Alumni singers serenade businessman who helped bring school to Winchester
By Ben Orcutt - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- Wilbur M. Feltner, former president and chairman of F&M National Corp., had a pleasant surprise on Saturday that was 50 years in the making.
Feltner, 90, who oversees the museum that bears his name in the former F&M building on the Loudoun Street Pedestrian Mall, was serenaded by the Shenandoah University Troubadours.
In town for the Dayton Alumni Society weekend, the four members of the quartet serenaded Feltner, who was a member of a five-man committee that helped bring SU to Winchester from Dayton 50 years ago.
"It's unbelievable," Feltner said of the surprise serenade. "I really enjoyed hearing them again after 50 years or so."
His wife, Helen Adeline Blosser Feltner, 84, agreed.
"Oh, this has been a real tribute," she said.
Founded in 1875, SU moved from Dayton to Winchester in 1960.
"It was difficult," Feltner said. "The reason I say that, we had to get the property from the city, and not all of the council members were in favor of the deal. We thought it was more opportunity here than where they were, and there were several members that were also members of the United Brethren Church here, and they felt that it ought to be here."
A past member of the SU board of trustees, Feltner is proud of what the school has become.
"Unbelievable, absolutely unbelievable," Feltner said. "It's beyond all comprehension. From my standpoint, whatever cent I put in it, yes, [it's] been well-spent, and I'm sure everybody else that has put in money.... it's been well-spent. [It's a] wonderful addition to the community. It really was about the only thing that was lacking in our community was a school of higher learning, and Shenandoah brought it here."
The four members of the SU Troubadours who sang to Feltner were all members of the Class of 1959 who graduated at the Dayton campus. The group seemed to enjoy the surprise as much as he did.
"Oh, this is great," said Carl Harris, 72, of Roanoke. "We wouldn't have thought 50 years ago that something like this is going to happen, and it's just great to be a part of it. It's really exciting."
Harris was equally excited about how much SU has grown.
"Oh, it's just incredible," he said. "We're just so proud of it. It's international now, and we're just so proud to say that we're from Shenandoah University."
Bill Propst, 72, of Berryville, also was glad to join his comrades in singing to Feltner.
"It's great," Propst said. "It's been a good day."
Walter Pitsenbarger, 72, of Raleigh, N.C., spoke in a similar vein.
"Wonderful, just wonderful," Pitsenbarger said.
Ernest Stone, 75, of Hickory, N.C., had his education interrupted by two years of service in the Army.
"It's a wonderful experience for me, just to get together with this quartet and see how far this university has come in such a short time," Stone said. "Wonderful."
During past Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festivals, the Troubadours sang for celebrities such as former Miss America Mary Ann Mobley, Ted Mack, of the Original Amateur Hour, and Gene Barry, who played Bat Masterson in the television series of the same name.
"We sang at all of the lunches," Propst said. "We sang at some of the dances. We sang at people's houses. There were lots of functions that were going on behind the scenes and we were the entertainment."
SU President Tracy Fitzsimmons also was on hand for the special serenade to Feltner.
"This is a great example of the circle of life and how lifelong learning is really important, and these four members of the quartet have given themselves to continuing to be involved in education, involved in singing and involved in Shenandoah after 50 years," Fitzsimmons said.