Author archive: Malcolm Barr, Sr.

Community Events
Blue Ridge Wildlife Center invites public to Jan. 13 Open House
December 29, 2017

The Blue Ridge Wildlife Center in Clarke Co. will host an Open House Jan. 13. Photos/Dara Bailey Design

The two-year-old, state of the art, Blue Ridge Wildlife Center at Boyce in Clarke County will be open to the general public for the first time on Saturday, January 13 from noon to 3 p.m. Members of the public are invited to the Open House to learn about what goes on day-to-day behind the scenes of this amazing new hospital, only the second of its kind in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

A full time veterinarian, Dr. Jennifer Riley, treats some 1,000 animals each year. While most are returned to the wild, those whose injuries are more severe are provided permanent shelter at the center. The facility has a $400,000 annual budget and occupies 17 acres of grass and trees immune to the traffic noise of nearby Route 50.

Waiting to welcome visitors to the Open House will be Wildlife Ambassadors such as Jefferson, the American bald eagle; Beeker, a striped skunk; an eastern screech owl named Dopey; Arctic Fox Snow; and a variety of other foxes, squirrels, turtles, possums; and even a black snake called Slim.

Above, Jefferson, the American Bald Eagle; below Rocket, the flying squirrel (he thinks he’s an eagle) – the pair will be among animals ‘meeting and greeting’ the public at Open House.


Jefferson is one of several raptors housed at the facility that were injured by collisions with vehicular traffic and left unable to fly after their treatment. All, or most, of the animals are used in an extensive educational program conducted in the Bradley Learning Center, as well as off site at schools and clubs in Clarke, Warren and other neighboring counties.

Hillary Davidson, the newly appointed executive director, who boasts an injured owl as a family pet, advises to call ahead (540) 837-9000 if the weather looks dicey, and for directions; or online visit Blue Ridge Wildlife Center.

The wildlife center/hospital is about a half-hour drive from Front Royal.

Education is a big part of the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center – here, Heather Sparks shows young visitors an Eastern Screech Owl.


Local News Seasonal
Front Royal Elks wrap up busy holiday season
December 22, 2017

FRPD officers gathered with Santa at the Front Royal Elks Lodge to offer a little Christmas cheer to the community’s kids. Courtesy Photos/Elks LodgeFront Royal Elks Lodge members are taking a breather at home for the holidays after another busy season entertaining kids and the elderly.

On Saturday, December 9, at the lodge on Guard Hill Road, 50 needy children met Santa Claus, who with the help of 10 Front Royal police officers, handed out almost 400 Christmas gifts – twenty-five-hundred dollars worth from the Elks National Foundation – to the children who ate 23 pizzas donated by The Melting Pot, Anthony’s Pizza and Fox’s Pizza.

In addition, Walmart donated, through the Elks, sufficient food on December 16 to provide 240 dinners for the elderly and infirm.

These are annual events for the Elks. The first is helped along by the police department and elementary school counselors who recommend the names of the children. Santa arrived, if not by reindeer, with a holiday-festive police escort.

Local churches, nursing homes, and the Senior Center are invited to participate in the annual event.

Early delivery – over 400 presents waiting to be opened by the 50-plus children who came to meet Santa at the Elks Lodge on Dec. 9.

Local News
Rockland resident celebrates 103rd birthday – with a game of pool!
December 15, 2017

Marvin Reifsnyder – Royal Examiner File Photo/Malcolm Barr Sr.

Marvin Reifsnyder of Rockland chalked up another one December 10 – another birthday, that is.

On that day, World War II veteran Reifsnyder was 103 years old and celebrated with the visit of his son, Alan and his wife Libby, visiting from Florida, plus several neighbors who stopped by individually to say “Happy Birthday!”

“Uncle Marvin” who some call him (behind his back) was born in 1914, the year World War I, the “war to end all wars”, broke out in Europe.  Unfortunately that assessment of an end to war was wrong, and Reifsnyder enlisted in the U.S. Navy after the U.S. entered World War II some 27 years later. He served in the Pacific aboard a destroyer, which was anchored off the island of Iwo Jima the day in 1945 the Japanese surrendered.

Marvin lives alone – or rather with a caregiver – at the home he moved into with his late wife in 1986. She died in 2006 after 69 years of marriage. He is a native of Pennsylvania and worked in the Department of the Army at the Pentagon almost 50 years.

Despite diminishing eyesight, he is driven to the American Legion in Front Royal each morning to play pool, and once in awhile takes his place at a poker table. “I’m having trouble sometimes, seeing the ball, but I still enjoy going there,” he said.

Marvin is well remembered at the Shenandoah Valley Golf Club (SVGC) where he played the course into his mid-’90s. For exercise, he leaves his home for a daily stroll on the golf course, weather permitting.

“We still remember Marvin,” said Janet Maucione, banquet manager at SVGC, when told of his 103rd birthday at a Rockland Christmas banquet December 14.

Local News Seasonal
Why is the ‘father of the nation’s’ birthday so confusing to celebrate?
February 17, 2017

President George Washington’s birthday is celebrated Monday, Feb. 20 and on that day, all government offices will be closed; and Front Royal trash pickup that week has been pushed from Monday to Wednesday. – Put that on your calendar, townies!

A suave, younger Washington – in his early military days, perhaps not far beyond the era he wandered the Northern Valley as a surveyor, and once according to legend slept overnight under his great coat along what is now Mary’s Shady Ln. waiting for the next ferry across the Shenandoah. Public Domain Photos

No special events have been announced locally, but around the Commonwealth there are some ceremonies honoring veterans, and, of course, Congress will recognize the anniversary of our nation’s first president, even though Feb. 20 is not Washington’s actual birthday (it’s Feb. 22, 1732).

In fact, Presidents’ Day never actually will fall on Feb. 22. The Act of Congress passed in 1971 (the Uniform Monday Holiday Act) means that General George’s real birthday will never be reached. It’s a near miss, but our calendar demands that Washington’s Birthday must be observed between Feb. 15 and Feb. 21 – if that makes any sense to the reader.  If not, blame the Rotary Club of Front Royal’s weekly newsletter which attempts to make all of this very clear in its current issue.

A portrait of Washington, circa the American Revolution.

The newsletter notes that Feb. 22, the real birthday, was originally designated by Congress in 1879, and affected only federal government offices in Washington. It was expanded in 1885 to cover all federal offices, and again amended almost a century later to fall on a Monday as noted above.  It also explains that the day has come to be known by two names, Presidents Day and Washington’s Birthday.  Both are acceptable, with a nod now not only to GW, but ALL those who followed.

So, sit back and enjoy another long weekend, care of your federal government.

Home Local News Seasonal
Cummings family leads caroling visit to 102-year-old Rockland neighbor’s door
December 27, 2016

They arrived aboard a pickup truck and sports utility vehicle at the Rockland Road home of Marvin Reifsnyder about 3 p.m. on Christmas Day, gathering on his sun porch.

“They” were a local family of 10, plus a half dozen other friends and neighbors.  The weather was sunny, the group in full voice, singing a Christmas carol when 102-year-old “Uncle Marvin” appeared on his deck, lively but frail, eyes dimmed by age but twinkling on this day.  The voices made the inevitable hearing aids dispensable.

This caring Rockland family – the Cummings – called on their World War II Navy veteran and neighbor to make his Christmas bright, singing Christmas hymns and songs before the doubtful baton of … well, me!

Neighbors brought a surprise dose of Christmas spirit to the Rockland door of World War II vet Marvin Reifsnyder. Photo Malcolm Barr Sr.

Marvin, home alone this Christmas except for one of his two caregivers – this one named Sue – welcomed Clark and Anne Marie Cummings and their eight children, plus friends Heidi and son Cameron, me and my wife, Carol, and our son, active duty U.S. Air Force staff sergeant, Malcolm Barr Jr., with a smile on his face and, maybe, a song in his heart.

Antonia, at 23 the oldest of the Cummings siblings, said for all of them and the rest of us, “Being able to share in the joy of Christmas with a World War II veteran is a wonderful reminder to the children of what we owe to men like Marvin.

“As children of America, it is important that they respect what men (and women) have fought for to make our country the nation that it is, and to honor them.”

Marvin Reifsnyder, who entered his 103rd year on Dec. 10, was born the year war broke out in Europe in 1914 and was aboard a destroyer anchored off the Pacific island of Iwo Jima the day Japan capitulated to American forces in 1945.  A Pennsylvania native, he has lived in Front Royal since 1986.  He played golf on the Shenandoah Valley course into his mid-90s and, despite diminishing eye sight, to this day he is driven to the Elks Lodge daily to play a couple of hours of pool.  He worked for the Department of the Army at the Pentagon almost 50 years, and was married for 69 years.  His wife Virginia died in 2006.

“Singing for Marvin on Christmas Day was a gift, not just for him but for all of us,” said Antonia Cummings at the end of the brief concert.

“It was an honor to share this day with this veteran of the Second World War,” said, Staff Sgt. Barr, himself an Iraq vet visiting his Rockland Road parents for the holidays.

(The Cummings children taking part were Marcus, 5, the youngest; Louisa, 8; Marri, 11; James, 14; Ioan, 16; Christian, 18; Joseph, 21; and Antonia, the oldest, plus their parents, Clark and Anne Marie.  Friends and neighbors included my son and wife Carol; and Heidi and her son, Cameron)