by Henry Lane Hull
In 1975 an Army helicopter exploded in the skies over what was then West Germany, crashing to the ground taking the lives of all on board. One of those lost was a young Army captain, John Dinneen, who left behind a wife and his parents. Perhaps to help in their grief, the parents, John and Gertrude, known to all as Trudy, left their home in Pennsylvania and moved to Irvington, where they purchased the King Carter Inn, now the Hope and Glory Inn, in the former Chesapeake Academy building, arriving in 1976.
They proceeded to preside over the inn operation, enjoying meeting new guests to whom they served great breakfasts. Trudy moved her antiques business, which she called The Glory Box, there as well. She exhibited great decorative skills and especially liked making new lamps, which were quite popular with her customers.
John found a new calling in refinishing furniture, and both he and Trudy were happy to begin a new life in the Northern Neck. John is a figure of history in that as a 25-year-old Navy pilot stationed at the base at Pearl Harbor his was among the first planes off the ground to combat the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941, and he is recorded as having shot down the first enemy aircraft of what became the Second World War.
After a distinguished naval career John retired as a captain, after which he and Trudy operated a boys school in Pennsylvania before moving to Irvington. Trudy was a native of Saint Johns, Newfoundland, and prior to her marriage had spent several years as a nun with the Holy Cross Order. After leaving the Order, she met John, married and became the mother of three sons, the eldest of whom was the one lost in the helicopter explosion.
The Dinneens immersed themselves in local affairs, giving untold hours of volunteer work at Christ Church and offering their talents to every charity that asked them to serve. John chaired the life membership committee of the Foundation for Historic Christ Church, where he enjoyed raising funds to preserve the structure and advance its educational mission.
Trudy directed the annual bazaar at Saint Francis de Sales Catholic Church, which was a great three-day amalgamation of beautiful crafts and extraordinary culinary delectables that drew folks from across the Northern Neck and the Middle Peninsula. People from far and wide planned their family gatherings around being here for the bazaar and she made the effort to meet and greet everyone who came.
Both John and Trudy liked challenges, and always were looking for new projects. They decided to sell the inn, although they continued to run the antiques shop in the building behind it, and began renovating a house in Weems, and after that undertaking was completed, they set out to build a new house in the middle of a wooded enclave in Irvington, one that they wanted to reflect their own tastes entirely. Shortly after completing it, and establishing themselves there John died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 71 in 1987. His grave in the Burying Ground at Christ Church adds a chapter of modern significance to the illustrious history of the institution’s past.
After John’s death Trudy decided to close the antiques business, sell the new home, and move to an apartment in Williamsburg. She stayed there for several years, returning frequently for visits to the Northern Neck, then she moved to Florida, where she thought her asthma would be less severe and she would be able to breathe better. She was 78 when she died in 1998 and is buried with John at Christ Church.
Trudy and John together offered a profound example of a couple being able to survive and triumph over personal adversity and loss. They contributed mightily to the Northern Neck during their time amongst us and left us better off for their having been here.