Connect with us

Local News

101 Year Legacy: Seeking Equality & Justice



Catherine Elizabeth Ausberry Kilby – October 15, 1918-May 20, 2020

The wife of the late James Wilson Kilby, a prominent African-American figure and leader during the Warren County Civil Rights Movement Era, dies at 101 years of age – in the midst of a pandemic, protests, and marches for equality and justice for Black people.

This African American pioneer woman was born on October 15, 1918, in Flint Hill, Virginia in Rappahannock County to Sarah Jordan and Frank Ausberry, both with roots stemming from slavery.

Her parents were married on March 29, 1902, and never left Rappahannock County where their ancestors were enslaved and there were vestiges of slavery, plantation life, the civil war, emancipation, and Jim Crow before moving into freedom. The reminder of Black subjugation was former brick slave quarters located only a few miles down the Ben Venue Road in Flint Hill, Virginia from the Ausberry farm. Blacks remained in these slave quarters as their homes and then as sharecroppers or tenant farmers working for former wealthy white slave owners until well after the 1870s into the 1900s.

World War I – Before her life began, the United States was in turmoil from World War I, which ended in 1918. During this same time period of World War I was taking place, the Flu Pandemic, known as the Spanish flu, infected around 500 million people, about one-third of the world’s population. The conditions of overcrowding and global troop movement helped the flu spread. The vulnerability of healthy young adults and the lack of vaccines and treatments created a major public health crisis, causing at least fifty million deaths worldwide.

During this time of crisis, racism and prejudice were predominant. Even though the United States experienced a severe shortage of professional nurses in the fall of 1918, the white establishment refused to use trained African American nurses to help combat the crisis created by war and a pandemic so being black, Catherine’s path in life was already charted by her black heritage and the color of her skin.

The 1918 Flu Pandemic –  The flu had a large death rate by killing an estimated 195,000 Americans across the country and people were dying at a rate where corpses were stockpiled for burial for more than a week. Cold-storage plants were used as temporary morgues and trolley car packing crates were used as coffins. Public health officials spread the news through education programs about the dangers of coughing and sneezing and disposal of “nasal discharges.” Stores and factories were encouraged to stagger opening and closing hours and people were forced to walk to work instead of using public transport to prevent overcrowding.

Many cities closed theaters, movie houses, and night schools, and public gatherings were prohibited to mitigate the spread of the virus, and persons serving the public had to wear masks along with a strong recommendation made for all residents to wear masks in public. Quarantine signs were placed on the front and rear doors of homes where occupants were infected with the virus.

The pandemic lingered and lasted through December 1920 but Catherine grew in a protected rural environment surviving and thriving through one of the deadliest pandemics in history. The average life expectancy dropped by 12 years. Men only lived an average of 36.6 years and women-only lived 42.2 years. A lot of this was due to the number of lives lost in the war and the number of lives claimed by the 1918 flu pandemic.

Despite all of these national setbacks both Catherine and the United States were flourishing. At the end of 1918, the United States was the world’s wealthiest nation and thousands of immigrants flocked to the nation in the “pursuit of happiness”. Black people in Virginia were still terrorized and compelled to fight their way out of starvation due to joblessness and poverty.

Early Family Life – Catherine, the eighth living child of her parents, was raised with eight other siblings on the family farm and orchards. She grew up working on the farm and had many arduous farm chores inside and outside the house. There was no electricity or running water in the family home. As she grew, she could do everything her brothers could do except more due to the role of the girls and women in cooking, cleaning, washing, and ironing. She rode bareback on the farm horses and drove a horse and buggy.

Growing up close to nature, she hated what she called “devilish snakes” but was not afraid to kill a snake with little armor. The farm had a “spring house” where freshwater from the mountain would settle.

In the summer, after playing or working, she along with her siblings and other farmers would lie on their stomachs and dip the cold water from the “spring house” to quench their thirst.

Catherine’s father purchased or was given milk cows in exchange for services and all the children learned to milk the cows. The milk was stored in bottles or cans in the spring house to stay fresh and cold. Snakes would also come to the bottom of the water in the spring house. Her father was extremely resourceful and was summoned to farms all around Rappahannock to care for animals as a “lay veterinarian”. The family worked the farm and in their orchards, as well as, performed tasks storing or canning food from massive gardens to feed the family through the winter months.

Early Schooling – Classified as “Negroes”, Catherine and her siblings attended the colored one-room schoolhouse, using old books discarded by the white schools. She attended the Rappahannock County one-room school for coloreds in “Free Town” by walking miles or riding horseback to school through all types of weather conditions- snow, sleet, or rain to learn to read, write, count and what was called figuring.

All grades were in the same room with one schoolmaster teacher so her siblings that did not have to work on the farm were in the same classroom with her. Her teacher started noticing her brilliance and talents above the other students, promoted her, and suggested to her father that she was not only a brilliant student in her learning but had a special gift of common sense thinking and hard work, which was significant during this time in Virginia. She was considered a prize.

Catherine boasted of having two dresses. One dress for church and one dress for school, which she washed by hand with homemade lye soap to always be neat and clean. On the other hand me downs were both from her brothers and her sister and the good white folks. She maintained long hair and was always neat and clean and meticulous in her dress, a trait that followed her throughout her life. She only had one pair of good shoes that fit at a time, she wore them to both church and school until the soles were worn out and cardboard was taped at the bottom to cover the holes in the soles until a new pair would arrive from the mail order catalog. She wore boots for her farm chores and walked barefoot inside the home.

Working through many hardships, during her tenure at school, she was named “Miss Rappahannock” by raising money. Hard work was not foreign to her and learning was extremely easy for her so she completed all available educational grade levels that Negroes in the county were allowed to obtain in a segregated prejudice society. Making high marks, she made the best of her education that went to eight years which was considered higher than an eighth-grade education.

The trait of making the best of everything added to her character and reputation. Even though her father never learned to read or write and relied on his children and others to ensure that “no wool was pulled over his eyes”, the farm grew and was enhanced significantly by the Ausberry children’s contributions during the early 1920s; however, economic conditions that led to the Great Depression were creeping into society.

America experienced the highs and lows of life. The struggle for financial growth and survival did not deter the family from acquiring radio and Victrola to play gospel music for shouting and jazz music for dancing creating an atmosphere of weekend gallivanting for the Ausberry boys. After many years of education, Catherine served as her father’s bookkeeper and oversaw some of the farm’s finances and the family business thrived.

Many stories started to emerge about the Ausberry’s family during this period. The guest and frequent visitors were numerous and gravitated to the farm. To keep the boys on the farm to work, Frank not being a devout religious man went into another form of business, the making and selling of corn liquor called “white lightning”.

Prohibition in the United States created a nationwide constitutional ban on the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages which began in 1920. Prohibitionists attempted to end the trade in alcoholic beverages.

Blacks were not allowed to mingle with white folks in public saloons and bars, but as Frank became known for the quality of his product, both white and black stopped by the farm for purchase. This business was kept secret by the men so Catherine did not know until later in life about the alcohol. Catherine’s mother and her sister and other women were not outdone by the men and made grape and dandelion wine for formal Ausberry dinners, especially for Sunday meals.

Catherine loved the church and was committed to her faith in God and was never a part of all of the frolicking and so-called fun and wild worldly pleasures which was normal behavior for the Negro culture to escape the overwhelming stress of past slavery, racist treatment, and their celebratory rise out of poverty.

Great Depression – The Great Depression began in 1929 when Catherine was only eleven years old and the Wall Street Crash was in her birth month of October, the Ausberry family were undaunted and continued to flourish as Blacks primarily as farmers; however, the family had long arduous days of work and never equal in finances or wealth as neighboring white families that got their status from the backs of African slaves and not from their own hard work.

Even though there were some prosperous Black families like the Ausberry’s, a “well to do” black family was unheard of during this period in Virginia history evidenced by Blacks still living in Free Town.

Built on the backs of slaves, rock walls as fences and slave huts were still remaining after slavery and the civil war. Catherine experienced food rations and the family hid sugar, salt, and flour in tin cans underground not to be seen as being productive or hoarders. The family was self-sufficient and churned their own butter and raised chickens for eggs and animals for meat. Due to a lack of trust and fear of white racism and poverty of other families, the family had to hide everything equated to success or wealth.

Since Catherine’s father was a light-skinned “malatto”, he learned life’s lessons from his white ancestors as well as his African side of his family. He knew his place and listened like a good representation of non-competitiveness or being a threat to whites.

The family did not use the bank to deposit money for most of their farm profits. Money was stored in bags and boxes in the walls of the home for easy access for survival and land purchase. When they had more money than needed to run the farm, it was also stored in tin cans with other assets. This was a way of life that was carried over from slavery into emancipation to avoid becoming tenant farmers.

Like her father, Catherine was fair-skinned, and depending on the environment outside of her world, she could easily wander into the white society with little notice. Her mother was more “African” with darker skin and African features so in Catherine’s Negro world she became more determined to stand up for what she believed was right because she had witnessed first-hand the racism, callousness, and disrespect of whites to Black women.

She knew of women from black-skinned to light-skinned during her time who were treated no better than animals. They were not protected. There were instances of women being violated from lowly workers to wealthy farm owners, having to work in the “big houses or in the fields while carrying their babies, giving birth under trees, and another house woman taking the baby while the mother of the child cleaned up only to be forced to go back in the field to work. The women that were designated to work as men in the fields started trying to disguise themselves as males, tying down their breast, cutting their hair, wearing men’s clothing, primarily overalls, and the wide brim hats to block out the scorching hot sun.

In Catherine’s eyes, these days were unjust and a nightmare period for Negroes, but the pain was multiplied for Negro women. Based on what she had witnessed with screams of agony of women in childbirth however conceived, Catherine vowed not to get married and go through the pain like her mother who had many children, one who child that died as a baby and one stillborn after Catherine was born making eleven births that she was aware of.

In addition, the abuse of other women who were used in such a horrific way as lowly animals made her determined to help others through this painful experience. When the mid-wife came, Catherine knew what was in store for the soon to be a mother. The birthing of babies was only tempered by her living close to the nature of farm life and witnessing the birth of cows, horses, pigs, and other animals and their survival and event of the baby animals for her care.

None the less, Catherine grew up happy because life was not as hard for her family as with some other Black families. Catherine and her siblings were spared some ravishes of racism by working for their own father. She felt valued being an asset to her father and equal to and in some areas surpassing the boys in work on the family farm. Serving as her one of her father’s bookkeepers overseeing the farm finances, she saw the family business thrive.

Early Spiritual Belief – Almost since birth Catherine knew about Macedonia Baptist Church surrounded by the gathering of other Negroes protected by free sacred land. As she matured, she experienced and found God for herself and her spiritual journey began to counteract the drudgery of taking care of a large family, house cleaning, cooking, dishes, and washing clothes by hand and canning and storing food for winter months. Butter was churned and all food prepared. Age was irrelevant but the capability was the identification for chores and at times her frail little body and raw palms were just worn out.

The church was the beautiful part of her escape into her world of relief and joy. She believed that she had an anchor for her life and the women played a major role. The women cooked the food for special church services and homecoming celebrations, visited and cared for the sick. She enjoyed working in Sunday school and participated in many activities and social events as a child and then at the age of thirteen, she was baptized in the Jordan River at Macedonia Baptist Church in 1931.

As Catherine continued to cry out and pray for a better and easier life, she soon yielded and understood her calling from God which was service and caring for His people, and if that had been easy she would not have recognized it as a duty. She realized what that meant and she humbly submitted. She became closer to God when she took care of her ailing mother who suffered a stroke before returning home from a horse and buggy trip to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her mother lost the use of one of her arms as a residual from the stroke which left her mother somewhat incapacitated.

Even though arduous work was not foreign to her, Catherine and her only sister Mary Jane who was older had additional endless work responsibilities. Mary soon married and started her own family.

Found Purpose from Experiencing Two Life-Saving Acts – While other siblings were socializing, carousing, getting married and some leaving home, Catherine seemed out of place as a humble, serious-minded, quiet, calm, and demur young woman. Catherine, chosen by God, is credited with saving one baby from sure death that was going to be thrown out of a two-story window by the child’s angry father. She stopped him and saved the baby.

The second when Catherine and her father intervened to save a racially-mixed baby that was going to be destroyed in a fireplace from a white family because of being created out of societal boundaries. The child was taken to the Black community to be raised. Catherine was a pied piper, a magnet for children, and babysit for her youngest brother, Edgar, and children born under these same conditions to make sure they were cared for and walked with them miles safely to school to the Freetown Colored School.

World War II – A Second World War broke out by 1939 with the Nazi invasion of Poland, the biggest and deadliest war in history, involving more than 30 countries. While the family was in fear of the boys being recruited to serve in the war, Catherine was totally immersed in church work and her faith.

She admired her Uncle John, a preacher, for serving as a model to show her how to spiritually walk with Jesus. In turn, she ministered to and was successful in getting her own father in church life. Three of her older brothers, Raymond, Carter, and Robert later reported having a calling to preach. Despite the fact that the Jordan family, her mother’s people, and Ausberry, her father’s people, came out of slavery and still associated with Free Town, the family became known as the “pillars of a religious society” in Flint Hill and the Rappahannock County area with a number of preachers who were revered as men of God.

Catherine with James Wilson Kilby Married Life – Catherine’s life was full of memories and rich experiences. She met James Wilson Kilby at a Parent Teacher’s meeting in Flint Hill, Virginia. He was a thin dark smooth-skinned African-American man who was a resident of Peola Mills in Madison County, Virginia, and still lived with his Kilby family as tenant farmers in a small house in the back of the big white house.

The end of slavery, along with the destruction caused by the war, led to the break-up of many of the largest Virginia plantations and his family was unable to become progressive.

Catherine was fascinated by James with his ideas and wit. His life had been so different from her experiences. He talked about being a sharecropper, a system under which both landowner and tenant received a share of the crop. Landowners advanced sharecroppers seed, fertilizer, and provisions in exchange for labor. Sharecroppers planted and tended the crops and cared for livestock.

With a history as former slaves before emancipation, the Kilby family whose name came from the previous slave owner, benefited because they received food and shelter. However, James told Catherine, he was still poor and his family struggled for survival because his father was still subjugated and wedded to his white slave owner’s descendants and connected with them as trustworthy friends. He vowed to Catherine he was going to rise above all of that.

James was well-respected, worked in Nazareth Baptist Church, which he was best friends with the Pastor. He had a reputation for leadership and recognized as an independent thinker. He not only worked in the church but did jobs like trapping and skinning animals for sale and covering straw bottom chairs outside of the farm to buy a car. Driving became his passion and he used it as a source of income driving those who could pay for driving.

When James came into Catherine’s acquaintance, he was driving school teachers to PTA meetings. During this time, prohibition had already ended in 1933 and it was the worst economic crisis in the history of the United States with the Great Depression, but Catherine fell in love with her relentless suitor, James Wilson Kilby. After a somewhat lengthy courtship, Catherine and James got married on April 19, 1941. On the day of their marriage, James dug potatoes all morning and headed off from Madison County to Flint Hill to pick up Catherine to get married. Together James and Catherine with Mary Jane, her sister as a witness traveled to the home of Reverend Thomas L. Proctor, Pastor of Macedonia, in Front Royal, Virginia.

James did not wear a suit but Catherine looking like a young petite child wore one of her only two dresses sized for thirteen years old and her prized pair of shoes. Nannie Proctor, the pastor’s wife, played a song and Reverend Proctor married them. James gave Catherine a simple plain 14-caret gold band. They became husband and wife. Catherine stated calling him “Wilson” because James was such a common name and he was special.

In love, James moved Catherine to Madison County but she realized that living his life of a poor destitute wife was more difficult and worse than the hard work growing up on the Ausberry farm as independent freed people. The owners of the land, along with Wilson’s father convinced Wilson and Catherine to stay on the farm and as payment, they would be given property with an old house and pounds of flour and sugar, as well as, a fat backside of pork. James and Catherine agreed to stay and work. (1) “The Kilby Legacy: I Stretch my Hands to Thee”

Catherine and child

Fleeing from Poverty – Catherine counted the days and after the agreed-upon time the contract for sharecropping ended, James asked for his deed to his earned property, but James was denied the property. Time was added so James had to continue to work off additional time and Catherine became pregnant and their first child born in April 1942, second in 1943, and by 1945, a third child was born.

Life had blessings with her new family, but it was hard and in reality, the sharecropping system worked to benefit the landowner. James was cheated out of wages and battles were in the landowner’s favor; therefore, the accumulation of debt and poverty made his control over his family as a sharecropper meaningless.

Catherine and James sought refuge with the Ausberry family and Frank became Wilson’s role model. Catherine’s mother died much younger, twenty to twenty-five years before her husband Frank, who did not pass away until February of 1965.

New Beginnings in Happy Creek, Virginia – James Wilson and Catherine created a strong family unit. As circumstances changed with the influence of Catherine’s father and brothers, changes in farming, and demanding needs of the family, James Wilson Kilby started to rise as his own man and meet his fullest potential as he had promised. Catherine’s bond and deep love for her husband grew so she elevated him and enduringly called him “Kilby”.

Along with Catherine’s brothers, Kilby obtained a factory job at the American Viscose Corporation (Avtex) in Front Royal for a better quality of life for the family. After working at the American Viscose, he moved his family to Happy Creek, Virginia, a Black settlement, three miles from his job in Front Royal, Virginia.

By 1948, Kilby joined with two other Black men who purchased one hundred acres of land and divided it for farming in Happy Creek. They built their first house and the fourth child was born.

The farm grew with cows, pigs, chickens, ducks, vegetable gardens, and fruit trees. Barns and silos were built for corn and hay to feed the animals. Together with her husband, they created a dairy farm. The milk from the cows became a valuable Kilby family business commodity, adding to the richness and culture of Blacks in the community. At times Catherine worked side by side with her husband to complete farm work and other times raised her children preparing three meals a day, including meals for the farmworkers. She handled the finances for the farm.

The Kilby Family

Catherine’s fifth and last child was born in 1951. They were raising three sons and two girls.

The Building of Hope and Faith – Despite all of the hardships and handicapped by racism and prejudice, Catherine grew as a strong Black woman. Shortly after marriage, Kilby had become a Deacon and Catherine a Deaconess at the Macedonia Baptist Church in Flint Hill.

In this spiritual role, Deacon James Wilson and Deaconess Catherine Kilby became the strongest supporters and decision-makers within the church. They joined with other church members to create a viable and resolute African-American church to improve the Rappahannock and Warren County Black communities. They raised the children in a God-fearing home.

Catherine participated in every facet of church life from singing in the choir to organizing various helping-hand clubs, ways and means, and auxiliaries, and serving as assistant church clerk to maintain accurate church records. She helped the church to accomplish many goals, supported church improvements, and was relentless in her dedication in service to God, his people, and church work.

The Kilby family also participated in and supported the two Black churches located in Happy Creek, Mount Nebo Baptist Church, and Saint Paul Primitive Baptist Church. The family children enhanced the culture of the community by leading and teaching Sunday school, writing plays, and coordinating holiday programs. They patronized the other Black businesses that were developed within the community and particularly supported the 4-H Club. The 4-H Club became the “community socialization hub” and united the Black men and families together for a stronger community.

Catherine was not the only mother to her five children but she opened her home to other extended family members and some stayed short-term and others stayed long-term to go to school. She cooked three meals each day and was noted for her famous elegant cooking and baking.

On holidays all of the family and extended family members would gather at the family home to create family memories.

The Fight for Equality and Civil Rights – Catherine was a strong wife and mother dedicated to raising and providing a good education for her children. As such, to stem the fear of the ravishes based on stories about the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), she and her husband supported and worked with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Warren County and the Parent Teacher’s Association (PTA) at the Front Royal Colored School during a very tumultuous time in our history. She became a life member of the NAACP.

Integration Movement – By the 1950s, Kilby had become a well-known activist and leader of the Blacks in Warren County while serving as President of the NAACP and later the NAACP Education Committee chair. Catherine had learned lessons from her father about how to protect the family so she was a reluctant participant in waging a “war on society”.

However, she was her husband’s greatest supporter and was determined to fight for his causes. She stood by his side to bring about equality, justice, and change, primarily in the areas of education and job opportunities for people of color.

During the Warren County court cases to integrate Warren County High School, she opened her home, entertained and cooked meals for Civil Rights leaders and NAACP lawyers and served meals at her kitchen table in her home. She stood firm with other Happy Creek and Warren County mothers and families in the desegregation of the schools (1958-59). She participated in sit-ins to eat at lunch counters, as well as picketed businesses and marched for equal employment opportunities.

During one of the court appearances to integrate the schools in Warren County, which she attended with her husband, she believed the antagonists were abusing and treating her children unfairly, she became distraught and raised and started swinging an umbrella she held in her hand to show her retribution against the racist perpetrators. Her husband and the attorneys had to hold her back as she proclaimed “no one was going to hurt my children”.

Along with the other families, her family was attacked and suffered many hardships and setbacks.

Catherine witnessed the destruction of her world as she knew it. The attacks on her husband, continuous telephone threats, killing of farm animals, pets, and watchdogs, shooting at the house, bloody sheet on the mailbox, lynching noose on her porch, and crosses burned in her yard and loss of jobs and wages.

Due to retaliation from being a part of the civil rights movement to integrate Warren County High School, citizenry actions to destroy the Kilby livelihood rendered the farm no longer profitable and it basically in time become insolvent. Not defeated and in an effort to support her family, she personally took on the battle to recover.

Supporters in Virginia and around the country as the news spread came to know Warren County since Warren County’s hard-fought legal case for equal education resulted in the closure of the first high school to be closed to test Virginia’s “massive resistance” laws so her greatest loss was to allow her children to live in Washington, D.C. to be educated until the courts reopened the school.

The consequences in the fight for equal education were severe and impacted many fronts in life. This caused Catherine’s great grief and changed the dynamics within her family only leaving her two youngest children home until Warren County High School opened to the Black students and her other children returned home. (1)”The Kilby Legacy: I Stretch my Hands to Thee”

During the darkest and most desperate times in the family, Catherine rose up as a resourceful determined role model and entrepreneur. She left her two youngest children to travel seventy to seventy-five miles one-way, collectively more than a hundred miles a day in the dark of morning to clean houses for survival pay while collecting used clothes for her children to wear and food products to bring home to generate family income to counteract total devastation. She worked for this survival and family rebuilding for nearly fifteen years.

Black Woman-Owned Business – From the sixties to the seventies, Catherine while seeking equality blossomed and reached her peak as a dynamic businesswoman capitalizing on her financial skills from her experience during the depression.

Forced to work on behalf of her family and a generous desire to also uplift other families, she became consumed with an entrepreneurial spirit. She had never gotten a driver’s license and could not drive, but she used her savings from working to purchase a nine-passenger station wagon, hired a driver, and organized a riding force to travel to the Washington metropolitan area to work.

This became so lucrative, she added a second vehicle to her business and employed a second driver and expanded the employment opportunities for others to bring money and resources back to Happy Creek and the Front Royal community.

Civil Rights: Education, Protests, Marches, and Sit-ins – Catherine and her husband not only marched and participated in sit-ins in Warren County, but Catherine followed Martin Luther King and participated in the March on Washington in Washington, DC in 1963.

After the marches and sit-ins for equal employment opportunities, a racial trailblazer and barrier breaker, Catherine became the first African American woman to become employed at McCrory’s retail store in Front Royal, Virginia.

It became evident to Blacks who were fearful about upsetting white folks that boycotts and picketing for equal employment opportunities were ultimately worthwhile for future generations. She worked for ten years until she retired after all five of her children had completed school or college.

Family Education – All five of their children received a high school diploma from Warren County High School, the high school Kilby fought to integrate and get an equal education for his children. Catherine wanted the best education for her children.

Her second son, John, was exceptionally bright, tested high on his SAT and was accepted at Fisk University. Her youngest daughter, Patricia, was also a high achiever and was accepted at colleges in Virginia; however, Catherine had become acquainted with Howard University during the civil rights movement and the integration cases with Thurgood Marshall, Spotswood Robinson, and Oliver W. Hill so when her youngest daughter expressed an interest in attending Howard University, she took her to Washington, DC for a meeting at Howard.

Even though her daughter had not previously been notified of her acceptance, during the meeting, Catherine asked the Howard registrar to discuss her application and before the meeting ended her daughter was not only accepted but registered.

Catherine did not like city life and since she felt responsible for her daughter’s matriculation at Howard, she formed a close bond and called her daughter every day for a progress report. She would prepare care packages with her famous applesauce cake for her daughter’s roommates and best friends. Catherine not only forged a close bond with her own daughter but her roommates as well.

Her youngest son also attended the same university.

Catherine’s Diploma – Catherine and her husband believed it was never too late to get an education and they attended night school to get a GED. They were awarded their Warren County High School diplomas in 1991.

Volunteer Involvement and Voting Rights – While employed, she had a membership with senior citizen organizations such as AARP, which she served as treasurer. She volunteered with the Warren Memorial Hospital Organization.

Early on in Catherine’s life, she heard her family talk about Negroes did not have the right to vote. This denial was instilled in her that Negroes could not vote so she wanted to change that for her children so Catherine supported voting rights. She believed in exercising citizens’ rights, campaigned for elected officials, and worked on the voting polls. Catherine lived through eighteen presidential administrations from President Wilson to Trump. She cited Presidents Kennedy, Carter, and Clinton as favorites; however, her greatest excitement and joy came with the election of President Barack Obama, the first African-American President, who she called “her President”.

100 Year Museum Portrait

Catherine’s Inspirational Life and Legacy – Catherine’s legacy is quite extensive. Her marriage to James Wilson Kilby spanned sixty-two years until his passing on May 2, 2003.

She has led four generations of the Kilby family lineage: including five children, James, John, Betty, Patricia, and Gene; twelve grandchildren; twenty-seven great-grandchildren; six great-great-grandchildren.

As the only living Ausberry sibling, she became the valiant matriarch of the Ausberry family and the surrogate mother to generations of the Ausberry relatives.

Historical Contributions – Together with fortitude and tenacity, Catherine and her husband made significant historical contributions that impacted the life and culture of Virginia. They forged an extensive legacy during that civil rights period of time in changing the course of education with the integration of Warren County High School, teacher recruitment, sit-ins and protests for equal employment opportunities, programs in housing from construction to weatherization projects in housing.

As Catherine and her husband grew older, they experienced life by traveling all over numerous states up and down east and west coasts of the country meeting with NAACP representatives. They also traveled to Mexico, Canada and in the Caribbean with family members.

With the loss of her husband, Catherine kept the faith, continued the family legacy, and preserved in changing history for seventeen more years. Her life slowed and changed, but she did not give up her beliefs and kept building her own legacy.

Before the passing of her husband who was not only a civil rights leader but also a visionary and supporter of fair and equal housing for all, especially poor people of color, he assisted families with weatherization projects, building and purchasing newly constructed housing. She continued to be instrumental in carrying out his legacy and vision to create a housing subdivision on the land that they had acquired early in life in Happy Creek, Virginia. Currently, the Kilby vision and legacy was envisioned by “Village Court”.

Mother of Macedonia Baptist Church- oldest and longest standing member of the Macedonia Baptist Church with membership for eighty-eight (88) years, serving as a Deaconess for more than seventy-seven (77) years

Catherine Elizabeth Ausberry Kilby, a woman of distinction within the community is celebrated and held in the highest esteem with a remarkable and inspirational life touching many lives based on her role to bring about change and enlightenment for the people of Virginia. Her reputation and character as a stately, classy, impeccably dressed lady was ever-present as a role model and teacher for the younger African American women in the church and community.

A woman blessed with many hats was her trade-mark; she exquisitely matched them with every outfit and wore them proudly as a crown of the witness for her love, dedication, and trust for the God she served.

Over the years in her role as Deaconess, she reached out in compassion for others in feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, encouraging the hopeless, and providing guidance, while holding her family and friends close to her. Catherine was full of love that she not only loved her family but also everyone she met.

Leaving a Trail for the Next Generation – For her last accomplishment, her late husband had left his vision and financial means for her to take care of herself so she continued to fulfill her husband’s desire to create the “James Wilson and Catherine Kilby African-American Historical Museum” in Happy Creek, Virginia, which she witnessed the restoration of the structure and the beginning of the artifact collection in 2019 as a work in progress.

History Repeats Itself: End of Life’s Journey during COVID-19 Pandemic, Protests, and Marches for Equal Rights and Justice – Catherine lived surviving through a period of the Flu Pandemic in 2018 at the beginning of her life and endured and now with the emergence of the coronavirus-COVID-19 worldwide pandemic at the end of her life.

The same as in 1918, the pandemic virus has had a large death rate by killing millions of people around the world. People dying at a rate where corpses were stockpiled for burial for weeks. Cold-storage plants and skating rinks were used as temporary morgues and wooden crates for use as coffins for mass burials. Public health officials spreading the news through the media about the dangers of coughing and sneezing and disposal of “nasal discharges.” Stores and factories are encouraged to stagger opening and closing hours and people are forced to walk to work instead of using public transport to prevent overcrowding. Many cities closed theaters, movie houses, and night schools, and public gatherings are prohibited to mitigate the spread of the virus and persons serving the public are wearing masks a strong recommendation was made for all residents to wearing masks in public.

Quarantine signs are placed on the front and rear doors of nursing homes where occupants are infected with the virus. There is an acute awareness of inequality and injustice for Black people creating political unrest and chaos. Protesters are marching in the streets around the world to protest this injustice, racial inequality, and the killing of young Black people. The country has high unemployment rates and people have lost jobs and there are food shortages and lines and stimulus checks for financial survival.

As a pioneer, Catherine left a road map for us to follow. Her story and legacy are so relevant and meaningful because she completed life’s journey to lead the way for the next generation to emulate how to bring about change-Catherine experienced it all, fought, and thrived from 1918-2020 and has left the world a better place than when she inherited it. Even though Catherine’s cause of death is still unknown, she continued to serve God until the end.

During Catherine’s pandemic burial at the James Wilson and Catherine Kilby grave site in the Panarama Gardens Cemetary, Patrica Kilby-Robb is holding the “Together Forever” picture honoring the life and legacy of her parents. (May 29, 2020)

A Memorial Service will be held later this year.

Patricia Kilby-Robb (Daughter): Excerpts from recollections, “The Catherine Elizabeth Ausberry Kilby Story”.

1. The James Wilson Kilby Story is in the book entitled, “The Kilby Legacy: I Stretch my Hands to Thee”, written by James Wilson Kilby and Patricia Kilby-Robb, 2000. His history is a part of the archives in the “James Wilson and Catherine Kilby African-American Historical Museum” located in Happy Creek, Virginia.

2. The Catherine Elizabeth Ausberry Kilby Story and historical chronicles from her “Life and Legacy” will become a part of the archives in the “James Wilson and Catherine Kilby African-American Historical Museum” located in Happy Creek, Virginia.

3. Photographs by Deacon Mike Coward, Macedonia Baptist Church.
The stories and pictures are the property of the James and Catherine African-American Historical Museum and permission must be requested for reprinting for publication use.

The Kilby-Robb Generation
Four generations: First generation-far bottom right Catherine Ausberry Kilby (matriarch); Second generation- standing behind her mother, Patricia Kilby-Robb (Daughter) and husband Nathaniel Robb, third row center; Third generation-Dawnielle Kilby-Robb (Granddaughter), second row center; Earl Franklin Robb (Grandson), right side third row; Fourth generation- Delaunte Allen (Great-grandson), left side third row; Dayanna Kilby-Robb (Great granddaughter, left side first row; and Adrianna Nunn (Great-grand daughter standing on front row.

Share the News:

Local News

Elks Lodge caps school year with ‘Americanism’ awards



Sadi Comstock of Skyline Middle School and Andrew Cabrera of E.Wilson Morrison Elementary each won first place prizes in Front Royal Elks Lodge’s essay contests at their respective schools during the final days of the school year. The question students were asked to respond to in their essays was: “What does it mean to love your country?” For their efforts, the pair received $100 cash prizes.

EWM (5th graders) left to right: Chelsea Thornton, teacher, Otto Hire; Lisa Rudacille, principal; Lucy Phillips, Penelope Dublin, Jim Sheppard, Andrew Cabrera, and Floy Bunning, teacher. Courtesy Photos FR Elks

Second and third place awardees at E. Wilson Morrison elementary were Penelope Dublin and Lucy Phillips. Otto Hire got an honorable mention. At Skyline Middle School Mackenzie McIntyre and Katie Smith scored second and third places, with an honorable mention going to Lucy Campos-Escobar. All received lesser cash awards

Skyline (8th graders), back row, left to right: Jim Sheppard; David Dent (teacher); Robert Johnston, principal; and Lanelle Hilling, assistant principal. Front row: Lucy Campos-Escobar, Mackenzie McIntyre, Katie Smith and Sadi Comstock.

Exalted Ruler Jim Sheppard made the awards at ceremonies attended by parents and teachers. In addition to cash, Skyline students also received corsages.

Share the News:

Continue Reading

Local News

FY-23 Budget, ACA accreditation costs, and 18 to 21-year-old hirings dominate RSW Jail Authority Meeting discussion



Following some joking about a shifting of responsibilities with the election of officers for the coming year, Warren County Sheriff Mark Butler’s comment held the day – “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it is my nomination,” he said. And with that said, the existing officers of the RSW Jail Authority Board of Directors were renominated and unanimously re-elected. Those are Garrey Curry (Rappahannock County Administrator) chair, Evan Vass (Shenandoah County Administrator) vice-chair, and Ed Daley (Warren County Administrator) secretary-treasurer, with some juggling of those positions at the Finance and Personnel Committee level.

Two topics dominated the Committee and Authority Board discussions of Thursday, May 26. Those were personnel issues related to a sparsity of applications to fill uniformed guard positions among the facility-wide 48 vacancies currently listed, and an ongoing cost/benefits analysis on the advisability of entering into an accreditation contract with the independent ACA (American Correctional Association).

That latter topic was somewhat linked to an update on the proposed facility Fiscal Year 2022-23 budget. Moving forward on a budget of $16,345,491, with a 5% COLA (Cost Of Living Act) written in for employees, as opposed to a 10% COLA option that would add $369,360 to the total budget, was suggested and approved since the Jail Authority Board, like municipalities around the commonwealth, is still working without final state budget numbers. Those numbers have been promised as of June 1, Ed Daley observed of signals from Richmond. The only change from the budget presented in April was a $28,000 increase in the annual VACO Insurance coverage, staff pointed out.

Staffing options for under 21-year-olds

On the staffing issue Jail Superintendent, Russ Gilkison brought forward a proposal to consider the hiring of 18 to 21-year-olds to unarmed positions to assist fully certified deputies in the conduct of their duties. A variety of regulations would apply to these younger employees, including that they be paired with experienced employees when working in inmate housing areas to avoid one-on-one interaction with prisoners.

Responding to a question, Gilkison said that civilian openings were being filled pretty quickly; however, that was not the case with uniformed deputy-guard positions. Pointing to applicants for guard positions, the jail superintendent noted there had been a number of under-21 applicants excited by the opportunity to become uniformed law enforcement officers. As to the hiring of 18 to 21-year-olds, he told the Jail Authority Board of Directors, “I wouldn’t want to arm them. They wouldn’t be in positions where they’d be out and do transports. We wouldn’t use them anywhere where they were by themselves and dealing with inmates.

RSW Jail Superintendent Russ Gilkison, 4th from left of table, pleads his case to be allowed to work promising 18 to 21-year-old candidates for uniformed guard positions into the employment equation to help fill vacancies under strict guidelines. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini

“We’re just trying to be creative to get people in the doorway, get them interested in the career,” he told the authority board. And he noted it was a strategy being employed at other regional jails to deal with the same lag in applicants to fill vacant guard positions.

Warren County Sheriff Butler expressed some concern and opposition to the idea. He cited the difficulty of placing young people with a minimum of life experience behind them in the rather complex position of dealing with convicted criminals often versed in reading people to gain an advantage.

“I understand your concerns. I would not want them working independently,” Gilkison told Butler.

A great deal of discussion followed concerning methods of evaluating potential employee candidates for strengths and weaknesses regardless of age. Suggestions were broached, including phasing younger applicants in initially as civilian, front-of-house employees, while training for guard assisting duties and evaluating them for eventual certification as law enforcement officers as they reached the age of 21.

Eventually, Gilkison asked for the board’s direction on a path forward. Chairman Curry observed it was the board’s responsibility to give the superintendent a direction forward to deal with the ongoing staffing shortage by either allowing the phasing in of younger applicants as had been described or to give him tools to increase the applicant pool in other ways. After some aborted motions to facilitate Gilkison’s suggested plan, it was observed by Shenandoah County Sheriff Tim Carter that existing codes allowed the hiring of people at 18, so without a direct veto from the board, the superintendent could move forward as suggested.

WC Sheriff Mark Butler, white uniform shirt across table, expressed concern and some degree of opposition to the youthful hiring initiative. He cited a lack of life experience just out of high school that could be manipulated by incarcerated career criminals to their advantage.

After reading the applicable code, Warren County Sheriff Butler concurred with Sheriff Carter that since existing codes allowed the superintendent to move forward as he had proposed, he be allowed to do so with the precautions in place as described. Warren Supervisor Delores Oates observed that regardless of age, the best path forward was to hire the best available candidates. She also noted that Warren County Public Schools was planning to implement a “Criminal Justice” program in the coming school year that might contribute to a more qualified 18-to-21 candidate pool in coming years.

“The code allows it, so I think it’s moot if we just repeat what it says,” Oates added of the necessity of a motion on allowing Gilkison to move forward on staffing issues, including the hiring of qualified under-21 applicants. So, without direct action a consensus was reached, though with some ongoing concerns still expressed by Sheriff Butler, to allow Gilkison to move forward on hiring younger applicants who were judged qualified to be phased in under the described precautionary methods while working toward eventual law enforcement certification as deputy-guards as they reached the age of 21.

ACA certification

As noted above, cost versus benefit remained the main point of discussion in evaluating a move toward seeking official American Correctional Association (ACA) accreditation. Statistics noting local and regional correctional facilities with ACA accreditation were presented as they were at the April meeting, along with some cost projections and comparisons with state-mandated Department Of Corrections (DOC) accreditation.

Superintendent Gilkison reiterated the numbers as presented in April: of 23 regional jails including RSW, only 2 are ACA accredited; and of 36 local jails, 7 are ACA accredited for a total of 9 accredited of 59 jails in the commonwealth.

To implement and maintain ACA status an estimated “Annual Fee” of $13,500 was estimated by staff. And that does not include increased staffing required or other annual audit and related expenditures, a staff agenda summary pointed out.

Of additional staffing, Gilkison said that while he hadn’t finished calculating the total number that would be required, his initial exploration indicated 6 new medical staff positions, as well as a fire safety and certification position. That total of 8 it appeared would be compounded by the necessity of maintaining some, if not all new positions, during all shifts.

Sheriff Butler observed that he believed increased accreditation standards were the future of law enforcement, and staying ahead of the curve was advisable. During the subsequent conversation he observed that while exploring ACA standards, which differ from the state-mandated DOC standards, the facility can learn of potential increased standards and implement them “as appropriate” without actually seeking ACA accreditation oversight and its expense.

The board seemed somewhat skeptical of the cost/benefit equation in achieving ACA facility accreditation. However, 75% of the way into the superintendent and staff’s research the consensus was to press forward till all the numbers were known.

For that seemed to be the over-arching concern of the board – “Do we want to invest that amount of money,” Authority Board Vice-Chair Evan Vaas asked of a self-initiated effort to achieve and maintain ACA certification, as noted above, certification that is not mandated by the state.

It was also noted that some physical plant issues on the layout of RSW would hinder the jail achieving some of the ACA standards without additional expense. If any of those existing limitations slid into the “Mandatory ACA Standards” that would further hinder the facility in achieving the accreditation it would be paying to seek. Board member Oates also observed that they had just approved a budget that did not include the minimum additional ACA staffing requirement of six new medical staff positions.

But with Gilkison estimating he was 75% of the way through crunching all the numbers with valuable help from staff, the board consensus was for him to complete the evaluation process.

As at governmental and other sites across the nation, RSW Jail’s flags were at half-staff for the dead elementary school children and staff in the recent Uvalde, Texas mass-murder shooting.

And with a quick acknowledgment of the earlier Finance and Personnel Committee meeting convened at 1:30 PM and no other “Outstanding Issues” on the table, the RSW Regional Jail Authority Board of Directors meeting was adjourned at 3:10 pm. The next scheduled meeting of the Authority Board is set for July 28 at 2 pm, with the F&P Committee meeting to precede that.

Share the News:

Continue Reading

Local News

Summer Reading Club returns to Samuels Public Library



Dive into an Ocean of Possibilities at Samuels Public Library! Summer Reading Club for all ages returns June 6 – August 13. Get your feet wet and read books to win prizes! Visit the Library throughout the summer for an assortment of events featuring magic, pirates, water discoveries, and even a petting zoo!

“For the last two years, Summer Reading Club has been low-key due to COVID-19, but we are excited to bring back an action-packed calendar of events for 2022,” says Michal Ashby, Youth Services Supervisor.

Kick off the summer-long celebration with an unbelievable performance by world class magician Peter Wood on June 6 at 6 pm, stop by Eastham Park to enjoy the new StoryWalk book Nobody Likes a Goblin with the author Ben Hatke on June 11 at 11am, splash into a S.T.E.A.M. adventure from TaleWise to help out lost pirates on June 24 at 11am, laugh your socks off during an interactive musical comedy performance from Mr. Jon & Friends on July 14 at 2 pm, get up close with cute animals in our petting zoo on July 30 at 2 pm, and enjoy a fantastic performance from Rainbow Puppets on August 10 at 2pm.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg for children’s and family programs at the Library this summer. In partnership with Warren County Parks & Recreation, the Library will host Warren Reads – littles will be able to enjoy Story Time with specials guests from the community. The partnership will also collaborate to host Toddler Trails, a program that introduces children to the area’s many wonderful local parks.

Adults and teens can also join in on the fun! Teens are invited to chat all about books, movies, art and more at Discuss This, June 18 and July 2 at 2pm. They can also flex their gaming skills during Press Play on July 9 at 11 am and August 20 at 2 pm. Adults can learn all about tree identification from horticulture expert Mary Olien on June 11 at 10 am. Local herbalist Caden Speziale will lead a virtual class on adaptogenic herbs June 9 at 6:30 pm. Conservationist Hershel Finch will share all the best fishing spots and demo fly fishing techniques on June 25 at 10 am. Crafty grown-ups can participate in the Tiny Art Workshop on June 18 at 2 pm or the Sea Glass Mason Jar Craft Class on July 16 at 2 pm. Adults can also escape the heat with interactive movie afternoons on June 11, July 9, and August 13 at 2 pm.

“Many people don’t realize that the Library hosts more than Story Time. We have exciting events for every age. There is literally something for everyone at Samuels Public Library,” explains Erin Rooney, Adult Reference Supervisor.

This summer, you can do more than just read at Samuels Public Library. You can also sing, dance, play, learn, and laugh! To register for Summer Reading Club visit or call 540-635-3153.

About Samuels Public Library

Samuels Public Library brings people, information and ideas together to enrich lives and build community. A 501(c)(3) organization, the library annually serves 200,000 visitors, checks out nearly 400,000 books, electronic and digital services, and provides essential computer access, wireless service and public meeting spaces for the community. To learn more, visit or call (540) 635-3153.

Share the News:
Front Royal Virginia

Continue Reading

Local News

Front Royal/Warren County Ministerial Association presents Baccalaureate Service-Warren County High School-Skyline High School



On May 26, 2022, the Front Royal/Warren County Ministerial Association presented Baccalaureate Service for Warren County High School and Skyline High School.

The program started with a prelude by Sue Rinker, the pianist from First Baptist Church, followed by the Skyline Choir singing their Alma Mater. The WCHS Choir sang the Alma Mater via an audio recording.

Christy McMillin-Goodwin, President of the Ministerial Association, gave the welcoming remarks, followed by the singing of the hymn “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.”

Savannah Mitchell (WCHS) and Lexie Reinhardt (SHS) gave Prayers from each class. The SHS Choir sang “Benedictus,” followed by Senior student messages from each class. Kiersten Stives presented the message from WCHS and Lexie Reinhardt from SHS.

Margaret Plosch from Warren County High School played a piano solo.

Rachel Plemmons, Pastor, Front Royal United Methodist Church, gave the message to the graduating classes. Dr. Jim Bunce, Pastor of Marlow Heights Baptist Church, and Captain Ann Hawk from the Salvation Army presented Cords to the graduates.

Rachel Plemmons and Ingrid Chenoweth, Pastor Good Shepherd Luthern Church, presented the candle lighting ceremony, followed by prayers and blessings for the graduates by Sam Noble, Director, Young Life.

Valerie Hayes, Rector, Calvary Episcopal Church, provided the Benediction. Sue Rinker provided the recessional.


Share the News:

Continue Reading

Local News

Shenandoah University to host Veterans Community Engagement Forum



Shenandoah University will host a Veterans Community Engagement Forum on Thursday, June 2, at 1 p.m. in Halpin-Harrison Hall.

The event will bring together veterans and private, public, and non-governmental organizations that support them at the local, state, and national levels to discuss and foster a better understanding of the issues affecting veterans and their families.

The forum aims to re-engage veterans and the regional Community Veterans Engagement Boards (CVEBs) that focus on strategic actions that optimize support, care, and services for veterans. Additionally, the forum will shed light on the many services available to veterans and will provide an opportunity to problem-solve some of the issues plaguing the veteran community.

It’s exciting to again be partnering with the Northern Shenandoah Valley CVEB and the host of community partners in our region to identify and support the needs of veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors. Shenandoah University is committed to being a school of choice for veterans and the leader in promoting and providing world-class education, services, and support to military-affiliated learners in our region,” said Cameron McCoy, Ph.D., Shenandoah University provost.

A military-affiliated panel, consisting of an active-duty service member, a veteran, a spouse of a veteran, and a Shenandoah student who is the child of a veteran, will identify veterans’ needs and will focus on understanding some of the current challenges facing members of the military community throughout the region.

Michael Diaz, chair of the Northern Shenandoah Valley Community Veterans Engagement Board, will share information about what has been done to address veterans’ needs. CVEBs, which operate under the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, works to create collaborative networks on the local level and use community resources to address issues identified by the local community.

The forum will also include a presentation on Bunker Labs, which helps veterans and military spouses start and grow successful businesses, and a roundtable discussion among veteran-supporting organizations that will provide an opportunity to learn about current services available in the area and to promote partnership and collaboration across organizations.

Dr. McCoy, a military veteran, will share information about the Veterans, Military, and Families Center (VMFC) and the planned Hub for Innovators, Veterans, and Entrepreneurs (HIVE) during the forum. Attendees will get a chance to review the HIVE’s progress following the event.

In creating the HIVE, Shenandoah has identified an opportunity to further support the community by restoring the former National Guard Armory located on campus, and the initiative is designed to support economic growth and development in the community and region, while also providing an anchor for veteran care, services, and resources.

Share the News:

Continue Reading


Update: April Petty awaits Judge’s decision on motion to dismiss EDA civil case seeking return of $125,000 received from Jennifer McDonald during 2016 home sale process



(Author’s note: As of Saturday morning, May 28, at 11:15 a.m. this story has been updated with additional detail on the $125,000 check transferred from an EDA account by Jennifer McDonald to Ocwen Loan Servicing LLC during April Petty’s 2016 home sale process.)

Judge Bruce D. Albertson took dueling arguments on a defense motion to issue a summary judgment dismissing all civil claims regarding the FR-WC EDA’s action against defendant April Petty under advisement Tuesday afternoon, May 24. Cullen Seltzer represented the plaintiff EDA, now trading as the Warren County EDA in the wake of the Town of Front Royal pulling out of involvement as it litigates against the half-century-old joint Town-County EDA over disputed losses tied to the FR-WC EDA financial scandal. Petty was represented by defense counsel William Shmidheiser III.

Petty’s case, among a number of others alleged as beneficiaries and co-conspirators of former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald are scheduled for civil court trials beginning in early July. Following taking the Petty motion under advisement the court dealt with jury selection issues with attorneys for a number of civil case defendants patched in by phone. Those included counsel for Truc “Curt” Tran and ITFederal, Donnie Poe and Earthlink Energy, Ms. Hassenplug, and Samuel North. With input from Circuit Court Clerk Angie Moore, it was decided a rather complex process involving a fairly large jury pool with begin Wednesday and Thursday June 29th and 30th.

The Petty dismissal motion filing dated April 21 targets all five aspects of the EDA’s civil case against Petty, scheduled for jury trial on July 5 and 6. All the civil liability aspects of the plaintiff EDA’s case against Petty revolve around receipt of a $125,000 EDA check from Jennifer McDonald that was applied to payment on a mortgage loan at Ocwen Loan Servicing on Petty’s home, during Petty’s 2016 effort to sell that home. That money is cited as part of the estimated $21 million in EDA assets that McDonald is alleged to have misdirected to unauthorized personal use and benefit of herself and others.

The five aspects of the plaintiff’s case against Petty are “Unjust Enrichment”, the receipt of benefit by one party from another without a reciprocal benefit to the other party (in this case the EDA); “Conversion” (unauthorized possession); application of the “ultra vires” standard of acting beyond one’s legal authority; “Conspiracy” in knowingly acting in concert with Jennifer McDonald in the receipt of misdirected EDA assets; and “Fraud” related to the “Conspiracy” allegation that Petty knew that $125,000 McDonald applied to her mortgage loan was money the EDA asserts was stolen.

Plaintiff EDA and civil case defendant April Petty are awaiting the court’s ruling on her motion for dismissal of case against her. Royal Examiner File Photos by Roger Bianchini

Petty’s attorney pointed out that when an earlier grand jury was handing out blanket criminal indictments against alleged McDonald co-conspirators including two full EDA oversight boards, April Petty was not one of those indicted by the grand jury. Pointing to what he believes is a lack of evidence against his client having any knowledge of the alleged embezzlement conspiracy, Shmidheiser asserted to the court that “all the charges” related to the plaintiff’s “conspiracy theory” involving her should be dismissed. Essentially that is the final four of the five above EDA claims against Petty.

“All they had, have today is the check,” Shmidheiser told the court of the $125,000 check drawn on an EDA account appearing to be co-signed by McDonald and then EDA Board of Directors Chair Patricia Wines made to Ocwen (misspelled as Owen) Loan Servicing LLC that was applied to Petty’s home sale price.

At this point Judge Albertson asked defense counsel if McDonald had, in fact, transferred that money to April Petty. “Yes, but April Petty did not know that it was embezzled money,” her attorney said walking a legal tight rope between knowledge and consequence.

“You’re asking me to skip over the trial part of this case,” Judge Albertson told Shmidheiser. “Yes, I am,” defense counsel replied moving toward his argument against the “Unjust Enrichment” aspect of the case against Petty.

Noting his client’s belief McDonald was acting in her role as a real estate agent with Century 21 Real Estate in helping Petty accomplish the sale of her home, Shmidheiser asserted that his client was not by legal definition “unjustly enriched”. He elaborated that in exchange for the $125,000 check Petty believed was fronted to her mortgage loan to help facilitate her home sale, “plus another $210,000 Petty received at Closing on her home, she Deeded her house, which was listed for $330,000, to purchasers Mr. and Mrs. Leary,” Shmidheiser explained.

“She didn’t get money for nothing, she got money for her house,” the defense attorney later elaborated to this reporter on his courtroom arguments. During those arguments in support of his motion for a dismissal of the civil case against his client, Shmidheiser revealed how he prioritized his case for dismissal. And it appeared he felt the optimum legal path forward if a trial was required would be in dispelling the notion that April Petty was a conscious co-conspirator of Jennifer McDonald’s in her alleged embezzlement schemes.

“We’ll live with all but ‘Unjust Enrichment’,” Shmidheiser told the court of the prospect of a two-day trial in early July. “I’m confident we will win at trial,” Shmidheiser added of having to present the defense case to a jury on the conspiracy aspect of the EDA’s civil claims against his client.

Defense counsel also cited an established three-year statute of limitation standard he said the plaintiff had not met in charging his client for liability for funds she received in March 2016. The case of Belcher vs. Kirkwood was cited by Shmidheiser in support of the three-year statute of limitations having expired by the time his client was charged civilly. To not apply the three-year Statute of Limitations precedent would be tantamount to the court altering existing state legal precedent, which the defense attorney theorized would lead to a higher court reversal of denial of his motion for dismissal on the Unjust Enrichment aspect.


In countering Shmidheiser’s arguments, EDA attorney Cullen Seltzer disputed defense assertions surrounding the applicability of the Belcher vs. Kirkwood case in an alleged financial fraud not discovered at the time it was occurring in 2016 when Ms. Petty is believed by the plaintiff to have been involved. He also argued that the defense points being made in support of a motion for dismissal were more appropriate for a jury to hear for a finding of guilt or innocence.

For dismissal to be granted the defense must show that “no facts are in dispute” Seltzer told the court. And from the plaintiff’s perspective that is not the case. Seltzer noted that Petty admits the $125,000 check went to pay on her mortgage loan during her sale process.

“She was very anxious to sell,” Seltzer told the court of Petty’s motivation to accept money he said she had expressed “suspicion” about when offered. Of his client’s initial “suspicions” about the money offered from an EDA account referenced by the EDA attorney during arguments, Shmidheiser noted that Petty had been assured by, not only McDonald, but others that it was “business as usual” on the economic development/real estate transaction front.

Of Petty’s close friend Robin Richardson, who was said to have brought McDonald to Petty during her attempt to sell her house, plaintiff counsel told the court of a second transfer of funds. Seltzer asserted that when Petty put “almost $42,000 in her pocket from her home sale, she had given Ms. Richardson $10,000. Is there evidence that was money previously owed by Petty to Richardson or was it comparable to a “finder’s fee” for bringing McDonald into the picture to help facilitate the home sale with the $125,000 loan payment on Petty’s behalf, Seltzer asked the court.

And now both plaintiff and defendant are awaiting the court’s ruling on all aspects of the defense motion for summary judgment on dismissal of the case against April Petty.

The EDA office on Kendrick Lane was ground zero as the alleged financial scandal unfolded between 2014 and 2018.

Share the News:

Continue Reading


Thank You to our Local Business Participants:


Aders Insurance Agency, Inc (State Farm)

Aire Serv Heating and Air Conditioning

Apple Dumpling Learning Center

Apple House

Auto Care Clinic

Beaver Tree Services

Blake and Co. Hair Spa

Blue Ridge Arts Council

Blue Ridge Education

BNI Shenandoah Valley

C&C's Ice Cream Shop

Christine Binnix - McEnearney Associates

Code Ninjas Front Royal

Cool Techs Heating and Air

Down Home Comfort Bakery

Downtown Market

Dusty's Country Store

Edward Jones-Bret Hrbek

Explore Art & Clay

Family Preservation Services

First Baptist Church

Front Royal Women's Resource Center

Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce

G&M Auto Sales Inc

Garcia & Gavino Family Bakery

Gourmet Delights Gifts & Framing

Green to Ground Electrical

Groups Recover Together

House of Hope

I Want Candy

I'm Just Me Movement

Jen Avery, REALTOR & Jenspiration, LLC

Key Move Properties, LLC

KW Solutions

Legal Services Plans of Northern Shenendoah

Main Street Travel

Makeover Marketing Systems

Marlow Automotive Group

Mary Carnahan Graphic Design

Merchants on Main Street

Mountain Trails

National Media Services

No Doubt Accounting

Northwestern Community Services Board

Ole Timers Antiques

Penny Lane Hair Co.

Philip Vaught Real Estate Management

Phoenix Project

Reaching Out Now

Rotary Club of Warren County

Royal Blends Nutrition

Royal Cinemas

Royal Examiner

Royal Family Bowling Center

Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Oak Computers

Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Spice

Ruby Yoga

Salvation Army

Samuels Public Library

SaVida Health

Skyline Insurance

St. Luke Community Clinic

Studio Verde

The Institute for Association & Nonprofit Research

The Studio-A Place for Learning

The Valley Today - The River 95.3

The Vine and Leaf

Valley Chorale

Warren Charge (Bennett's Chapel, Limeton, Asbury)

Warren Coalition

Warren County Democratic Committee

Warren County Department of Social Services

Warrior Psychotherapy Services, PLLC

WCPS Work-Based Learning

What Matters & Beth Medved Waller, Inc Real Estate

White Picket Fence

Woodward House on Manor Grade

King Cartoons

Front Royal
5:50am8:30pm EDT
Feels like: 54°F
Wind: 0mph N
Humidity: 97%
Pressure: 30.06"Hg
UV index: 0

Upcoming Events

7:00 pm 2022 Memorial Day Community Band... @ Gazebo
2022 Memorial Day Community Band... @ Gazebo
May 30 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm
2022 Memorial Day Community Band Concert @ Gazebo
2022 Memorial Day Concert by Front Royal Community Band Monday, May 30, 2022, 7pm, at the Gazebo on Main St. (sponsored by American Legion Post #53)
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Jun 1 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
10:00 am Backcountry Crash Course: Earth ... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Backcountry Crash Course: Earth ... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Jun 4 @ 10:00 am – Jun 5 @ 11:00 am
Backcountry Crash Course: Earth Connection Series @ Sky Meadows State Park
Meet at the Overnight Parking Lot. Ready to try backcountry camping? Spend 24 hours in nature learning backcountry skills and survival techniques with professional outdoor instructor Tim MacWelch. With Sky Meadows’ Backcountry Campground as the[...]
10:00 am Clean the Bay Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Clean the Bay Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Jun 4 @ 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
Clean the Bay Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Boston Mill Road Trail near the Park Office. Learn how fences and tree plantings improve water quality at Sky Meadows State Park. Stop by our Explorer Outpost table along the Boston Mill Road Trail where[...]
10:00 am National Trails Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
National Trails Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Jun 4 @ 10:00 am – Jun 5 @ 12:00 pm
National Trails Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Meet at the intersection of Boston Mill Road Trail and Hadow Trail. Get your hands dirty as we work to improve the hiking experience on Hadow Trail. Join park trailblazers as they work to enhance[...]
11:00 am Gospel Music Festival @ Gazebo
Gospel Music Festival @ Gazebo
Jun 4 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Gospel Music Festival @ Gazebo
12:00 pm Settle’s Kettle @ Sky Meadows State Park
Settle’s Kettle @ Sky Meadows State Park
Jun 4 @ 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Settle's Kettle @ Sky Meadows State Park
Log Cabin in the Historic Area. Follow your nose to the Log Cabin to see what tasty treats are cooking on the hearth. Watch as a Sky Meadows volunteer dons historic clothing and cooks delicious[...]
12:00 pm The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Jun 4 @ 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work in the Historic Area. Members of the Blacksmith Guild of the Potomac have set up shop and are ready to show[...]
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Jun 8 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
8:30 am Crooked Run Valley 5/10k @ Sky Meadows State Park
Crooked Run Valley 5/10k @ Sky Meadows State Park
Jun 11 @ 8:30 am – 10:30 am
Crooked Run Valley 5/10k @ Sky Meadows State Park
Explore the Crooked Run Valley and Sky Meadows State Park with Bishop’s Events 5k and 10k races. Get rejuvenated as you traverse through the meadows, pastures and woodlands of Sky Meadows and into the back[...]