My family moved to Chesterfield County in 1980 — a time when two-lane Courthouse Road and four-lane Hull Street looked downright rural, and my mother deemed Brandermill "the wilderness."
We settled in the neighborhood of Stonehenge, and our nearest park was Rockwood, the county's oldest. There I took tennis lessons, finally finding a sport at which I was marginally competent, after less-than-stellar attempts at softball, volleyball and basketball. (Notice the trend?)
But just as Brandermill has morphed into a bustling exurb, Rockwood has grown up, too, offering a nature center, garden plots, an arboretum, and two archery ranges, as our team reports. Anne Dreyfuss, Harry Kollatz Jr., and Marissa Hermanson covered plenty of ground and water, suggesting 42 parks to visit around the region. As Harry was doing his fieldwork, he would email the office cryptic iPhone videos — of a dead deer, of getting lost and of his red face. I think it was his way of making sure we knew where he was in case he succumbed in "the wild."
The wild days of Doug Wilder's mayoral term were brought to mind when reading Garry Kranz's story about Richmond CenterStage. As its leaders renovate the Landmark, we thought it was time to take a look at CenterStage's health.
In September 2007, when Harry Black was the city's acting CAO and Wilder's administration was physically throwing the school system out of City Hall, City Council passed an ordinance that formed a limited-liability partnership called RPAC. The ordinance allows Council to approve its members and exempts RPAC from the Freedom of Information Act.
Shame on all of us in the press for not questioning this more thoroughly prior to its adoption. Basically, the city has appointed RPAC to oversee the city-owned Carpenter Theatre complex and the Landmark, but only authorized "agents" of the city and the CenterStage Foundation can look at its books.
As someone who has covered city and county governments for more than 20 years, I do understand the need for closed sessions on contract and personnel discussions, but I don't understand the lack of transparency with the bookkeeping on these theaters. Neither did an expert who has worked more than
40 years in the performing-arts management world. See our story on Page 76.
Beyond the Page
Nancy Wright Beasley shares the behind-the-scenes details about her extended personal column on Neil November that starts on Page 80. — SJW
About 15 years ago, when I told my mother that I was interviewing Neil November for an article, she placed her hand over her heart and said, "My Neil November?"
Much to my surprise, I learned that Neil was her floor supervisor when she worked as a seamstress for Friedman-Marks clothing factory, co-owned by Israel November, Neil's father. In a quiet voice, Mama said, "I'll tell you one thing. You won't find anybody to say anything bad about him." My mother didn't have a high regard for many males, so to hold Neil in such esteem for some 30 years was a surprise.
Neil reminds me of my mother. Like she, Neil always has encouraged me to keep going, exemplifying my mother's motto for life: "Nothing beats a failure but a try." He introduced me to Carole Weinstein, who helped me publish Izzy's Fire, my first book, and he helped to send me on trips to Lithuania and Israel after I received author invitations in both countries as well as to Hollins University for more study.
For years, I asked Neil to allow me to write about him and his wife, Sara Belle. He always respectfully declined but, following my mother's advice, I just kept trying. He recently acquiesced.
I've spent months on this piece and wish I could include all the funny stories I've uncovered. Alas, space constraints allow me to only highlight the lives of two very remarkable people.
And, as always, my mother was right.