Tag Archives: purcellville

With the Name “Hammer,” He Was Born To Be a Deputy

One could say Bill was born to be a Sheriff’s deputy. With a name like Shellhammer, how could he not have been predestined to live a life laying down the law?

Purcellville resident William “Bill” P. Shellhammer died in his home December 16, aged 80. He was a retired Loudoun County Sheriff’s deputy, a former Vienna Police Department deputy and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served during the Korean War.

Shellhammer on duty.
Shellhammer on duty.

These days, if a Sheriff’s Deputy knows you by name it indicates that you are a delinquent or a malefactor who is up to no good. In Shellhammer’s heyday, however, it was a mark of his sharpness of mind.

Shellhammer knew every kid by name in 1960s Vienna. If you misbehaved or were up to no good, you had better prepare yourself for a stern talking to. Bill took on the proxy role as a parent in uniform; he meant business if he called you by your surname instead of your first name. ‘What would your mother think?’ He would ask, sending quivers down spines.

You couldn’t bank on his forgetfulness, either. He was known to throw the book at recurring offenders. One Purcellville resident remembers Shellhammer dismissing his pleas for a warning for the offense of squealing wheels as a teen in Vienna. No such luck — Shellhammer remembered he had warned the teen six months prior. This time he would receive a ticket.

He was tough but fair. Loudoun residents would joke that if he had found his own mother to be out of line he would write her out a ticket. This may be true, but often what is tough on the outside is soft on the inside. He treated everyone equally and had a good heart. He would often stay past his shift on special occasions so young kids could have their picture taken with him and his squad car.

“Getting out of the car and meeting shop owners and citizens in the community was a large and important part of what Shellhammer did,” said former Loudoun County Sheriff Steve Simpson.

Simpson consequently grew up in Vienna, and one of his first encounters with Shellhammer further cemented Simpson’s goal to become a police officer when aged 10 or 11 he attended a firearms safety program at which Shellhammer was an instructor and member of the Vienna Police Pistol Team, who were national champions.

“The final day of the program he and several members of the team demonstrated some of their shooting abilities. He put an ax in the middle hung from a T frame with pigeons on either side.  His hand gun shot the ax blade which would split the bullet in half and would break the clay pigeon on each side. I even still have one of the bullets from that day,” said Sheriff Simpson.

During his time as an officer, just about every western Loudoun resident was handed a ticket from him. Even the Vienna residents who couldn’t escape the “Hammer’s” tickets as teens would find that years later they would be pounded again — this time most likely while he was patrolling along Route 9.

Shellhammer was born August 31, 1934 in Apollo, Penn., to the late William Park Shellhammer Sr. and Genevieve Burkette. Bill joined the U.S. Marine Corps after graduating high school, serving five years during and in the Korean War. He then went on to work for the U.S. Secret Service as security detail for former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and the Mellon family after joining the Vienna Police Department in Vienna, Va. He retired from the Loudoun County Sheriff Department.

Bill is preceded in death by his daughter, Deborah Clark. He is survived by his son, Kurt Shellhammer (Debbie) of Stafford; grandchildren, Jeffrey, Gregory, Lindsey, Kevin and Nathan; and great-grandson, Bruce. The memorial service was held December 20 at Loudoun Funeral Chapel. Memorial donations may be made to the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, 803 Sycolin Road SE Leesburg, VA 20175 or to Loudoun County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, http://www.lcdsa.net/index.php.

Purcellville resident turns 100

This is an article I wrote for my grandmother’s 100th birthday. It appeared in the March 27 edition of the Loudoun Times-Mirror.

In 1913, during the relatively quiet year after the Titanic sank and before the escalation of the First World War in Europe, Geraldine Jane Potts James was born to Linda Kidwell and Walter Potts at their home in Hillsboro, three days before Easter on March 20. Their kitchen counter meat scale read that she weighed 4 lbs., give or take a few ounces.

One century later and several towns over, Geraldine celebrated her 100th birthday March 24 at the Loudoun Golf and Country Club in Purcellville amongst more than 120 close family and friends. The celebration of her birthday and life was hosted by her three children; Roberta East of Purcellville, Linda James of Round Hill, and Gerald James of Herndon.

As children of the Great Depression, Geraldine and her brothers Raymond and Lloyd Potts – who lived to see 93 and 94, respectively –were expected to pitch in on the farm, especially after their father died when she was three years-old. Her tasks included feeding the chickens and milking the cows. To earn extra cash, her family would dress and prepare their chickens and eggs and load them on the train at the Purcellville station to be sold to city dwellers in Washington, D.C.

“You couldn’t buy gasoline for the car, so we had to be very careful anywhere we went. We bought very little at the store; mainly coffee, sugar and flour with a ration book,” Geraldine said. Back then, “You survived by growing things you had on the farm.”

She credits her long life to her faith in God, being a teetotaler – with an undisputed and never satiated sweet tooth – and “walking for her education.”

While in primary school, she would walk – or hitch a ride on the horse-drawn school bus – to Hillsboro. When she reached high school age, she walked two miles to then catch a ride in her neighbor’s Model – T Ford that was headed to Lincoln High School (now Lincoln Elementary School).

It shouldn’t be a surprise that she later became one of the few women of her time to attend college, graduating in 1935 from Madison College, now James Madison University. Her mother, “who believed in two things; the Lord and education,” died a few months after Geraldine graduated.

On July 3, 1936, she had the pleasure of shaking the hand of one of the most beloved presidents in history, Franklin D. Roosevelt, when he dedicated Shenandoah National Park. She was 23. She spent her roaring twenties as a home economics teacher at Lincoln High School, taking respites to swim in “the Big Eddy” in Harpers Ferry, W.Va., and vacationing with a girlfriend to Atlantic City, N.J., where they were reprimanded by a police officer for showing their legs on the boardwalk.

Geraldine wore a navy suit when she married Robert “Bob” James on February 21, 1942, with only the pastor and his wife serving as witnesses. She was 28 years-old. Their long and happy union lead to the proudest moments of her life when she became “a mother of three good children.” She is now a grandmother to five and the great-grandmother of seven children.

During her days as a homemaker she kept a garden and canned, froze or cooked the yield for her family and the workers who helped butcher the meat, harvest the grain and tend to their dairy farm operation. Dairy farms were once the economic mainstay in Loudoun, but today only one remains and is operated by Geraldine’s cousins in Purcellville.

Geraldine considers her greatest achievement to be “becoming a Christian and loving the Lord.” She and Bob, before he died in 1983, were lifelong members of Purcellville Baptist Church where she has taught numerous Sunday school and vocational classes. In 1996, she was recognized by the church as one of the first recipients of their Oaks of Righteousness program for her dedication to God and the church.

“Life has been good. I’ve enjoyed living on the farm; raising my children, feeding all my neighbors,” she said. “We had simple things, but we had fun, a lot of homemade fun.”

Purcellville to host first food and wine festival

How does a small town graduate itself into a destination? By hosting a wine and food festival.

“We wanted this to be something Purcellville can be known for,” said Jeff Sheehan, the finance manager at Purcellville’s Magnolia’s at the Mill restaurant. “Purcellville is a little off the beaten path and we wanted to make sure people know we’re here.”

By hosting its first Wine and Food Festival July 21, the town will showcase seven local wineries, four Purcellville restaurants and a host of local musicians. The outdoor event is the brainchild of Purcellville Mayor Bob Lazaro and will shut down the historic downtown area on 21st Street from 4-9 p.m. Admission is free and the event is rain or shine.

Lazaro said the festival is an extension of the popular winter event, the Loudoun Grown Expo, which this year saw 2,000 attendees. He said he hopes the festival will showcase the thriving downtown that is home to multiple small businesses. Sheehan, who helped organize the event, echoed Lazaro’s sentiment saying that the festival will be a great way for the town to publicize its eclectic mix of shops.

The participating wineries include 8 Chains North Winery & Vineyard, Fabbioli Cellars, Bogati Bodega & Vineyard, North Gate Vineyard, Otium Cellars, Twin Oaks Tavern Winery and Sunset Hills Vineyard. Magnolia’s at the Mill, Anthony’s, Lothar’s Sausages and Boodacades BBQ restaurant will vend the event. Local musicians will include Acoustic Burgoo, The Polka Dots, Andros, Andrew McKnight, Mark Cullinane and Michael & Paige. For more information, visit Purcellvillewineandfood.com.