would have been happy to die on the field and be buried at the 50-yard line.”

Tonight at the Nandua home football game, Washington will be honored in an on-field ceremony. Although he coached football in Northampton County for 23 years, it was at Nandua that he had the most success, especially the years he coached his two sons, T.J. and Todd Washington, both of whom starred at Virginia Tech and had professional football careers. Todd is one of only 13 men ever to win a Super Bowl as a player (with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and again as an assistant offensive line coach (for the Baltimore Ravens). T.J. is in banking management with Bank of America in Charlotte, N.C. 

Tony and Earline Washington, for the most part, admired their sons’ professional football careers from afar. But with both sons playing for Virginia Tech at the same time, college football was like family to them. Despite his coaching duties, Washington and Earline missed only two games when their sons played at Virginia Tech. They would often leave after a Friday night high school game and drive all night to be at the game the following day, whether it be a home game in Blacksburg or a road game in Syracuse, Pittsburgh or even Miami, twice. Earline did most of the driving while Washington usually slept, tired from the weeklong preparation for his game. Flying was not an option because Washington refused to board a plane. 

The Washingtons became the adopted parents of most of the Washington boys’ teammates because at home games, Earline would cook huge vats of food for her sons and their friends. 

Dennis Custis, a longtime friend of the family who taught with Washington at Nandua and retired as principal of the school, said Wednesday, “Tony Washington was the type of coach who would go the extra mile for his kids. He would drive them home from practice, bring them to his house to help with homework and would stay in touch long after they left school. He was a good coach who was genuinely liked by everyone. There might be some who would disagree with him, but there was never anybody who would say something bad about him.”

Custis will be among the speakers who will pay tribute to Washington at his funeral Saturday at Nandua High School, beginning at 1 p.m.

World’s Largest Viking Ship in Cape Charles Through Monday