Favorite Richmond Personalities: Favorite Richmond Places
Where local media personalities go to make memories
BOOMER reached out to recognized and beloved media personalities from around Richmond – TV, radio and print, contemporary and fondly remembered – and asked about their favorite places to make memories, in Richmond and nearby. Here’s what they told us.
Our favorite place is anywhere along the James River Park System. Walter loves to swim in the river and run the North Bank, Forest Hill and Buttermilk trails with me and my wife, Lindsay. Or we’ll head to Byrd Park to enjoy the wide-open spaces and lakes.
Zach Daniel may be known as chief meteorologist for WTVR, but many of his viewers know him as Walter’s “dad.” Walter the Weather Dog makes appearances in the CBS 6 studio and in remotes, where he’s been known to steal the show. After all, not many of us can resist a friendly, rambunctious yellow lab!
My favorite Richmond place to make memories is Diversity Richmond. I have been a volunteer here since 2014 and currently serve as vice chair of the board of directors. This is Richmond’s hub for diversity, for all folks to gather to celebrate and socialize, have community conversations on important issues, attend lectures and classes, play Drag Bingo, create art, mourn a loss together or simply shop for bargains at Diversity Thrift.
This one building is responsible for so many positive experiences and is where I have made friends among those who are passionate about issues, art and community. There is no doubt I will continue to make even more memories as well as friends here at Diversity Richmond.
Robyn Bentley was a teenage DJ and one of the first women on the radio in Virginia, during her senior year of high school, 1979. She worked in radio for 20 years before taking a 19-year hiatus to run her Feng Shui Diva consultancy. Bentley returned to the airwaves in 2018 on Boomtown Richmond, where she’s program director and afternoon host.
I started working at the Times-Dispatch in 1968, and at that time, the Virginia General Assembly was assigned to a different photographer every year – sort of as punishment, I guess. You had to cover boring meetings in the morning, floor sessions at noon and then more boring committee meetings in the afternoon, all while trying to get photos that went with the news of the day. My turn came in 1970 … the first year I’d been assigned [to political assignments] full time. I liked it so much, I volunteered to cover it in 1971 and no one objected, so from then on, it became my beat. I’ve served under 14 governors over the years (and have photographed several earlier ones), from Mills Godwin (1966-1970) to Ralph Northam, who was sworn in January 2018.
I like to say that I’ve been on a first-name basis with all of them … they call me Bob and I call them Governor!
Covering politics has given me a front-row seat to history and a chance to record it for present and future generations.
The session beginning in January will be my 50th – not sure how that happened, but this one will probably prove to be one of the most interesting ever.
Bob Brown, 82, senior photographer for Richmond Times-Dispatch, started there in 1968. He was awarded Virginia News Photographer of the Year three times and won various state, regional and national first place awards. Brown was the first photojournalist to be inducted into the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame (2005) and to be awarded the George Mason Award from the Virginia Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (2014).
It’s hard to pick one favorite place to make memories because I have so many in and around Richmond like Maymont, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and my new favorite, White Feather Trail Rides Horse Farm in Powhatan. But my all-time favorite place is in Yorktown at the Yorktown Beach. The drive there is under an hour and being near the water is where I’m at ease and find the most peace.
Reporter and anchor Antoinette Essa has been at WTVR CBS 6 for 10 years, but her broadcast career spans more than three decades – beginning in her hometown of Monrovia, Liberia. Besides broadcasting, Essa’s heart is in volunteer work, music – including country, jazz, reggae and African music – and more.
As a naturalist with a strong entomological bent, I am always drawn to the native flora and fauna of the James River Park System. Along this verdant ribbon of wild that flows smack dab through the middle of the city, I can write, photograph, conduct research or simply commune with nature.
If you’ve heard entomologist Art Evans on “What’s Bugging You” on WCVE public radio, then you already know that he loves bugs and nature. You might not know that he is also adjunct assistant professor of biology at Randolph-Macon College and University of Richmond, trustee and research associate at Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville and research collaborator at the Smithsonian Institution.
Richmond is blessed with a marvel of nature. I’ve done open water swims above Bosher’s Dam, canoed Huguenot flatwater, tubed through Choo-Choo rapids, hiked Williams Island, and explored every nook and cranny of the James River that I can find. I’ve made more memories with friends and family on the water than I can even count!
Andrew Freiden makes the weather fun. And interesting. And not just on NBC12, where he is the morning meteorologist. Freiden has also mastered social media, keeping Richmonders informed, entertained and engaged on weather events and other local happenings.
Richmond has many memory-making places, and among my favorites is the James River. Whether I’m paddling with family and friends, fishing for smallies or just floating with the current on a beautiful day, the James seldom fails to yield a memory to treasure for years.
Many Richmonders know Lee Graves as the RVA Beer Guy, a former beer columnist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch and author of Richmond Beer: A History of Brewing in the River City, and of beer history books covering Virginia and the Charlottesville region. Graves is also seen around town performing with the Bluz Catz blues band.
I left Richmond close to 20 years ago, but the memories are still crisp. The brain is a good editor of memories. It tends to send the negative stuff into remission and polish up the good ones. For me, most center on Church Hill and North 22nd Street where I spent the better part of three decades in a WRVA studio watching the city come alive every morning, working its magic, plugging me into its circuitry. So much so that I wrote a book about it. A visit this past February served to push the refresh button and to remind me that my heart is still anchored in “River City.”
John Harding was a familiar voice on WRVA-AM radio in Richmond from the late 1960s to 2001. The station’s news director, he also provided the voice of Millard the Mallard, who “quacked” up listeners and served as the station’s mascot. In 2016, Harding published Radio Ingleside: A Life On Air, beginning with his childhood in small-town Emporia, Virginia, through his years at the station.
When Harding slogged into my space to tell me BOOMER magazine wanted to hear from me, I got a nervous twitch in my port-side aileron feather. Any outfit with “Boom” in it gives me, like pause, you know? It’s a duck thing! But it’s cool.
I had a good float in River City, quacking with Alden Aaroe and Tim Timberlake on the radio. Great benefits! A month off every year to attend the International Soak Festival in Goose Bay, loads of banana sandwiches with gobs of Duke’s, Cold Deliciouses on tap, free tunes and T-shirts.
Never cared for that brown suit, though. A dark pinstripe would have been more my speed, with shiny spats in place of those yellow flipper shoes that made me look like a toon. And the parades! Such a hoot.
My fave was holding a shotgun on Aaroe and Timberlake on the WRVA rowboat float in the Autumn Harvest Parade. I crossed out “It’s Duck Season” and substituted “It’s Tim and Alden Season.” Lot of laughs! Good blokes those two. Still can’t get over Aaroe admitting he shot an eagle on the golf course, though. Waggled wings to you Richmond … Thanks for the memories.
My choice of a special Richmond place to make memories is The Boathouse at Sunday Park in Brandermill. The outdoor deck at The Boathouse overlooks lovely Swift Creek Reservoir. The sunsets can be breathtaking, and my wife, Marcia, and I find it a particularly relaxing place to unwind and appreciate nature’s beauty. We’ve found no other place like it in Richmond!
Richmond TV anchor and reporter Bill Oglesby created the nostalgic “Where Were You?” radio feature for the hometown audience, which played from 1991 till 1996 and later appeared in BOOMER. Oglesby currently teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University as associate professor of mass communications.
The University of Richmond became the place of my professional and personal rebirth. My colleagues in the History Department, at the School of Professional and Continuing Studies, and in the administration provided the intellectual, emotional and spiritual support structure that enabled me to craft a fresh pathway toward accomplishment as a teacher, advisor, counselor, writer, broadcaster and author.
Many Richmonders know Dan Roberts’ voice from the public radio series, “A Moment in Time,” presenting important events in history. A professor at the University of Richmond, Roberts is also author of Master American History in 1 Minute a Day, published in 2019, and Master Presidential History in 1 Minute a Day, to be released April 1, 2020.
Maymont is one of the very first places I visited when I arrived in Richmond in early 1986. After having children, Maymont became one of our favorite places for family adventures and special occasions. It is the scene of many of our family portraits including this one that to this day brings a smile to my face. I vividly recall telling my 4-year-old son, Jesse, not to get dirty before the pictures; upon which he promptly fell down and had grass stains on his knees. The stains are very vivid in every picture we took that fall day and bring back such fun memories.
Many Richmonders recognize Lisa Schaffner from her years as WRIC-TV anchor and its predecessor, WXEX-TV. She’s currently public relations and marketing director for UNOS, United Network for Organ Sharing, and she has written the “Giving Back” column for BOOMER magazine since 2008. Schaffner gives back to the community by participating in numerous nonprofit events.
One of my favorite places to make memories is the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. I love grabbing a cup of coffee and exploring world cultures, right in my hometown.
Sandra Sellars is the talent behind many of the creative and thought-provoking images in the Richmond Free Press; there she works as senior photographer. She has been snapping photos for the paper for more than 18 years. In an interview with the Virginia Press Association, Sellars was asked about the challenge of seeing raw emotional situations firsthand. She replied, “It’s tough and it’s sad. It can sometimes feel like an intrusion. But I have to keep in mind that I’m there to tell the story. Having a moral compass makes it easier to deal with recording someone’s pain and sorrow. My intention is never to exploit.”
My favorite place to make memories is the Richmond Folk Festival. I’ve been involved on various levels since it began in 2005 as the National Folk Festival. Having just completed our 15th year, I am so very proud of the talented and hard-working team. That includes thousands of volunteers, who make this uplifting weekend possible. It reflects the very best qualities of our city and its people, and I get such genuine satisfaction from being a small part of making this major production happen each year and working with so many creative people. Our Artist Host team gathers a month after the festival to share our memories of personal encounters with all these remarkable musicians.
You may know Tim Timberlake’s voice from his many years on WRVA radio; perhaps reading the wintertime school and business closings. Or perhaps from JAMinc’s “In Your Ear” radio show. Or from his role as emcee at many folk, bluegrass and Americana events. As a graduate of Randolph-Macon in Ashland, on the air locally since the late 1960s, Timberlake knows RVA!
VMFA is most definitely a favorite Richmond place of mine to make memories. Truth be told, though, my best memories are made anyplace with Grand Princess. Life can get so busy we only see the surface of someone we love. A stroll through exhibits at Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and Aiza Ashelly and I are laughing, learning and looking inside each other.
Besides anchoring on NBC 12 and Fox Richmond, Richmond native Diane Walker has been the face of “12 On Your Side” for more than three decades. She investigates consumer complaints and fighting for the little guy. She also volunteers in local public schools and personally mentors high school and college students aspiring to become journalists.