Del Ray Doings

Bench Honors Boyhood Best Friends and Their Lifelong Community Service

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 by Lucelle O’Flaherty)

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 passed away in 2018, at the early age of 58.

“These guys did everything together,” said Gayle Reuter during the dedication ceremony. The Del Ray community wanted to honor Lawhorne’s retirement with something lasting and significant in the neighborhood where he has spent his life. When a bench was suggested, Lawhorne was adamant that he’d only accept it if his best buddy could be included.

The bench is in front of Knoernschild’s childhood home on West Glendale Avenue. Lawhorne said 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, recently inducted as an Alexandria Living Legend, smiled and laughed and told stories about what he and Tommy did as kids on the spot. “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,” said Reuter.

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.”

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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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