Our 2013 Citizens of the Year

Douglas K. Baumgardner
WASHINGTON

Lillian Freeman Aylor
SPERRYVILLE

The Rappahannock News’ Citizen of the Year is an annual award, as this newspaper first said in 1978, made “in recognition of the men and women whose outstanding leadership and accomplishments in the public interest have left an indelible mark upon the history of Rappahannock County.”

Lillian Aylor posed for this portrait on banks of the Thornton River in 2008.Raymond Boc | Rappahannock News
Lillian Aylor posed for this portrait on banks of the Thornton River in 2008.

Since last year, that award is given to both a man and a woman. And this year, we are happy to announce that the 2013 Citizens of the Year are: Douglas K. Baumgardner of Washington and Lillian Freeman Aylor of Sperryville.

Though normally announced at the very end of the year, this year we’ve moved the award up a month. We did that, first, so that the organizers of the annual Christmas in Little Washington parade would have time to invite the winners to be the grand marshals of the Dec. 8 parade. But a second reason soon revealed itself: It would also bring the announcement closer to the holiday with which the Citizen of the Year award is most compatible.

In other words, Thanksgiving.

Doug Baumgardner in his office in 2010.
Doug Baumgardner in his office in 2010.

This award is made — always was — to express gratitude. It is made to thank our winners, on behalf of this small and special community, for the examples that they have set. It is particularly true of this year’s Citizens of the Year, who have led two very different lives among the hills and hollows of Rappahannock County, but with a singular common guiding principle:

Be of service.

Profiles of Citizen Aylor and Citizen Baumgardner, in which we try to keep up with the many ways each of them has served the community over the years, are in the Nov. 28 print edition (on newsstands now) and our digital paper, the eEdition.

So have a Happy Thanksgiving — and pass on some of that gratitude, as the opportunity allows, to the 2013 Citizens of the Year. We’re pretty sure you can do that yourself, firsthand, if you come to the Christmas parade in Washington Dec. 8.

Doug Baumgardner: Head up, heart in it

Let’s face it: In the larger world, lawyers — like journalists — are not totally at the top of the public opinion polls. And let’s face it: Doug Baumgardner is.

We should further note that Rappahannock County is not exactly the larger world, either, and that among its 7,000-something farmers, sole proprietors and retirees are but a handful of practicing lawyers. But among those, the 63-year-old Baumgardner, while not the most senior (Sharon Luke admits to having opened her law office in the county seat a few months before he did in 1976), he is universally well-regarded, both personally and professionally.

And that is so even among former roommates at his beloved alma mater, Virginia Military Institute (Class of ’73, in case you’ve never noticed Baumgardner’s license plates).

“Doug is, to every inch of his being, a gentleman,” says Tom Moncure, George Mason University’s university counsel — and, 40 years ago, a fellow cadet of Baumgardner’s at VMI, an experience Moncure sums up as, simply, “shared misery.”

“My background is such that I can pretend to be a gentleman, it’s never natural,” says Moncure, referring to the fact that his background — his father was from the Valley, his mother from the Northern Neck — is what passes as “Virginia multiethnicity.”

“But the genuine gentility that you find in Doug — and I mean genuine gentility, not anything foppish — is manifest in his concern for people and their welfare. It’s manifest in his concern for his family, his community, in his activities over a long period of time.

“And it was immediately identifiable when we met,” Moncure says.

“I couldn’t give him any higher marks,” says fellow Rappahannock lawyer Franklin Reynolds. “He’s a gentleman, a scholar of the law . . . and a great baseball fan.”

If Doug Baumgardner tells you something, Reynolds says, “you can take it to the bank. Even when he’s on the opposing side, if he tells you, ‘This is what we have’ — then it’s true. It’s the highest compliment you can pay to a lawyer.”

“I came to the county in 1985, and wherever I went, Doug had been there before me,” says Helen Williams, the Amissville resident who shares (and acts on) the same interests Baumgardner has demonstrated over the years in both community service and history. “No volunteer association in the county, such as the school board, or Headwaters, was without Doug’s wise input and advice.

“If he was not leading such organizations,” she adds, “he was working hard for it. Situations were calmer with Doug’s knowledge and wisdom, and his serious and thoughtful demeanor brought out the intelligent best in all of us. His continuing interest in the history of the county, and not just law and lawyers and crime and trials, gives him the long view on many of the problems we face today.”

“All of the above,” says Commonwealth’s Attorney Art Goff, speaking of the qualities that he’s come to appreciate in Baumgardner over the years, both in an out of court. “He has great legal scholarship, he has a lot of trial experience, he has common sense . . . and he’s a kind person. Those are traits you need to be a good lawyer, or a good judge.”

After a recent presentation on the history of lawyers and legal matters in Washington, Doug Baumgardner (right) tells a few more of his many stories to (from left) Mary Ann Kuhn, John Fox Sullivan and Carolyn Thornton.Chris Green | Rappahannock News
After a recent presentation on the history of lawyers and legal matters in Washington, Doug Baumgardner (right) tells a few more of his many stories to (from left) Mary Ann Kuhn, John Fox Sullivan and Carolyn Thornton.

“Doug Baumgardner has been a good friend of mine for 50 years,” says longtime lawyer and lifetime Sperryville resident Bill Fletcher — whose father, Jim Bill Fletcher, in fact was one of Rappahannock’s grand total of two resident attorneys when Baumgardner arrived to practice in 1976 (the other being then-commonwealth’s attorney George Davis).

“The only thing lacking from his resume,” Fletcher adds, “is that he should have been a judge.”

Though he’s served as a substitute judge on and off since 1984, a district court judgeship did indeed narrowly escape Baumgardner’s grasp in 2009, the appointment falling victim to state austerity measures and the sort of behind-the-scenes political maneuvers that often have no relationship to either reality or doing the right thing.

But, of the right thing, let’s allow some of Baumgardner’s actual resume to speak for itself:

Commissioner of Accounts for Rappahannock County; substitute judge, 20th Judicial District (which includes Rappahannock, Fauquier and Loudoun counties); Commonwealth’s Attorney, 1980-1983; Town Attorney, Washington, 1979-1986; Counsel to VDOT for condemnation rights in Fauquier, Culpeper, Madison and Rappahannock counties, 1982-present; Captain, USAR and first lieutenant, Virginia National Guard.

A two-time member of VMI’s Board of Visitors (appointments made by the Virginia governor), Baumgardner has also been member, and served in various official capacities, of Trinity Episcopal Church, the Rappahannock County Lions Club, the Headwaters Foundation, the regional Planning District Nine Commission, the Rappahannock Historical Society, the Rappahannock County School Board, the county and state Bar Associations and the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association.

From the time his then-Alexandria-based family bought a summer place in Rappahannock in 1959, until they moved here permanently in 1972, says Baumgardner’s mother, Ruth Baumgardner, her son Doug loved being in Rappahannock. An avid hiker, runner and (still) walker over the years, Ruth says, her son was also always a studious child.

“From the time he was 12, I think, he knew he wanted to be a lawyer,” she says. “And anytime the family was together, you know, we’d play games and such . . . and Doug would be sitting on the sofa reading.”

“And he reads those historical books, he doesn’t read the novels I like to read.”

Doug and Margaret Baumgardner met in Madison the year he started practicing law in Rappahannock. They married and raised four kids, all of whom are now grown: Caroline Baumgardner Walker, who lives closest (in Woodville) calls her father “a wonderfully caring and thoughtful man.” Son Spencer attended U.Va. law school, like his father, and now practices in Prince William County. Son Alex, who just finished a through-hike of the Appalachian Trail, has taken a new job in Colorado.

Daughter Julia, 27, is a clinical social worker at Georgetown University Hospital in D.C. In her work, which involves working with neurosurgery patients, counseling and end-of-life care, Julia says, “I think I learned a lot about how to treat people, and interact with people, based on my dad. He has a really good head on his shoulders.”

She recalls something that makes her laugh. “When I was growing up, I used to call my dad Atticus Finch — from ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ ” she says. “He was the good-hearted country attorney who had that diplomatic, genteel personality — but also that good heart that helps people who might need it. That was, that is, my dad. He has a really good heart, and I’m very lucky to have him as a father.”

Lillian Aylor: ‘I’ll get it done’

Lillian Freeman Aylor is 75, and not terribly tall, and is quiet and unassuming enough that you could start thinking she’s a bit of a wallflower.

That would be a mistake.

You should have noticed that the reason she isn’t doing a lot of talking has to do with the fact that she is doing a lot of doing. And if you’re not going to help, by the way, then you best move over closer to that wall yourself.

“She’s one of those people who . . . when she says she’s there, that she’s going to do something, you don’t have to second-guess,” says her daughter, Kimberly Beard, 49, a Baptist minister who lives in Winchester. “She always comes through. You never have to ask her twice — in fact, most of the time you don’t even have to ask her once. She just takes it as a need. And she’s that way with her church, her community, her family. She just takes on the role of, ‘I’ll get it done.’ ”

“She is a person whose faith in God gets expressed in a willingness to work, and be of service to people,” said Barbara Adolfi, a Sperryville therapist and writer. “At her 75th birthday party recently at the Sperryville fire hall, there were at least 100 people there, and so many of them stood up and talked about the many ways in which she cares for other people.

At a celebration of her 75th birthday at the Sperryville fire hall in October, Lillian Aylor (center right, in gray skirt) was surrounded by family for a portrait.Raymond Boc | Rappahannock News
At a celebration of her 75th birthday at the Sperryville fire hall in October, Lillian Aylor (center right, in gray skirt) was surrounded by family for a portrait.

“It is why she treats people the way she does,” says Kim Beard, asked about her mother’s belief — or her knowing, really — that there is more to life than what most of us see before us on an average day, and thus her strong connection to faith, God, and her church. “She understands that there is more to life.

“We endured a lot of hardships when we were younger, and I’m just going to leave it it at that — but her perseverance, her faith, during those struggles, have helped me in so many ways . . . When things don’t go the way I might like, I think of my mother. No matter what life throws at her, she kind of plows right through it, with unwavering faith and a positive attitude, that things will get better. And a smile on her face.”

The point at which many local folks realize there is more to Aylor than meets the eye is when it instead meets the ear — in other words, when she sings.

“It was at the memorial for Emily Hilscher,” says Ray Boc, a longtime Sperryville resident and photographer, speaking of the service held in Rappahannock for the Virginia Tech student who died in the tragic shooting there in 2007. “Lillian got up and sang. She stepped up there and . . . it blew me away, and everyone else. It’s a memory I have of her that’s really powerful, and it’s almost symbolic of what I have learned of Lillian over the years. She’s a quiet person; she often looks downward and speaks softly. But when she has something important to say, you listen.”

“If I should pre-decease Lillian,” says Cliff Miller, whose family has employed Aylor for more than 30 years, “I always say I hope she’ll sing at my funeral. It’s a special voice. It brings tears to my eyes every time I hear her sing.

“She is one of the most giving people I know,” says Miller. “She’s a tremendous asset to this community.”

Before she would rise to become among the most well-known of those in Rappahannock County’s comparatively tiny African-American population, Aylor grew up in Gid Brown Hollow; a studious young woman who became salutatorian of her seventh-grade class in 1952 at the Washington Graded School, the two-room school for black students that once stood on Piedmont Avenue.

Citizens of the Year, 1978-2012

Rappahannock News’ Citizen of the Year: “In recognition of those men and women whose outstanding leadership and accomplishments in the public interest have left an indelible mark upon the history of Rappahannock County.”

Below is the complete list of all past winners (no award was presented in 2011):

1978 — Eva Smith

1979 — Herbert Barksdale & Mary B. Quaintance

1980 — Rachel Aylor

1981 — Mr. & Mrs. William Carrigan

1982 — Howard & Helen Holschuh

1983 — Don & Judy Bomberger

1984 — Mr. & Mrs. James P. Jamieson

1985 — William A. Buntin

1986 — Rayner V. Snead

1987 — Roger Roach

1988 — Phil Irwin

1989 — James W. Fletcher

1990 — Frances Thornton

1991 — Maurice O’Bannon

1992 — Rev. Jennings W. Hobson III

1993 — Marie Davis

1994 — Barbara Gentry

1995 — Paul Nichols

1996 — Louise Van Dort

1997 — Col. J. Stewart Willis

1998 — John Hartline

1999 — The Fletcher Family

2000 — John W. McCarthy

2001 — Charles K. “Pete” Estes

2002 — Patrick O’Connell & Reinhardt Lynch

2003 — Dr. Werner Krebser

2004 — Ann Spieker

2005 — Wendy Weinberg

2006 — Bob Lander

2007 — Bill & Linda Dietel

2008 — Claudia Mitchell

2009 — Hal & Beverly Hunter

2010 — Richard Lykes (posthumous)

2012 — Noel Laing & Lilo Foster

Over the years, she taught herself what she needed to know, including cooking and bookkeeping — two skills that served her well when she first went to work for J. Clifford Miller II and his family at Mount Vernon Farm. She now works as co-innkeeper for Miller III, at what is now the Inn at Mount Vernon Farm.

“Yes, she is a person who makes connections, and makes friends,” says her daughter Kim in response to a question. “At the inn, I actually helped her out there over the last couple of months, and all of the comments I heard from guests that stayed there, especially ones that had returned, when they found out I was her daughter, they all said she is one of the reasons why they keep coming back. She is just genuinely warm and friendly, and open to anyone and everyone.”

Aylor is secretary of the Rappahannock Convalescent Loan Closet, and has been a Sperryville-Piedmont electoral official for more than 30 years. She’s captain of the “Spiritual Walkers” Relay for Life team, treasurer of the Rappahannock Historical Society and vice president of the Scrabble School Preservation Foundation.

She’s served on fundraising and steering committees and as a mentor for the Headwaters Foundation, has raised money door-to-door for the American Red Cross and volunteered with the Rappahannock unit of the American Heart Association, serving as its president and vice president; she has also been a vice chair of the Rappahannock Democratic Committee.

At her church, Promise Land Baptist in Gid Brown, she’s been vice chair of the deaconess board, president of the senior choir, corresponding secretary, president of the usher’s auxiliary, church clerk, chair of the Annual Women’s Day and assistant pianist. She’s also been pianist at First Baptist Church in Washington for 10 years.

Her piano playing reveals a typical instance of Aylor determination. “Someone needed a pianist, and I think Lillian wanted to learn to play the piano,” says Miller. “So when she was 65 or 70, she began taking piano lessons. And she learned.”

In 1986, Aylor organized an appreciation for her former seventh-grade teacher, Julia E. Boddie, at the Washington Graded School. With Dorothy Butler, also a former Graded School teacher, they set up a scholarship in Boddie’s name, presenting the first award to a RCHS graduate in 1988. The program has grown to be a part of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration every January at the Theatre at Washington, which Theatre owner Wendy Weinberg helped set up. The King program, which includes “Dream Keeper” awards and an essay contest, will be 23 years old this coming January.

“Lillian has given her time and talents to serving others,” says Nan Butler-Roberts, Dorothy Roberts’ daughter, who now works with Aylor on the Boddie scholarship program. “And she does it very quietly. It’s not for show.”

For close to 15 years, in addition to her church and community activities, Aylor looked after both her mother and her aunt, who had come to live with her in Sperryville. Both lived into their 90s, and during the years when their health was deteriorating, daughter Kim Beard says, “she managed to take care of them both, and still get everything else done.

These days, Beard says, “mom is like a rock for my sister,” referring to her sister Janice Page, who is battling cancer in Charlestown, W.Va. (where a third sibling, William Louis “Pete” Aylor Jr. also lives).

“Mom has been on the forefront of raising money for her,” she says. “At her birthday party in October, in fact, instead of asking for gifts, she wanted everyone to make a donation to help my sister.”

Asked how her mother might respond to her choice as a Rappahannock News Citizen of the Year, Kim Beard laughs. “She will probably say, ‘Oh, they shouldn’t have.’ ”

Well, they did.

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Roger Piantadosi
About Roger Piantadosi 538 Articles
Former Rappahannock News editor Roger Piantadosi is a writer and works on web and video projects for Rappahannock Media and his own Synergist Media company. Before joining the News in 2009, he was a staff writer, editor and web developer at The Washington Post for almost 30 years.