by Henry Lane Hull
When asked by a constituent, who had lived in the Northern Neck for over 30 years, when local folks would stop calling him a “come-here,” Sen. Robert O. Norris famously replied, “Not in this life.”
Today, well over a half-century later, the friendly give-and-take between natives and those who have moved here remains. Many who have come here have brought interesting and illustrious backgrounds with them.
Gene Yeney, who lived near Wicomico Church, was a native of Garfield, N.J., who served in the U. S. Army during World War II, all the while never leaving the continental U.S. In 1926, he had played a non-speaking role as a swimmer in the movie, “The Black Pirate,” that starred Douglas Fairbanks. After the war ended Gene went through Columbia University on the GI Bill.
He then went to work in New York for Frank Loesser, the musical comedy composer, where he was involved in putting the finishing touches on “Guys and Dolls” and “How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” Gene’s most prominent contribution to the Loesser operation came when Meredith Wilson brought in his draft for “The Music Man.” Gene was a perfectionist and tore the musical script and libretto apart. He argued with Wilson, and in the end he won, hence what we see today in the movie in part is what Gene put there. He died in 1982, and is buried in Kilmarnock.
John Dinneen came to the Northern Neck with his wife, Trudy, in 1976, when they purchased the former King Carter Inn in Irvington. As innkeepers they enjoyed hosting guests and opened an antiques shop in the rear of the property, which they called The Glory Box. The previous year their eldest son, a U.S. Army captain, had been killed when a military plane crashed in Germany.
John had a significant role in aviation himself. As a young naval officer stationed at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, he piloted one of the first planes off the ground to combat the Japanese offensive. In that effort he downed the first Japanese plane in World War II. He remained in the U.S. Navy for the rest of his career, then after retirement operated a boys’ school in Pennsylvania prior to moving to Irvington.
While here he devoted himself to fundraising for Christ Church and restoring antiques for his wife’s shop. He seldom spoke of his wartime experiences, leaving others to tell of his heroism. He died in 1987, and is buried at Christ Church.
Lorena Selby and her husband, Harry, moved from Northern Virginia to a home on Barrett’s Creek, near Wicomico Church, in 1972. She was a native Nebraskan, who had graduated in nursing from Creighton University, after which she came to Washington to earn a master’s in psychiatric nursing from Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital.
Following her marriage and rearing her children, Lorena began a new career in private duty nursing. Despite her many academic and professional accomplishments, she never learned to drive a car. Harry retired early from the civil service and spent a good part of his time chauffeuring Lorena back and forth to her patients. Her reputation spread, which led to her coming to work for Mrs. Edith Morton Eustis, the daughter of vice president Levi P. Morton, who served with President Benjamin Harrison and later as governor of New York.
Mrs. Eustis bi-located between a mansion in Georgetown and “Oatlands,” her country estate near Leesburg in Loudoun County. Lorena became her constant companion, as well as nurse, for the remainder of her life. When Mrs. Eustis died in 1964, her daughters donated “Oatlands” to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Lorena told wonderful stories about her times there, making the place more than a museum to those who listened.
Lorena and Harry ultimately left the shores of Barrett’s Creek and moved to Kilmarnock. Lorena suffered a severe stroke and after Harry’s death, she moved to be with her family at Virginia Beach. There through church, she became friends with the television news anchor, Terry Zahn, during the period when he was terminally ill with cancer. Lorena died at 90 in 2001, and is buried in Kilmarnock.
These three come-heres with their interesting backgrounds added to the local lore of the Northern Neck during their time among us. Perhaps, according to Sen. Norris’s dictum, now they are no longer come-heres.