A Northern Virginia Daily special anniversary section

Celebrating 75 years: Index of stories
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Reflections from our readers

Daily Staff Reports

Daily is still daily habit for former dentist at 100

Dr. Robert E.L. Miller

Dr. Robert E.L. Miller

Dr. Robert E.L. Miller Jr.'s expertise is dentistry. A hobby is reading The Northern Virginia Daily.

And Miller won't rule out an occasional dabbling in writing.

"You want to see my obituary?" he said.

Miller, 100, has a thing for obituaries. That's one of the sections he refuses to miss in the Daily each day.

"I like to keep track of who's still around," Miller said as he glanced at a July issue of the paper. "Here are these folks. I haven't joined them yet, and who knows when I will join them."

Miller started his dental practice in 1932, the same year the Daily began. He retired in 1999.

"I had my own course," Miller said. "If it wasn't dentistry, it didn't exist."

The free time in the last few years has given him a chance to read more often. Issues surrounding historic buildings in Front Royal, such as the Afton Inn, particularly interest him simply because they've been a part of his life as long as he can remember.

Miller's daughter picks up two newspapers each day — one for herself and the other for her father. Miller always sets his sights on the region front and obituaries.

"I read The Northern Virginia Daily as soon as it gets to me," he said.

Daily is required reading for 81-year-old woman

Alma J. Kerns

Alma J. Kerns

Alma J. Kerns loves The Northern Virginia Daily so much that she's had cataracts removed so she can read it more easily.

"You old people up in age, get the cataracts out because old lady Kerns can really, really see now," said the 81-year-old Winchester native.

A widow, Kerns was married to Rusty Kerns, who died in 1971. She has three children, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

"I raised my kids, and I took care of my dear mother, Alice Grim," Kerns said of being a long-time homemaker.

She said she's been reading the Daily for about 20 years.

"One day it came free," she said. "It's my baby. The Northern Virginia Daily always has been my baby because when I wake up in the morning, I gotta have it. The paper went to Canada with me. I took it to Canada to read. I couldn't do without that doggone paper."

A self-professed "fanatic about education," Kerns took great pleasure in reading in the Daily about the graduation of her daughter, Maxine Kerns, from John Handley High School in 1975.

"When I first look at it, I look to see what's on the court," she said. Kerns also reads the obituaries.

"I ain't interested much in that," she said. "I ain't scared of death."

Shenandoah Valley native has seen the Daily evolve

Jack Sperry

Jack Sperry

When you make the news, it's pretty easy to get attached to it.

In 1985, Jack Sperry, now 78, was rescued from the flooded North Fork of the Shenandoah River after a rescue mission of his own, for the Mt. Jackson Rescue Squad, went awry. Two other volunteers were rescued from a tree after 11 hours. Sperry found ground two hours afterward and two miles from where he started.

Today, reading about auto wrecks and other emergencies in The Northern Virginia Daily is the most exciting thing to him.

"I think it's been a wonderful asset to our valley," said Sperry, Mt. Jackson's former town manager and mayor.

A lifelong Shenandoah Valley resident, with 50 years in Mt. Jackson, he has seen the newspaper evolve into a regional publication.

There was a time when each village in Shenandoah County had its own "gossip reporter" who spread the news in the Daily, Sperry remembered.

Residents of a community would call a designated person for their area with news, and that person would be paid by the paper based on the number of inches he or she wrote.

"That got a lot of people buying the paper," Sperry said.

Another popular read was a list of fines, especially those who received speeding tickets, he said.

"Everybody got a kick out of reading those," Sperry said. "Everyone teased their neighbor if they got a speeding ticket."

As times have changed for the paper, readers have adapted well, he said. Sperry has enjoyed being around for it and, literally, being a part of it.

"It's really been super," he said. "I don't know what we would have done without that newspaper."

Senator got his start at the Daily back in the day

H. Russell Potts jr.

State Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr.

State Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., R-Winchester, began reading The Northern Virginia Daily as a boy and eventually became a sportswriter for the paper.

"I've been reading the Daily ever since I was a youngster, like 7 or 8 years old," said the 68-year-old Winchester native. "I even memorized the starting lineups of major league teams when I was a little boy."

The four-term state senator, who will retire from the seat at the end of the year, credits the Daily with putting him on the path to his professional career.

"I actually started my journalism career there initially doing part-time coverage of high school football," Potts said. "I'm grateful and very appreciative of being afforded the opportunity by the Daily."

In 1982, Potts created Russ Potts Productions Inc., which has produced a number of major sporting events.

Potts went on to become vice president of marketing for the Chicago White Sox.

Two national stories published in the Daily that Potts said stand out in his mind are the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Potts said a "huge" local story was the 1999 killing of Winchester police Sgt. Ricky M. Timbrook.

Police department news interests Fairfax native

Janice Hart

Janice Hart

Janice Hart has been counting on The Northern Virginia Daily to keep her informed since she moved to Warren County 24 years ago.

"A day without the paper is a grumpy day," said the 55-year-old Fairfax native. Hart has served as promotions director and property manager for Royal Plaza Shopping Center for the past 21 years and recently was named community relations specialist for the Front Royal Police Department.

A source of pride for Hart is the community policing program implemented by former Front Royal Police Chief Ronald A. Ricucci and expanded by Chief Ronald A. Williamson.

"I've been a volunteer here for two and a half years, and now I'm on the payroll," she said. "Police department news is always of interest to me."

Like many readers, Hart said news of the terrorists attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, are etched in her mind.

"Everybody remembers 9/11," she said. "We don't want to, but we do."

On the local scene, Hart is partial to news about Front Royal.

"I just look forward to reading the Front Royal news in the Daily every day," she said. "Since you have a new format, I read more. I have just noticed that some of the awards that you all have won have been really deserved because of excellent photography and information gathering."

Newer subscriber turns to Daily for sports coverage

Bruce Boyle

Bruce Boyle

Bruce Boyle counts on The Northern Virginia Daily for coverage of everything from sports to news.

Boyle, 46, has owned Solid Woods Inc. in Winchester for 12 years.

His son, Stephen, 18, is now a senior at Millbrook High School. He has wrestled for three years, and the Boyles have subscribed to the Daily for about two years.

"Your paper does an outstanding job on the wrestling coverage," he said.

Boyle reads five papers on a daily basis to get his local, state, national and international news.

"I like print. I am not an online reader. I like business, I like news, I like sports. But I really think probably the Daily is best at what I would call local interest," he said.

One of the reasons he subscribes to the paper is so he can read the obituaries. But Boyle likes the fact that the Daily investigates and takes people to task on issues.

"We have always felt the Daily was very independent-minded," he said. "I think you definitely are the fourth estate."

For example, he was pleased with coverage of the John Handley High School renovation project. The City Council's decision to spend money on the work has caused a significant increase in real estate taxes.

"Somebody has to hold them accountable for it, and that is what a paper is supposed to do," he said.

Early interest in news will last a lifetime for attorney

Daniel Pond

Daniel Pond

Looking for stories about their friends and seeing photographs of themselves in the newspaper can encourage young people to read the paper.

For Daniel Pond III, of Front Royal, it created an interest in news that will last a lifetime.

Pond, 32, grew up reading The Northern Virginia Daily. He said that he always has felt a need to know what is going on in the community and that his favorite part of the paper is the Region section.

"I go to the Region section and read that first," he said.

What he likes best about the Daily is the current news coverage in Front Royal and that he is able to keep up on the town news on a daily basis.

"I think that the Daily is really good for getting local stories and keeping up with local news," Pond said.

Even though he lives in the area and is able to read the Daily every day, Pond, an attorney with the firm Pond, Athey, Athey and Pond, also checks the Daily's Web site if he is out of town.

"I remember when I was in high school, I made a point of reading because of local sports," he said.

Pond played basketball for Warren County High School and enjoyed seeing his friends' and classmates' pictures in the paper as well as reading about how the local sporting events played out.

"One time I had my picture in there -- for basketball," he said. "That was pretty exciting."

Teacher thanks the Daily for its influence early on

Mary Catherine Funk

Mary Catherine Funk

Mary Catherine Funk, of Strasburg, says The Northern Virginia Daily not only has given her lasting memories, it also helped her find a career.

Funk, 24, first visited the paper's headquarters in Strasburg as a 6-year-old Girl Scout. She was inspired by how reporters are able to inform the public with news stories.

In 1994, when she was in the seventh grade, she did an internship at the Daily. She got to see the inner workings of the newspaper, and even wrote a story that was published.

"My internship at The Northern Virginia Daily cemented my interest in writing, and I carried it through as an English major and now as an English teacher, where I utilize Newspapers in Education. I feel as if my experience in journalism has come full circle," she said in an e-mail.

For the past two years she has taught at Warren County Junior High School. This fall she is teaching at the new Skyline High School.

Funk considers the Daily a personal scrapbook. Three important events in her life were featured in the paper.

In 1994, she was featured in the newspaper for being a part of Take Our Daughters to Work Day, which was a new idea at the time.

Two years later, she traveled to Denmark as an exchange student, and upon her return, hosted a student here. The Daily covered that also. But the story that had the greatest impact on her was one published on the day of her graduation from Strasburg High School in 2000.

Six days prior to graduating, her best friend was hit in a head-on car crash. She was injured so severely she would later graduate from a hospital bed at Inova Fairfax. The Daily wrote a story about it.

"Thinking now, I remember getting a phone call from one of your staff members, going to the Woodstock bureau with photographs and attempting to make it through an interview without tears. My graduation was one of the most bittersweet days of my life, and your newspaper put my feelings into words," she said.

Loyal teen reader aspires to career in journalism

Tori Avvenire

Tori Avvenire

With a name like Avvenire, one Strasburg teenager has little choice but to admire the newspaper business.

Tori Avvenire, 14, an incoming freshman at Strasburg High School, shares her last name with an Italian newspaper. She’s not hiding from it: She wants to major in journalism and minor in photography one day at Virginia Tech.

"I like writing," Avvenire said. "It's my second favorite subject to band. I'm a band geek."

During her eighth-grade year at Signal Knob Middle School, reading other people's writing — namely in The Northern Virginia Daily — became an everyday occurrence when she participated in the "Dial Up the News" hot line. With another student, Avvenire read sports scores, obituaries, headlines and two regional stories for people with impaired vision.

But the Daily would be a part of her life regardless, she said. She is interested mostly in the war in Iraq and local sports scores, but in the past few months she also needed to stay updated on the massacre at Virginia Tech.

The Daily still has its place among the next generation, Avvenire said.

"We gossip about different stuff," she said.

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