By Carelyn Sheppard
Authors Bob Brown and Bill Lohmann entertained the Chester Lions Club recently with photos and stories taken from their books “Back Roads: People Places and Pie from Around Virginia,” “On the Back Roads Again: More People, Places and Pie Around Virginia,” and “Dr. Coptr: The Flying Physician Who Kept His Promise to Tangier Island.”
Their stories ranged from humorous to sad and heartwarming to horrid.
Brown was reared in Rockbridge County, but came to the Richmond area and was in television in the late 1950s, where he worked on projects like “Sailor Bob” on Channel 12. After 10 years, he went to work for the Richmond Times-Dispatch in 1968 as a photographer. Since that time, he and his photographs have won numerous awards and accolades on local, state and national levels.
Lohmann is a Richmond native who began his career as a sports reporter in Charlottesville for the Daily Progress, and then worked at United Press International in Atlanta, Orlando and Richmond. He also worked for the Richmond News Leader and the RTD. As a columnist, Lohmann wanted to be out of the office searching for interesting people, intriguing places and perfect pie. He found a kindred spirit in Brown, and the rest is history.
In 2002, someone at the RTD suggested a few Sunday columns on places along Route 58, the longest road in Virginia. That was all that Brown and Lohmann needed, and they spent the next six months on the project because of their shared love of people, places and pie. They started in Virginia Beach and traveled across the state to Cumberland Gap.
They visited places like Dot, where the signs for entering and leaving are on the same pole. They also visited Spec and two towns called Frog Level, one in Caroline County and one in Tazewell County.
The best pie in the commonwealth can be found in Woodruff’s Pie Shop just off of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the men said. Floozies in Louisa is another spot not to be missed. Burke’s Garden in Tazewell County is outstanding with its vistas, cattle and two-hump camels.
Lohmann mentioned Tangier Island in the “Back Roads” books, but the story of “Dr. Coptr” is heart-wrenching. David Nichols was a Canadian-born medical doctor who moved to Whitestone. He flew his fixed-wing helicopter to Tangier to take care of the residents each week on his day off, and helped build a medical clinic for the island.