Rose lovers support Riverkeeper

Published 10:14 am Saturday, October 10, 2009

FRANKLIN—An estimated 1,000 people came to the Garden Club of Virginia’s 71st annual Rose Show last week to take in hundreds of specimens of roses.

But they also showed their support for the Blackwater-Nottoway Riverkeeper Program, donating $1,000 at the event’s “green offering” in memory of Riverkeeper Jeff Turner’s dog, Moonpie.

Turner met Mary Nelson Thompson, co-chair of both the Franklin Garden Club and this year’s Rose Show, at The Tidewater News office on Friday to receive the $1,000 check. He did not know how much was donated beforehand.

“All right, Jeff, how do you like that?” Thompson asked as Turner opened the envelope containing the check, to which he exclaimed “Wow!”

Turner then added, “I certainly do thank you all. It’s such a nice thing you’ve all done for the memory of Moonpie. That’s really nice, and it’s well appreciated.”

Thompson said Moonpie “touched the hearts of a lot of people. (This donation) is for all that you do to keep our rivers clean and safe, (and) we are sure that you can put this to good use. The educational programs that you give all over the area have been very meaningful and I know you can use the money to help promote that.”

Essay winner

Turner also wrote a 200-word essay that won the Wrangler Rugged Wear Adventures Essay Contest in September. He won three jeans and shirt outfits for penning his account of surviving a near drowning experience in the frigid Nottoway River.

“Sitting by a campfire on the shore of the Nottoway River one frigid night, it was time to go check my trotlines,” Turner wrote. “I started down the hill toward the boat and clambered up onto the front deck. I untied the boat and stepped in. I lost my balance and fell backwards out of the boat with one leg remaining in the boat stuck.”

Turner continued, “I lay stunned on my back the cold dark river finding its way into my clothing. I tried to move, but when I did the untied boat moved backwards dragging me to deeper water. I tried to get my boot loose but every time the boat crept out further pulling me closer to disaster. I figured the next try would have to be good or I’d drown. It failed but I stopped moving deeper. Invigorated I tried again. My foot dislodged and I was free. I struggled up fighting whatever had held me.”

“Miraculously a root had stuck through my belt loop holding me,” Turner said. “I tied the boat, crawled up the bank, wet, cold and in terrible pain. I thanked my maker for my survival and thanked Wrangler for making jeans that had strong belt loops.”

Turner said the incident happened in the late 1980s, before he was the riverkeeper.

“It was very scary, and something I’ll never forget,” Turner said Friday