Washington column for Sept. 22

Gary and Michelle are going, their cause carries on

Like many of you, I heard over the past few weeks that Gary and Michelle Schwartz would be moving from town. I gave Michelle a call last week and we chatted for a while and, sad to say, they will be leaving us. For me, it’s like saying goodbye to a member of the family.

Goodbye Gary and Michelle Schwartz, headed to the Outer Banks.
Goodbye Gary and Michelle Schwartz, headed to the Outer Banks. Courtesy photo

They have been residents of the town since 2002, have decided to relocate to the Outer Banks. This comes as a result of a recent diagnosis of a serious medical condition affecting Gary’s immune system. The condition, relapsing polychondritis, is a very rare autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its own cartilage.

Since both are concerned citizens and animal lovers, their involvement in the community has included Gary serving on the town council since 2009, most recently as vice mayor, and also serving as the chairman of the planning commission since 2003. His most obvious contributions were related to the town’s infrastructure improvements, including the wastewater and water systems. For several years, Michelle served as secretary of the Town’s Architectural Review Board.

Together, they helped create the Feline Spay & Neuter Fund supported by their “Cause for Paws” annual raffle since 2006. When the town’s Main Street speeding issue arose among the residents, they also championed the effort to get a four-way stop sign installed at the corner of Porter and Main streets.

Gary and Michelle describe their decision to move as “bittersweet.” They are sad to leave their friends in Rappahannock County but also excited to be able to live at the beach in what was to be their “future retirement” home. But, as Gary says, their future is now.

Meanwhile, according to Michelle, the Cause for Paws Raffle to benefit the RappCats spay and neuter fund is kicking off during the 2016 Rappahannock County Farm Tour and Festival this coming weekend. Raffle tickets will remain on sale the Artists Studio and Gallery Tour Nov. 5-6, and will end with a drawing on Sunday, Nov. 6. Tickets can also be purchased through the RappCats website (rappcats.org), at the RappCats Adoption Center in Flint Hill or from RappCats volunteers.

Tickets are $5 (or five for $20) and prizes include a package for two including dinner at The Inn at Little Washington and a one-night stay at the Middleton Inn, one of a handful of Four-Diamond Inns in the U.S. Only 500 tickets will be sold so the odds of winning are very good and for a very good cause. The tickets and prizes were donated, so 100 percent of the proceeds benefit the RappCats fund.

The Cause for Paws raffle was created in 2006 by Michelle and Gary in memory of Toby, their rescued cat and a guest favorite who was killed by a motorist on Main Street. The Schwartzes decided to turn the sad experience into something positive by creating the raffle in memory of Toby. “Knowing that there were humane individuals in the county who rescued cats but couldn’t afford to spay or neuter them,” Gary says, “we originally worked with RAWL in creating a Feline Spay & Neuter Fund.” The raffle now benefits RappCats, a nonprofit privately supported organization, working very hard with no government funding, to help the stray, abused, abandoned and unwanted cats of Rappahannock County. Approximately $17,000 has been raised since 2006 and, as a result, hundreds of cats have been spayed and neutered.

It has meant a lot for Michelle and Gary to turn their negative experience into something that positively benefits animals in the county and to contribute to RappCats. “We truly believe that if everyone makes an effort to spay and neuter, it will help continue to reduce the unwanted cat population in the county,” says Michelle. To those who don’t consider themselves to be cat lovers, she adds, “Please purchase a raffle ticket and help us control the cat population. It will make your dog and the songbirds of Rappahannock very, very happy!”

Gary and Michelle, you both have done so much for the town of Washington, and will be missed dearly. We will always cherish the good memories of you both and hold them close to our hearts. I wish you both the best of luck in North Carolina.


Condolences go out to the family of Bessie Ellen Norman, 83, of Woodville. She passed away on Monday (Sept. 19) at Brookside Rehab and Nursing Center in Warrenton.

I have known Bessie for years, a dear friend of mine. When she would come in the office to renew her subscription, we talked about the good times. She would call and asked how my girls was doing and would talk about her sons and grandkids who she loved so much.

Bessie, here a poem in your memory by Johnny Depp:

May the wind always be at your back, and the sun always upon your face, and may the wings of destiny carry you aloft to dance with the stars.

I know you are smiling down on this earth. You are with your husband, Daniel. May you both rest in peace, my friends.

A funeral service will be held 11 a.m. Saturday (Sept. 24) at Found and Sons Funeral Chapel with Rev. John Lines and Rev. Paul Hawkins officiating. Interment will follow in Fairview Cemetery. A time of fellowship will be held at the Amissville fire hall immediately following the burial.

Retired Teachers Association

The Rappahannock County Retired Teachers Association (RCRTA) recently held their first meeting of this year. The business portion was followed by a most interesting program on Waggin’ Hearts Therapy Dogs presented by Sally Petty and her dog, Ellie. There is a need for special dogs and their handlers to visit nursing homes, rehab centers, hospitals, and assisted living facilities in the area. More information is available wagginhearts-therapydogs.org.

At the recent Retired Teachers Association (RCRTA) meeting, the program featured Waggin' Hearts Therapy Dogs presented by Sally Petty and her dog, Ellie.
At the recent Retired Teachers Association (RCRTA) meeting, the program featured Waggin’ Hearts Therapy Dogs presented by Sally Petty and her dog, Ellie. Photo by Linda Brosgol

Membership in RCRTA is open to retired individuals who have worked in a school setting, including cafeteria staff, bus drivers, school nurses, teachers and administrators. The group donates funds and supplies to several organizations. In addition, there is a scholarship available to local high school seniors. Since 2012, $7,000 has been distributed to students who are interested in studying to be teachers, said Carolyn McDowell.

The group will gather three more times this year with the next meeting to be held 10 a.m. Nov. 14 at Washington Baptist Church. The program at 11 a.m. honors Veterans Day and is open to all who may be interested. Contact Linda Brosgol at 540-635-2783 for more information.

Have a wonderful week!