CAPON BRIDGE — He called Bingo at the fire hall.
She made a legendary caramel cake and “her Texas Sheet Cake is a standard at every town event,” a neighbor’s daughter said.
He co-owned an excavating company.
She was a kindergarten aide for decades and a co-founder of the public library.
They sang in the Methodist church choir.
On Saturday, their voices were stilled and this community was thrown into a state of shock when Bob and Genny Lovett died in a fire that consumed their home on the Northwestern Pike.
He was 81 and she was 80.
“It sounds so ordinary when you say it like that,” church member Paul E. Davis posted on the Capon Bridge United Methodist Charge’s Facebook page. “But it is almost unbearable to think of.”
Mayor Laura Turner ordered the flag in front of Capon Bridge Town Hall be flown at half-staff.
Details of the fire are scant. Capon Bridge Fire Chief Robbie Roach deferred to the State Fire Marshal’s Office, which is investigating the blaze.
A 911 call came in between noon and 1. Fire crews from Capon Bridge, Capon Springs, Augusta, Gore and Gainesboro, Va., responded, as did the Romney Rescue Squad.
The medical examiner pronounced them dead at the scene and the bodies were sent to the state medical examiner’s office in Charleston for autopsy.
But, as Genny’s best friend, Barbara Sirbaugh says, “It doesn’t matter how it happened to me. It happened.”
One thing she and so many others are sure of:
“They went together,” Pastor Alanna McGuinn said, “and they were always inseparable.”
Inseparable and unstoppable.
Until the Covid-19 pandemic shut so many things down, funeral director Jerry Giffin said, Bob was at Greg’s Restaurant every Tuesday morning for breakfast with the Methodist Men’s group.
Steve Bailes told Pastor McGuinn the Lovetts were staples at every Rain Crow concert he and his friends played around the Capon Bridge area.
“He would look around the room and find her and Bob in his wheelchair in the back, out of everyone’s way,” McGuinn said Monday.
Bob was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease some years ago.
“It’s just recently, in the last 3 to 4 years, that the Parkinson’s had been most debilitating,” Sirbaugh said. “That’s not something they wanted to talk about.”
Instead, McGuinn said, Genny would focus on everyone else.
“Genny was the type of person she’d say, ‘I’m fine. Don’t worry about me,’” McGuinn said.
Instead, she would write little notes to folks and share some of her baking.
“She did that for so many different people,” McGuinn said.
“She was an excellent cook,” Sirbaugh said, and Sirbaugh’s daughter, Susan Jaeger, added to the acclaim.
“Her cheese ball makes my sons scramble to hide it from each other,” Jaeger said.
When Genny’s legendary caramel cake came up for bid at the annual food pantry auction one December, Giffin’s bid topped $250 to win it.
“It is a very good cake,” Jaeger understated.
While Bob first worked for his dad and then went into business with Ricky Davy before working for the state Department of Transportation, Genny helped in a kindergarten classroom in Capon Bridge for years.
And she, Sirbaugh and Ricky Davy’s wife, Shirley, put their heads — and hearts — together to create the Capon Bridge Public Library in 1969.
“It was started for the children,” Genny said in 2013 when the trio was given the county’s highest honor, Knights of Olde Hampshire.
In the beginning, it wasn’t even a library. Sirbaugh, who taught at the West Virginia School for the Deaf, would bring home books from the library in Romney and put them on a shelf of a store in Capon Bridge for children to check out.
Together, the 3 women led the community to develop what has become one of the pillars of Capon Bridge today.
On Friday, this community will gather to celebrate their lives at a 3 p.m. service being held at Capon Bridge Middle School — probably the only facility in town large enough to handle the turnout.
With a few logistical changes, exciting musical performances and an opportunity for families to break out of their post-pandemic monotony, this year’s festival is shaping up to be an event to remember.
Festival planner Trina Cox explained that this year, there’s no parking fee: it’s going to be $5 per head at the gate (for folks aged 12 and older).
That’s $5 to enjoy food, fireworks, fun for kids and, of course, the bluegrass music that the festival’s name promises.
Among the musical groups performing at this year’s festival are the Deer Creek Boys and Lonesome River Band, 2 returners that have been a hit in years past, Cox said.
Junior Sisk and Rambler’s Choice will be making their 1st appearance, and Nothin’ Fancy, a group out of southern Virginia, will be performing with a totally new guitarist.
Hampshire native Ben Townsend is also making his debut at the festival, bringing traditional Appalachian sound to the Wapacomo stage.
Townsend grew up right across from Wapacomo, and this will be not only his 1st time playing music at the venue, but it’ll be his 1st time attending the festival altogether.
“I’m very excited, because this is the 1st time I’ve been invited to play,” he said. “I grew up right across the street. I’ve never actually been, but we watch the fireworks from (my) mom’s, sometimes.”
While pandemic restrictions have eased up, Cox said she’s still a little nervous about numbers.
“When we started planning this, we didn’t know where our state and nation would be with Covid: the masking, social distancing, all that,” Cox explained. “The paying per person might cut back on the crowd a little bit, but it’ll be OK. With Covid over us, maybe we do need less people this year to keep everyone confident, comfortable and safe.”
In the past, the festival has drawn nearly 2,000 people into the valley for the day of music and fun, but this year, Cox said it may be lower.
Cox is one of a handful of folks who plan the festival every year, and by the festival’s 12th go-round, she says they’re like a well-oiled machine.
“Everyone knows what they’re supposed to be doing,” she said. “Everyone has their role, and everyone does it.”
Cox also expressed gratitude to the volunteers and the community, who rallies to support the event every year.
Along with the attendance fee change, Cox revealed another small difference between this year: there won’t be a kids’ corner, but there will be what Cox called a “Raffle Row,” where organizations are setting up raffles to raise money for a cause.
And, as always, there are concerns about the weather.
“You don’t want it too hot, and I don’t want it to rain,” Cox said with a laugh. “Hot is better than a torrential downpour all day like in 2015.”
Rain or no rain, it’s shaping up to be a memorable return to Wapacomo.
“It’s something our community can get out and go to that’s cheap and family friendly, and it’s a night out,” Cox added. “The bands are excited and I’m sure bluegrass fans are really excited. It’s about being around friends and family, and, if nothing else, the fireworks.”
“I know it felt like eternity, but in the grand scheme of things what our community was able to accomplish in such a short period of time has been remarkable,” said Hampshire Athletic Director Trey Stewart.
The cost hovered around $1.3 million when the plan was officially presented to the school board on June 24, 2019. After the board approved of fundraising activities, the community raised 1,000 units, or $900,000 worth of pledges, during the next 8 months.
On March 30, 2020, construction was given the go-ahead with a 3-2 vote by the board. The turf portion of the project was completed prior to the start of fall sports, while the track portion was overhauled this spring.
“We are extremely proud of the product we have,” said Stewart.
“It is going to be one of the best venues in the state.”
A plethora of obstacles stemming from Covid were hurdled throughout the construction process with out-of-state travel restrictions and material shortages becoming the norm.
Although the initial goal was to host a track meet in the spring of 2021, Stewart was pleased with the entirety of the project considering the circumstances out of his control.
“We had every intention and hopes to have it 100% completed before the conclusion of the season,” said Stewart. “However due to things beyond our control, unfortunately it didn’t work out.”
As of now, a plan is in the works to do a ribbon cutting ceremony sometime this summer.
“We want to thank all the people who supported the project and continue to make it happen,” said Stewart.
“The stadium planning committee would like to invite the community to come out and celebrate the great success that is this project.”
And now, after children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Orval and Juanita Riggleman of Slanesville are celebrating 75 years of marriage.
Orval is a World War II veteran, who was wounded 3 times and received the Purple Heart.
“We knew each other in high school, and when he went into the service, we were pen pals,” Juanita explained about her 75-year relationship. “When he came home, we started to date.”
Orval and Juanita were both born and raised in Moorefield, and they lived there in the same house for 57 years after their marriage. They moved to Hampshire County in 2003, and they’ve been here ever since.
The couple are laden with history: Juanita used to open their old house in Hardy County for tours with their antique collection, and Orval is chock full of tales from the war.
From under the end table in his living room, Orval pulled an old book with yellowing pages, and with practiced, aged fingers, he flipped to a page marked with blue pen.
It’s a black-and-white photo of American troops in Germany, in a town not too far from Berlin, and scrawled above the photo is “Orval,” with an arrow pointing to a tall man on the left side of the faded picture.
“See? That’s me there,” he said.
When Orval came back from his time in the service, he and Juanita began their relationship after communicating during his time away.
“He’s spoiled me over the years,” Juanita said. “Usually, he lets me get what I want.”
After a notice about their upcoming anniversary in the Moorefield Examiner, the couple has begun to receive cards congratulating them on their impressive milestone.
In fact, they’ve already received around 30 cards or so, with more likely on the way.
It seems like folks are eager to voice their congratulations to the couple, and some might even be a little curious about Orval and Juanita’s secret to a long-lasting marriage.
There isn’t one.
“Everybody always asks us that,” Juanita said. “There’s no secret. Each couple has to deal with things their own way.”
And so that’s what the Moorefield-native couple has done: dealt with things in their own way, and after doing it for as long as they have, they’ve had a lot of practice.
“It’s been a good 75 years,” Juanita added. “I was lucky I picked a good one.”
“(The Act) puts an end to the power grab in Washington and gives the power back to regular voters,” explained Champ. “In Washington, sometimes I wonder if they’re working for us or working for themselves.”
The For the People Act aims to expand voting access for Americans, reduce the influence of big money in politics, strengthen ethics rules for public servants, with additional corruption measures for “the purpose of fortifying our democracy,” the official bill states.
The Act was received in the Senate in early March, and Sen. Manchin voted “no” initially to the Democratic-backed bill, adding that he could change his tune if certain major changes were adopted. Among these changes are the movement to make Election Day a national holiday (to allow for high levels of voter turnout), giving every state 15 days of early voting and allowing utility bills to be used as ID’s for voting access.
In the ad paid for by End Citizens United/Let America Vote, Champ, a 75-year-old disabled veteran, highlights the need for ethics rules and transparency when it comes to American politics.
“In layman’s terms, it limits the power of big money and cracks down on corruption and secret spending,” he added. “I mean, am I voting for a corporation or for a man to represent me?”
He added that “holding people accountable” will be an important way to heal some of the issues with voting and corruption in American politics.
Champ himself was presented the Purple Heart by Sen. Manchin in 2017. He’s a 2-time Vietnam veteran, as well as a Silver Star recipient.
In 2017, he was also awarded with the Good Conduct Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal with a Silver Service Star, the Marksman Badge with Rifle Bar and the Korea Defense Service Medal.
He was also a county commissioner in Hardy County for 18 years and still has family ties in Hampshire County. He currently lives in Moorefield with his wife, Sheila.
“I feel good about this, and I feel like I’m doing the right thing,” Champ remarked. “I’m a doer. I believe in what we’re trying to do; it’s a no-brainer.”