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PHOTOS: New Lawhorne/Knoernschild Bench in Del Ray Honors Boyhood Best Friends and their Lifelong Community Service

"These are two amazing people we are honoring," said Gayle Reuter.

Crpwd gathers under large trees with a bench covered with a white sheet and bow.
Members of the Alexandria City Council and School Board joined Alexandria firefighters, friends and family of retired Sheriff Dana Lawhorne and Tommy Knoernschild to be part of the bench dedication to the men in Del Ray. (Photo: Jacinta Greene)

ALEXANDRIA, VA – The trees were shimmering with color and light against the blue sky on Saturday, November 11, when friends, family and leaders of the community gathered for the unveiling of a new community bench dedicated to the lifelong community service of retired Alexandria Sheriff Dana Lawhorne and his childhood friend, Tommy Knoernschild, who sadly passed away in 2018, at the early age of 58.

“These guys did everything together,” said Gayle Reuter who emceed the short proceedings.  “What was it, Dana? 1962, when you guys first met?”

Two women and a man on a bench in front of a house.
Dana Lawhorne, Gayle Reuter and Lori Knoernschild is on the new Del Ray bench in front of Tommy’s Boyhood home at 1 West Glendale Avenue. Photo: Lucelle O’Flaherty)

The bench happened because the community wanted to honor Lawhorne’s retirement with something lasting and significant in the neighborhood where he has spent his life, and when the idea of a bench was discussed with him, Lawhorne was adamant that he’d only accept it if his best buddy, Tommy, could be included.

Lawhorne has shared extensively that his childhood was rough and “if it were not for Tommy’s parents” he may have been lost.  “I practically lived here at this house, on this corner,” he said.

Grop of people assemble on bench in fall and look at camera.
Members of the Lawhorne and Knoernschild families gather on the new bench in Del Ray in front of the boyhood home of Tommy Knoernschild.. (Photo: Lucelle O’Flaherty)

“Today was memorable to me and my family,” said Tommy’s wife, Lori Knoernschild. “My children and grandchildren were present, together with other family and friends. Dana and Tommy were lifelong friends. In their youth, Tommy and Dana spent many hours together playing football at this very circle where the bench is now sitting.”

Lawhorne, who was recently inducted as an Alexandria Living Legend, smiled and laughed and told stories about the things he and Tommy did as kids on the very spot, and Reuter added, “We knew a lot of important things happened here, and it’s a huge part of their growing up. That’s why this location was selected.”

Two men and a woman hold a crystal award with a silver star.
In 2016, then Sheriff Dana Lawhorne with Tommy and Lori Knoernschild when Tommy won the Lifetime Achievement Award from Del Ray Business Association. (Photo: The Zebra Press File Photo)

Both Knoernschild and Lawhorne were honored with the Del Ray Business Association’s Lifetime Achievement Awards, and both men did countless service projects together in the community over the decades.  “I’m always so grateful to this city and this community that made me who I am,” said Lawhorne looking at the bench and the crowd with tears filling his eyes, “and I always promised I’d stay and I’d give it back. Tommy and I both did.”

The bench sits in front of Tommy’s boyhood home at 1 West Glendale Avenue in the Del Ray part of Alexandria.

Inscription on bench close up.
The inscription on the Lawhorne/Knoernschild bench in Del Ray reads “In honor of retired Sheriff Dana Lawhorne and Tommy Knoernschild for their lifelong service to our community.” (Photo: Lucelle O’Flaherty)


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Mary Wadland

Mary Wadland is the Publisher and Editor in Chief of The Zebra Press, founded by her in 2010. Originally from Delray Beach, Florida, Mary is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Hollins College in Roanoke, VA and has lived and worked in the Alexandria publishing community since 1987.

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