Excerpts by Henry Lane Hull

As a young man, Luther Gilliam left his native Farmville to make his career in Alexandria. His field was insurance, but he soon branched out into real estate in his adopted city, where he became known as one of its preeminent realtors.

The city government recognized his ability and appointed him to numerous boards and commissions, recognizing that he would serve fairly and diligently. Luther was the prototype of the classic, old-fashioned Virginia gentleman, giving of his time and talent to many charitable organizations as well as the civic ones.

As his career flourished, Luther and his wife, Mary, began coming to the Northern Neck on weekends, which led ultimately to their purchasing a second home on Carter Creek in Irvington. The Spanish-motif house was situated in the Kendall Hall complex on Irvington Road. Luther called it a “cottage,” but it was a grand dwelling, filled with great Arts and Crafts Period antique oak furniture.

When the Gilliams were here, the house also was filled with their descendants enjoying all that was good in the Northern Neck. As Luther and Mary grew in years, they decided that the trips down from Alexandria were too much for them and they put the “cottage” up for sale. It sold quickly, and Luther died two years thereafter at the age of 9l in 1999, and Mary five years later. That course might have seemed to be the end of the Gilliam presence in the Northern Neck. It was not.

Although the Gilliam “cottage” was demolished along with the entirety of the other majestic buildings and bell tower at Kendall Hall, a Gilliam presence in the Northern Neck was to continue in the person of their granddaughter, Nancy Travers, who became one of the most recognizable voices in the area. She had grown up visiting her grandparents and appreciating the wonderful life they had enjoyed at their getaway “cottage.”

Nancy had begun pursuing a career in radio while a student at Longwood College and later at Old Dominion University. After initially working in other locales, she came home to the Northern Neck and began broadcasting for WKWI in Kilmarnock. I was a regular listener to her morning show during which she played great music, offered interesting facts and commentaries on the passing scenes, and in the tradition of the station’s founder, Dean Loudy, “got everybody up” in the morning to begin the day with a smile.

Nancy understood the important and powerful role that radio plays in a local community, and she saw her role as one of being of service to all. She was especially proficient going through the daily birthdays and anniversaries, from telling her audience what important day it was, through the birthdays of famous individuals, and finalizing that segment with kudos to the celebrating locals.

She was also a masterful interviewer, always steering the conversation to get the most information out to her listeners, while at the same time putting the interviewee at ease. On the air, she could handle any situation with aplomb, as well as genuine kindness, for she truly cared for others. For Nancy, the listeners were her friends, whether she ever met them in person or not.

Many decades ago, local radio stations in the Washington area would play ads from an automobile dealer using the slogan, “When High-Dollar Handley speaks, people listen.” Here in the Northern Neck, and as far away as the airwaves could carry her words, “When Nancy Travers spoke, people listened.” Her voice, her messages, and her happy demeanor were a gift to us all.

Nancy Travers, July 14, 1964 – January 25, 2023. R.I.P.