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Lewis and Renee Field. Photo courtesy of the Fluvanna County Sheriff’s Office For the first time since the mysterious disappearance of Scottsville-area resident Renee Field one year ago, authorities have confirmed that they believe she was the victim of foul play and is likely dead.
Besides her husband, Lewis Field, Renee Field’s “closest living connection” was with her parents, Waverly and Irene Branch of Lexington, who spoke with their daughter on the phone every week, said Investigator David Wells of the Fluvanna County Sheriff’s Office. “There’s no indication why she’d break up contact with her parents,” Wells said.
Though the Fields had no children, they did have an elderly cat that required special daily medical care. The cat was “like her baby,” said Wells. “We don’t think she would leave her cat of her own free will.”
And Wells doesn’t believe Renee Field picked up and left. “There’s no logical reason for her on her own to take off,” he said. She didn’t have a job and no accounts have shown any financial activity since her disappearance. If she and her husband had argued, “we’re told she would have taken the cat and reached out to her parents,” Wells said.
According to her husband, Renee Field, 49, left her home July 2, 2014, in her 2010 burgundy Subaru Forester and did not return. Then around 2 a.m. on July 4, a Fluvanna patrol deputy found her car parked in the Zion Crossroads park and ride commuter lot. Her purse, cell phone, and keys were in the car but her credit cards, cash, and driver’s license were gone.
Four months after Renee Field’s disappearance, her mother, Irene Branch, 82, died in the Roanoke Memorial Hospital without knowing what happened to her daughter. Her obituary said she was “survived by” her daughter Renee. “Losing my wife and then Renee missing – this past year hasn’t been good at all,” said Waverly Branch.
In trying to puzzle out Renee Field’s disappearance, “We look for means, motive, and opportunity,” said Wells. “Who has those?”
But searches haven’t uncovered any other close connections. She had no best friends, no real social media presence, and wasn’t “a big Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest type of person,” Wells said. When searching her computer, authorities found nothing of interest but plenty of photos of her cat.
Her cell phone records don’t help, either. “She wasn’t a big mobile phone user,” Wells said. In fact, the last time she used her cell phone was June 26, 2014 – days before she went missing.
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The confusion plaguing the results of Saturday’s (June 27) Lake Monticello Owners’ Association (LMOA) election has been resolved.
Members did indeed approve the $7.2 million renovation and replacement (R&R) project in a landslide vote. Almost 60 percent of votes, or 1,123 of 1,873 votes cast, supported the proposal while 39.4 percent, or 738 votes, came in against. There were 12 abstentions.
Stephanie Davis and James Gerling were elected to fill two vacancies on the LMOA Board of Directors. Davis received 1,027 votes and Gerling received 825 votes. Incumbent Director Charles Harrelson lost his seat with 778 votes while a fourth candidate, Jan Shattls, received 720 votes.
Almost immediately the results of the vote were plagued by confusion. Though the election committee declared that there were 1,788 valid votes, both by proxy and in person, the R&R proposal somehow managed to receive 1,873 votes – a difference of 85 votes.
The election committee worked through the weekend to determine the source of the confusion. On Monday (June 29) it released an updated report explaining the problem. LMOA’s elections are weighted; that is, people who own three lots, for example, have their votes counted three times. “The number of valid proxies reported at the meeting reflected the number of voters and did not take into account that some voters are owners of multiple lots and therefore get multiple votes,” the report read. Taking that into account, the report said, there were 1,873 total valid ballots and proxies in the election.
About 70 people gathered at the Lake Monticello clubhouse Saturday to hear the results of the election. When Marlene Weaver, president of the LMOA Board, declared that the R&R proposal had passed, cheers and applause filled the room.
“I couldn’t have asked for any better outcome and I am very, very happy,” Weaver said through tears. “I welcome the two new directors to the Board. Our work will begin immediately on implementation of our plans. I thank the entire community who supported this effort for the R&R which will give Lake Monticello a new direction. I am very excited to get started.”
General Manager Catherine Neelley agreed. “I’m delighted to see the proposal pass,” she said. “I’m anxious to get started on the renovation and replacement of the buildings. It’s going to be a busy year. This is an exciting time and I’m happy for the association.”
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Fireworks / File PhotoThe Fourth of July, the epitome of carefree summer fun, will be celebrated in style at Lake Monticello this weekend.
On Friday (July 3) at 6:30 p.m. the annual Fourth of July parade will kick off at the Lake Monticello clubhouse. Kids, babies, and grown-ups alike are invited to show up with some sort of conveyance decorated in red, white and blue – bike, scooter, wagon, stroller, doesn’t matter – and march around Ashlawn Boulevard. Vehicles such as fire engines, ambulances, and antique cars are welcome as well.
After the parade winds its way around the clubhouse and surrounding areas the Lake Monticello Owners’ Association (LMOA) will provide free ice cream treats for everyone.
“We’re looking forward to a large turn-out,” said Mernee Kinter, parade organizer. “We hope to see lots of children who have decorated their bicycles and other things. Kids can walk, use their scooters, anything they want to do. We’re just delighted to have them.”
On Saturday (July 4) the fun starts early. Beginning at dawn folks will be up to their elbows in sand on the main beach creating sand sculptures for the competition judged at noon. And at 7 a.m. runners and walkers alike will gather at Bunker Park for the annual 5K spirit run, an event which never fails to draw a crowd, said John Platt, organizer for LMOA’s Fourth of July activities.
Starting at 9 a.m. folks can flood the pool for Fourth of July games including the penny dive, frozen t-shirt race, biggest splash, smallest splash, best dive, hula hoops, balloon toss, tub race, bubbles, and greased watermelon race. Also at 9 a.m. is a horseshoe tournament by the tennis courts. From 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. the pool opens to everyone (regular fees apply).
Starting at 10 a.m. children age 12 and under can compete in the putting contest held at the golf pro shop practice putting green. And at 10:30 a.m. an information table opens with schedules, directions, and most importantly, tickets for cotton candy and the dunk tank.
The dunk tank, open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., ought to draw people in spades, since several community figures have agreed to participate. Sheriff Eric Hess and Rivanna District Supervisor Tony O’Brien both said they’d take their turns getting wet. Also on the list of planned appearances, though Platt warned there are never any guarantees they’ll go through with it, are LMOA Chief of Police Tom Boisvert, LMOA General Manager Catherine Neelley, some of the LMOA directors, and – the kids’ favorites – the Lake Monticello swim team coaches.
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Katrin Stroeer with her cat Captain Woodrow. Photo by Tricia JohnsonWith the 4th of July approaching, most of us are making the usual plans for a day filled with flags, fireworks, and good food. For one Fluvanna resident, Independence Day means something a little different from what it might to most of us.
Katrin Stroeer, born and raised in Germany, loves her adopted country.
She met her first husband when he was stationed in Germany with the Army. They had two children while they still lived in Germany before he received orders to move back to the U.S.
“We were stationed in rural Ft. Sill, Oklahoma beginning in 1995,” Stroeer said. “It was very difficult to say goodbye to all of my family and friends in Germany. It took me some time to adjust, because it is not easy for one to leave their home country and culture behind,” she explained. “Yet, after some time of adjustments, I fell in love with Oklahoma and the American lifestyle.”
“My first husband and I split, and I married my husband Eric. He too was in the Army. Military life style has been a way of life for us,” she said, and added, “We love to serve our country.”
Like many military families, Stroeer and her husband and children moved around a great deal – living in New York and Washington, D.C., before arriving in Fluvanna.
“My husband’s work brought us to the Charlottesville area,” Stroeer explained. “While looking for a home we stumbled upon Fluvanna County. Immediately we fell in love with the beauty and rural feel. This was a great place to raise our children due to it being a smaller community with a great school system, lots of activities and nice people. Now,” Stroeer said, “our children have grown and moved out, but we plan to stay in Fluvanna because it is home to us.”
When asked if she sometimes misses her native country, Stroeer replied, “After living in the U.S. for 20 years, there is very little that I miss - although this was not always true. I remember being overcome by homesickness around the holiday times or when my family would host reunions in Germany. Today, I have embraced the American traditions and holidays and enjoy them very much with my family. I do travel back to Germany on occasions but feel more like a tourist,” she said, “and am always happy to be back home here in Fluvanna.”
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Bigelow portrays James Monroe at Ashlawn-Highland.   Photo courtesy of Dennis BigelowWalking into Dennis Bigelow’s Lake Monticello home, one is struck by the past. Family history surrounds him. Antiques line the walls, including an old Egyptian oil lamp turned into a standing lamp. Old family photos tell fascinating stories of well-dressed ladies, soldiers and diplomats from a bygone era.
The group includes Lt. Col. Charles Marshall, Lee’s Aide who witnessed the surrender at Appomattox; also great nephew of Chief Justice John Marshall and cousin to World War II General George Marshall. Monroe ties in with the family through Chief Justice John Marshall, who shared a hut with Monroe at Valley Forge.
His paternal grandfather was a U.S. judge living in Egypt during the time the Suez Canal was being built.
A long portrait of a very distinguished lady stands regally staring at you as you come in the doorway. It is Bigelow’s paternal grandmother, who loved traveling and lived in Egypt and told wonderful stories; apparently more of a free spirit than his other grandmother, Hilda, who sits very dignified in her chair glaring at her from across the room. Bigelow laughs, admitting he set it up that way since they would always growl at each other. Hilda has her own story, as a nurse during WWI she fled Antwerp trying to escape from the Germans. It’s another world and one Bigelow fits right in with it.
Most people barely know their family history but Bigelow rattles it off, understanding the dynamics and nuances of their relationships.
The Bigelows came from Elizabeth, N.J. but were originally from Watertown, Mass. They lived on Nantucket from 1810-1870 and were sheep herders but when that didn’t work out like they expected, they went to sea. Bigelow adds he was born and raised in Charlottesville.
Bigelow is charming and speaks openly about himself and his past and present and mostly about how his interest in history and drama led him to portray James Monroe, our fifth president.
Bigelow, a fourth generation family member to attend the University of Virginia, majored in English, then switched his major to drama but never pursued acting. While married to his first wife and living in New York, Bigelow worked in corporate communications as a communications specialist, anchoring Today in Banking for the Satellite Conference Network and spokesman for USA Today.
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