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?”
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.
“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.”
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.