Paying tribute to the dearly departed coastal Virginians who passed away last year
Donald Hamilton “Don” Clark
Whether one knew him as “Protector of the Sand,” “Cowboy Don” or the first name on the masthead of the Clark & Stant letterhead, Don Clark was a civic and legal visionary in Coastal Virginia.
An adventurous forward-thinker, Clark saw the promise and potential of Virginia Beach some 40 years ago. As the driving force behind what became the largest law firm in the commonwealth’s largest city, he thereafter paid it forward in ways too numerous to name.
This fiery, competitive graduate of the Naval Academy, who served during the Cuban Missile Crisis, earned his law degree at night from George Washington University in 1969. Three years later, he founded Clark & Stant, which merged in 1999 to become Williams Mullen, one of the largest firms in Virginia. According to partner and CEO Thomas R. Frantz, “Don was a tough and demanding client-first leader. He was a teacher, a compassionate mentor, well-liked and well-respected by all.”
In addition to successfully handling the city’s landmark cases involving ownership of Oceanfront beaches and city’s rights, Frantz notes that Clark helped “tie Hampton Roads together” through his instrumental role in the mergers that resulted in Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) and Sentara Healthcare. A highly decorated member of the Bar, Clark was named King Neptune 28 in 2001 for his leadership and service.
After his family, his coworkers, his community and the law, skiing became Clark’s great passion. Inscribed in a photography book of his beloved Colorado Mountains, featuring 54 majestic summits of more than 14,000 feet, a partner at Williams Mullen had these words inscribed: “FOR COWBOY DON. IF HE WAS A MOUNTAIN, HE WOULD BE A 14,000-FOOTER.”
Guy Raymond Friddell, Jr.
Whether he wrote about his love for tomato sandwiches, politics or the little nuances that made Coastal Virginia a unique place to live, Guy Friddell was an icon among newspapermen and one of the region’s favorite writers.
Born in Atlanta, Friddell was printing his own weekly newspaper for his neighborhood by the age of 10. When he attended the University of Richmond, the staff at the college paper nicknamed him “Scoop.” His schooling was interrupted by the draft in World War II, when he was sent with the 75th Station Hospital to Hawaii and later to Okinawa, Japan.
His newspaper career spanned 60 years. When Friddell was lured to The Virginian-Pilot and The Ledger-Star in 1963, he started out as the editorial page editor but then settled into writing thousands of columns about people, culture and politics.
“As a young reporter, I shared a computer monitor with Guy, back when computers were new and the newspaper distributed access frugally,” says Marjorie Mayfield Jackson, now the executive director of the Elizabeth River Project in Norfolk. “It was a privileged spot as his many fans trooped by all day, laden with sweet potato biscuits and many other delicacies for him to try. He was so full of joy, and most of it came from being so hugely generous—of course I got to eat a lot of the loot. People remember how he loved tomato sandwiches. But he was also intensely serious about covering politics.”
Politics and commentary were his staples, and from his columns sprung forth the ideas for several books, including 1997’s Opinions of an Old Contrarian.
But when you ask anyone who knew him, it was his generosity of spirit that will be missed most. “I think he just believed that things matter, everything, immensely—your beliefs, how you treat people, whether your food is the best of the season,” Jackson says.
—Michael Jon Khandelwal
Rowena was already well known in Norfolk for her pound cakes, making them for friends and community events, when she had the notion of selling them as a business. The former medical technologist did just that, opening her namesake Rowena’s Gourmet Foods in Norfolk’s Ghent in 1983.
Born in Hawaii as the daughter to a rear admiral, she later married a career naval officer, both occasions affording her the opportunity to travel the world. But Norfolk became home, and she endeared herself to the community as a devoted neighbor, as well as a determined businessperson.
She passed on July 22 after long battling ovarian cancer. Rowena is survived by her husband, Captain Peter Lansing Fullinwider, six children, 13 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
More folks got to know the name Rowena after she opened her shop, which not only sold locally, but nationally, first through mail-order catalogs and later on the Internet. Folks far and wide, including editors at magazines like Bon Appétit and Southern Living, lauded her cakes, jams, jellies, other goods and books. She sold the company in 2011. Among the many recognitions for her work was the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Small Business Administration in 2004.
In 1987, she became the first designated Virginia’s Finest producer. She shared her experiences with others, like long-time friend Pam Barefoot, owner of Blue Crab Bay Co. on the Eastern Shore.
“Rowena was responsible for steering my fledgling kitchen table business in the right direction in 1985. I still use the printer and the box company that she recommended 28 years ago,” Barefoot says.
“She looked out for the people involved in our industry and fought hard in Washington to get a special exemption for small companies from the mandatory nutritional labeling act. There are days now when I feel like she is looking over my shoulder, helping me through the rough days, as always.”
Bernard Delano Griffin, Sr.
Bernard Griffin was appointed to the Portsmouth mayor’s office in 2010 after the recall of former Mayor James Holley. He was the near-unanimous choice of the City Council when they met to find the successor to Holley, largely because of his ability to be calm, measured and profoundly positive at all times. He served from July 2010 to November 2010, during which time he was a big proponent of encouraging others to get involved in civic endeavors.
“Bernard was the ultimate ambassador, and he had a sincere passion for Portsmouth,” says current Portsmouth Mayor Kenneth I. Wright. “He always encouraged everyone, including me, to get involved by serving on boards and commissions in an effort to unite and enhance citizen engagement.”
Griffin was a proud graduate of I.C. Norcom High School and went on to graduate from Hampton University (then known as Hampton Institute). He served in the U.S. Army from 1962 to 1964, then started his career as an educator. He retired from Chesapeake Public Schools in 1991 after 26 years of service. He was also a Portsmouth School Board member from 1988 to 1992, serving as the chairman his last two years.
In 1992, he extended his civic service to the City of Portsmouth as a whole by serving on the City Council from 1992 through 2004, acting as Vice Mayor for the last four years of his tenure. Upon taking over the office of mayor, he said, “I will serve to the best of my ability. I will perform every effort I can to unify this council as well as to unify the city of Portsmouth.”
Bernard was a lifetime member of the New First Baptist Church Taylorsville in Portsmouth and was always active in the community as a civic league president, coach, volunteer, public servant and mentor.
John B. Hightower
When John Hightower became president and CEO of The Mariners’ Museum in 1993, his professional reputation was noteworthy for tremendous successes and occasional turbulence. The constants spanning the highs and lows were his gifts for leadership and eloquence and a tireless commitment to preserving culture and history.
His career in the arts stretched back to the early 1960s and included positions directing New York’s Museum of Modern Art and South Street Seaport Museum. “I thought the arts were potentially the most powerful, positive force on earth,” Hightower recalled in a 1996 interview.
Hightower took the helm at The Mariners’ Museum at a time when it was poised for growth—during his tenure, the museum gained attention with the opening of the $1.4 million International Small Craft Center, and he led the board in planning and raising funds for the $30 million USS Monitor Center, which opened in 2007. Upon his retirement in 2006, Hightower joined the board of the Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center and helped establish the Newport News Public Art Foundation.
Born in Atlanta in 1933, Hightower grew up on Long Island, graduated from Yale University with a degree in English literature and spent two years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He died in July from complications of Alzheimer’s disease and is survived by his wife, Marty, two children and four grandchildren.
“John was a fabulous person who made everyone feel important,” says Marge Shelton, Hightower’s longtime assistant at The Mariners’ Museum. “He taught me so much about working in a museum and appreciating the beauty in what we see. And he was a master of the written word.”
T. Parker Host, Jr.
T. Parker Host, Jr. was one of the pioneers in the development of the port of Coastal Virginia. He was an advocate for the ports of Newport News, Portsmouth and Norfolk to unify into the Virginia Port Authority, and he made many efforts to deepen the channels leading into the ports.
Those two significant achievements not only allowed the local ports to stop competing against each other and to concentrate more on competing against other ports along the Atlantic coast of the United States; it also ensured that even the most heavily laden coal and container ships could successfully reach our port. Largely because of his efforts, the port of Coastal Virginia is one of the busiest ports on the East Coast and the leader in the export of coal.
“My dad always expected a lot out of people and always strove for perfection,” says son Tom Host, who is now vice chairman of the company that bears his father’s and grandfather’s name.
T. Parker Host, Jr. was born in Newport News on March 11, 1925. In 1948 he joined his father’s company after serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He served as vice president from 1950 to 1962, then took over as president until 1992 when he became chairman.
In addition to his port duties, he served on the Newport News City Council and the Greater Norfolk Association. He was director emeritus of the Coast Guard Foundation and emeritus of the Town Point Club Board of Governors. In addition to numerous awards and honors that he accumulated over the years, he also received the Archer M. Huntington Medal for his more than four decades of service to The Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, where he served as president and trustee.
Known as the man who directed Old Dominion University’s transition from a regional college to a major research university, Alfred Rollins was much more than a university president; he was a noted historian and author who credited the GI Bill for the opportunity to advance his education.
The son of a minister, Rollins was a bomber pilot in World War II with the U.S. Army Air Corps. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, among other accolades in the war, and rose to first lieutenant before leaving the service.
Rollins was a vice president at the University of Vermont when he was chosen to be ODU’s president in 1976, a position he held until 1985.
When Rollins arrived at ODU, there were only two doctoral programs, but when he left there were 11 Ph.D. programs and 37 master’s programs at the university. He had a strong commitment to affirmative action as well as to international, minority and handicapped students. He was integral in the formation of ODU’s women’s studies program and a big supporter of women’s athletics. When the ODU Women’s Basketball team won national championships in 1979, 1980 and 1985, those were some of his proudest moments.
“We have lost one of our university’s great leaders,” says current Old Dominion University President John R. Broderick. “He was a man of great vision, intelligence and soft-spoken strength. I will remember him—a fellow Connecticut native—as a kind and decent man who always had time for people.”
What most remember was the way Rollins treated those around him. Broderick has tried to emulate Rollins in this regard. “Two decades ago, when I was just starting out at this university, he was very gracious and very helpful to me. I’m sure a lot of administrators, faculty members and alumni can say the same thing about him.”
—Michael Jon Khandelwal
Walter S. Segaloff
Walter S. Segaloff was guided by what he regarded as a few simple principles: Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God. It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty not to begin it. Doing the right thing for the right reason will invariably produce good things. The only limits in life are the ones we create for ourselves. One person can make a difference.
He formulated these principles, among others, during a long career full of vision and determination. Segaloff is known for his early involvement in the birth and growth of Israel through active fundraising and hands-on commitment. He co-chaired the “Coming Home Proud” event that allowed 80,000 people to honor Gulf War military personnel as well as Vietnam Veterans who had not received the same kind of homecoming 20 years earlier. One of his proudest achievements was the establishment of An Achievable Dream in Newport News, a school built on his vision to end poverty through education.
“Throughout his life, Walter Segaloff showed a significant commitment to ensuring that every child is given the opportunity to be successful in life,” says Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott. “He leaves behind a strong legacy at An Achievable Dream, and his vision will continue to improve the lives of thousands.”
Walter was keenly involved in efforts to end segregation, as well as religious and racial discrimination. At An Achievable Dream, he worked hard to instill confidence and social skills in students and initiated “The Daily Handshake,” where teachers, administrators, deputies from the Newport News Sheriff’s Department and Fort Eustis soldiers would line up at the start of each day and shake the hands of every student entering the building of An Achievable Dream.
He has been described as being like a spark plug, inspiring teachers, principals and others to carry on his vision and his legacy.