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Family and friends honor a local hero – ‘Able Forces’ Skip Rogers

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‘The Spirit of Hope’ recipient Skip Rogers, holding the medal, is joined by reception organizers Lisa  Salomon(daughter), Steve Carter, Joe Cunningham, and wife Kathy Rogers. Courtesy Photos/Shawna Ryan

Front Royal’s Skip Rogers, who last month received “The Spirit of Hope” award for his work and contributions to U.S. armed forces members and veterans at the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes, was saluted by friends and family at a reception in Delaplane, Virginia, October 7.

Rogers operates a unique non-profit called “Able Forces” on Chester Street. “Able Forces” has assisted more than 3,000 wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans into stable employment; as well as financially supported military families in need. Among its programs is one that has enabled more than 250 military families to enjoy gift-filled Christmases for the past several years.

The Spirit of Hope medal – Courtesy Photos/Shawna Ryan

The “Spirit of Hope” award is named for famed comedian Bob Hope. It is given each year to one person or organization nominated by each of the armed services, plus the Secretary of Defense and the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The U.S. Marine Corps chose Rogers this year as was first reported in the Royal Examiner September 11. Rogers has accepted an invitation to give the keynote address at next May’s Memorial Day ceremony at the Front Royal Town Gazebo.

Rogers’ partner, Joe Cunningham, and wife Mary Ann, along with Rogers’ wife, Kathy, their daughters, Shawna and Lisa, hosted the reception at the Cunningham’s Miracle Valley Vineyard. His brothers-in-law, Michael Hasty of Luray and Kenny Hasty of Culpeper – known musically as The Hasty Brothers – provided the entertainment. About 70 attended to pay tribute to Rogers who turned 69 just two days later.

According to its citation, the Hope Award reflects the patriotism and service of Bob Hope, who for 50 years from World War II through Vietnam and to the Gulf War, visited remote outposts and isolated battleships to stage USO shows in war zones to entertain troops with song, dance, and comedy. Hope believed he gained more from the experience than he gave. “I hate war with all my guts,” the comedian told a crowd in 1971, “but I admire the guys with guts enough to fight them when they have to be fought.”

Hope was designated as the first honorary veteran by the U.S. Armed Forces. The honor was acknowledged by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

Our own Skip Rogers, in business in Front Royal for the past 10 years, is now among those citizens who have received one of the military’s highest honors awarded civilians who have dedicated their lives to the lives of active military, veterans, and their families.

A fine and well-deserved award on display. Courtesy Photos/Shawna Ryan

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Petco donates $25K to Humane Society of Warren County: New shelter director explains where most of the money is spent

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These two Julia Wagner shelter dogs, the miniature pug Ophelia (Barr) and Max (Coolidge), the boxer, in a post-adoption meeting at Ophelia’s (Rockland) home – Photo/Malcolm Barr

Following a year of missteps and tragedy, bravely fought through by the Board of Directors of the Humane Society of Warren County (HSWC), 2019 launched in a new and encouraging direction – highlighted last week by a $25,000 Petco donation – under revived humane society and animal shelter management.

HSWC Board President Ellen Aders announced what she called “the most generous donation by Petco” on Saturday, February 16, the day after Executive Director Meghan Bowers delivered an upbeat, maiden speech to the Rotary Club of Front Royal just two months after her appointment. Bowers came to the Warren County Humane Society from an animal rescue operation in Aldie, Virginia.

Early last year, when members were called in to receive assurances that the HSWC was not being allowed, as some had complained, to “go to the dogs,” Aders and her board stepped up to the plate and pulled the society from its downward spiral, culminating in the appointment of Bowers as HSWC executive director. Bowers and new Julia Wagner Animal Shelter Manager Kayla Wines tenures included a four-month saga involving the rescue of 30 dogs and cats from an embattled former breeding kennel operation. The animals were recently released for adoption.

“Hard work and dedication has paid off,” said Aders. “Our board has worked tirelessly doing things that most boards never have to do. For example, I’d never written a grant before but ‘somebody had to do it’ and that’s how we functioned before Meghan joined us (in December) … like, somebody has to do it … and everyone stepped up!”

Bowers, who includes successful community outreach as one of her goals, gave her first speech locally to Front Royal Rotarians last Friday (February 15), recounting her initial few weeks on the job and providing her priorities in the work before her.

She emphasized the importance of “our TNR program” which is shorthand for the “Trap, Spay and Neuter” of stray or feral cats. “It is the only proven effective and humane method of dealing with feral cat populations, of which there are many in this area,” she said.

Cats need love too – as this dog seems to understand. Public Domain Photo/Pixabay

TNR involves trapping feral cats, vaccinating, spaying or neutering them, and returning them to their colony. The program fast reduces feral cat populations.

She admitted TNR has “always been a little bit controversial, with opinions ranging from “kill all feral cats” to “bring them to the shelter and adopt them out (TNA).” She chose TNR over TNA as the doable middle ground and called on the service club and the general public to help support the program to bring the burgeoning problem of feral cats under control. The cost is high – $80 to catch, fix, and release each cat.

Even in a down year, HSWC did many things right – reunited 270 lost animals with their owners; adopted out 900 animals over the previous 12 months; spayed or neutered 6,000 animals through a low-cost partnership with the Ancira Veterinary Clinic; and according to Bowers’ statistical report also maintained the Wagner Shelter’s “no kill” status.

To better meet the already high overhead of operating the72-year-old shelter, Bowers described a new way of donating. It is through the “HSWC Legacy Giving Program.” This involves including the animal shelter in a will.

“Lasting gifts such as this help us better plan for the future and give us peace of mind and stability,” she said.

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New beginnings for Rita Rutledge as an active agent with Century 21 Campbell Realty

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Local real estate expert, Rita Rutledge, is once again available to serve you directly after 20+ years in real estate management! As a managing broker, Rita helped many new agents launch successful careers at Weichert Realtors. Now it’s her turn for a new beginning by aligning with Century 21 Campbell Realty. This strategic alignment has created a unique (powerhouse) brokerage with over 80 years of experience just between Broker Jeannette Campbell (1978) and agent Rita Rutledge (1979)!

Born a coal miner’s daughter in McDowell, WV, Rita learned about hard work and dedication to family. It is at this time she also developed her special sparkle and infectious positive attitude that has proven to be a true Rita quality for those who know her. At age 11, the family moved to Abingdon, VA where she remembers attending a modest 2 room elementary school with no indoor plumbing! After graduating John Battle High School, Rita married her childhood sweetheart in 1963 and started a family.

In 1979, Rita decided to pursue a career in real estate which would give her the flexibility needed as she continued to raise her family.  Keeping true to her life motto, “Education is everything,” Rita achieved a great education from Lord Fairfax Community College in Real Estate Brokerage and all associated business branches. In 1984, she completed her Broker’s license. At this point, the industry did not have many female agents in the Shenandoah Valley. Rita explains, “It was a battle at times to break into the man’s world of real estate.” With a lot of perseverance and that positive attitude, Rita not only achieved her goal to become a real estate professional, she was one of the top listing agents of the area supporting 20+ listings at one time.

When looking to the future, Rita expresses excitement at the thought of reconnecting with old friends from the industry. She has enjoyed getting back out on the road and discovering new places with buyers. If you are looking for a unique opportunity to work directly with one of the most experienced agents in our local real estate industry, you just might want to turn to Rita.

 

Rita Rutledge, Associate Broker
Licensed in real estate from 1979 – Present

  • Mt Vernon/Weichert Realtors from 1985 – 2019
  • Weichert Realtors Managing Broker 1996 – 2017
  • Century 21 Campbell Realty 2019 – Present

Century 21 Campbell Realty
408 South Royal Ave | Front Royal, VA 22630
Cell: (540) 671-0016 | Office: (540) 636-2971
ritarutledgebroker@gmail.com

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Warren County School Board calls special meeting

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The Warren County School Board called a special meeting on February 13th to hear Superintendent Greg Drescher overview of PayPoint Compensation Study and the report on the Compensation and Benefits Study.

Drescher indicated that all of the work on these studies is about being competitive in the local market and not being done to just pay people more money. The local market includes all of the school divisions that touch Warren County and the City of Winchester. He also said that in order for WCPS to attract and retain a quality workforce, WCPS needs to offer competitive pay and benefits.

Download the Studies:

Royal Examiner’s camera was there:

 

Related story: Warren County School Board Public Hearing on FY 2020 Budget 

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Local News

I-66 Outside the Beltway Project: Lane closures and traffic changes week of February 17, 2019

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What’s Happening

As weather conditions allow, crews will continue corridor wide roadway maintenance and address issues as needed, with daily multi-lane closures during daytime and overnight hours on eastbound and westbound I-66. Additional construction activities include:

  • Constructing bridge abutments at Route 28 and I-495 interchanges
  • Constructing box culverts inside the Route 123 Interchange for shared-use path
  • Constructing retaining walls near Jermantown Road and Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road)
  • Grading, excavating, clearing trees and brush, and drainage installation at the Route 28, Route 123, Route 50 and I-495 interchanges, and other work zone location along the corridor
  • Clearing trees and brush at the future Balls Ford Park and Ride Lot near Manassas
  • Grading, excavating, and small charge blasting for storm drain trenches at the future University Boulevard Park and Ride Lot
  • Grading and excavating for the new E.C. Lawrence Park Access Road
  • Relocating underground and overhead utilities along I-66 and Route 28

The Transform 66 Outside the Beltway project will add express lanes stretching 22.5 miles from the Capital Beltway to Route 29 in Gainesville, rebuild major interchanges along the I-66 corridor, create thousands of new park and ride spaces, and expand trail options for cyclists and pedestrians. Learn more at Transform66.org.

Upcoming Lane Closures and Traffic Changes

The following planned lane closures are expected to have significant traffic impacts. All work is subject to change based on weather and schedule. Find the latest information on travel conditions and work zones by visiting 511virginia.org or downloading the Virginia511 app.


ROUTE 29 (LEE HIGHWAY) / GAINESVILLE

Route 29 North and South between Heathcote Boulevard and University Boulevard

  • Thursday, February 21, and Friday, February 22: 11 a.m. to Noon
  • Traffic will be temporarily stopped for up to 15 minutes for small charge blasting operations at the future Park and Ride Lot. Additionally, the ramp from I-66 West to Route 29 North (Exit 43B) will be temporarily closed for 15 minutes beginning at 11 a.m.

ROUTE 234 BUSINESS (SUDLEY ROAD) / MANASSAS

  • No significant traffic impacts are scheduled.

ROUTE 28 (SULLY ROAD) / CENTREVILLE

  • No significant traffic impacts are scheduled.

ROUTE 286 (FAIRFAX COUNTY PARKWAY)

  • No significant traffic impacts are scheduled.

ROUTE 50 / FAIRFAX

  • No significant traffic impacts are scheduled.

ROUTE 123 (CHAIN BRIDGE ROAD) / OAKTON – CITY OF FAIRFAX

  • No significant traffic impacts are scheduled.

ROUTE 243 (NUTLEY STREET) / VIENNA

I-66 East and West from I-459 to Route 243 (Nutley Street)

  • Friday, February 22, and Saturday, February 23: 9 p.m. to 9 a.m.
  • Three lanes will be closed with periodic 20-minute stoppages between midnight and 5 a.m. to remove an overhead sign gantry.

I-495 (CAPITAL BELTWAY)

I-66 East and West from I-459 to Route 243 (Nutley Street)

  • Friday, February 22, and Saturday, February 23: 9 p.m. to 9 a.m.
  • Three lanes will be closed with periodic 20-minute stoppages between midnight and 5 a.m. to remove an overhead sign gantry.

Commuter Alternatives

VDOT and the project team have invested in a broad range of programs to help commuters and others stay mobile and safe during construction. Learn more about carpool, vanpool, telework, and commuter bus alternatives.

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Tim Ratigan announces to run for South River Supervisor

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Mike McCool, Royal Examiner Publisher speaks with South River resident Tim Ratigan and his plans to run for the Board of Supervisors. Photo and video by Mark Williams.

Tim Ratigan announces his run to fill the South River spot on the Board of Supervisors. Tim stopped by our studios to speak with Royal Examiner publisher Mike McCool:

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Front Royal-Warren County: The canoe AND viewpoint ‘Capital of Virginia’

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Cullers Overlook, (Andy Guest) Shenandoah River State Park; from the Matador story – ‘Take a drive to Shenandoah River State Park and make a quick left onto Overnight Road, where a small parking lot sits next to the best lookout in the state.’ Photos from Matador article as attributed/Shenandoah River State Park/Facebook

Well, a sitting vice president once christened Front Royal/Warren County “the Canoe Capital of Virginia” – thanks, Al. But now – during a tourism report to the Warren County Board of Supervisors on February 5, Front Royal Community Development and Tourism Director Felicia Hart noted that Culler’s Overlook at Andy Guest-Shenandoah River State Park had been cited as the number one view point in Virginia accessible without necessity of a long or grueling hike. This reporter had previously been made aware of the designation by a shared Facebook post of congratulations to the community by an old friend and fellow past travel explorer “Joe Ball” aka Bob Mason.

The designation came as part of the Matador Network’s survey of “The Best Scenic Viewpoints in The United States that you can drive to”. And the Cullers Overlook panorama selected by Matador Network as one of the 50 best drivable-to view-sheds – one in each state – is a magnificent representation of this community’s natural assets; and certainly one the Commonwealth of Virginia can be proud of.

The Matador Network website <matadornetwork.com> describes itself as “a tribe of millions of travelers across the globe with an unquenchable thirst for adventure and exploration” – not a bad viewing base for a little tourism promotion WORLDWIDE!!! (as of publication the referenced story could be reached at <matadornetwork.com/read/roadside-viewpoint-every-state> or simply by searching the web at “best scenic viewpoints” with “best scenic viewpoints in the United States you can drive to” being the first find we encountered).

Screenshot from the Matador Network website, matadornetwork.com.

“Having the added exposure by the Matador Network is a win/win for Front Royal/Warren County. We love being able to take advantage of stories such as this,” Hart told Royal Examiner in response to a question about the designation. “Thousands will see the image of Cullers Overlook and be made aware of all that we have to offer. To stop and realize that out of all the scenic overlooks in the State of Virginia, Matador choose us, makes us extremely proud – and as an added bonus, we didn’t even have to pay for this exposure.”

We asked Hart if there was any special effort that brought the community’s natural tourism assets to the Matador Network’s attention.

“We regularly participate in Help A Reporter Out (HARO) requests when they are looking for stories, ideas, and photography. We have a number of travel writers that will be coming through our community soon – as they always do – so we’ll make sure that they are able to see and learn about all that our community has to offer.”

Hart pointed to economic benefits to the community peripheral to an increase in tourism numbers, potentially from the world over.

“In addition, stories such as this help not only our tourism numbers – heads in beds lodging tax, meals tax, etcetera – it works to draw potential businesses to our community. Whether they are smaller Mom/Pop shops – outfitter or such – or bigger businesses that are looking for quality of life for themselves and their employees – they are made aware of Front Royal/Warren County.

“With regards to how we used the story – not only did we ‘push’ the story out via our social media, the State of Virginia tourism shared it. Several of the Virginia Welcome Centers also ‘pushed it’ out via their social media. A group that we are partners in, the Shenandoah Valley Tourism Partnership … shared the story too.

“We worked hard to maximize the exposure to this story. It’s one thing for us to brag about ourselves, but when we can get an “outsider” to say it, now it has real value to someone reading the story. And of course, local newspaper stories are always appreciated,” Hart said.

You’re welcome, Felicia.

As a teaser to visit the Matador site and story, here are a few other entries – trust us, there are some of astonishing, non-manmade natural beauty, both like and very different from our own entry:

Atigun Pass, Brooks Range Alaska: from Matador, ‘Dalton Highway is not so much an overlook as an immersive glacial mountain experience’ – I guess it’s good we hiked Alaska in the summer, JoeBall – or that we flew over the Brooks Range on way to Anaktuvuk Pass for slightly lower-elevated points north – Photo/Leonie Wharton

Then there are your more urban view-sheds, here Watson Island between Miami and Miami Beach, Florida – Photo/Chris LaBasco/Shuttercock

Or New Jersey’s pick, from Liberty State Park with a panoramic view of the New York City skyline – Photo/Dorbis/Shutterstock

Or Felicia, imagine you had ‘Carhenge’ to work with – Photo/Nebraska Tourism

And just in case you doubted us on the natural beauty teaser – above is Montana’s Heaven’s Peak Outlook; and below a little close to home for my mom, Looking Glass Rock, North Carolina near her hometown of Asheville. Photo/tusharkoley/Shutterstock & ExploreAsheville.com

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