Remembering three who made IW a better place

Published 5:00 pm Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Ann Gray Edwards, who died this summer, served Isle of Wight County and the town of Smithfield in a variety of capacities, always with dignity, patience and a kind word.

Mrs. Edwards was at different times Isle of Wight’s assistant commissioner of revenue, Isle of Wight voting registrar and Smithfield’s town treasurer.

I encountered her in all those capacities, but remember Mrs. Edwards best as the voting registrar, for it was in that capacity that our paths most often crossed. She was a diligent keeper of the voting list who believed firmly that she was there to serve county residents in fulfilling their most important function as citizens.

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In that regard, she reflected the principles that voting registrars and state voting officials across the nation have shown consistently over the years. It is largely that cadre of people, of whom she was proud to be one, who have been the oil of democracy, the lubricant that keeps the gears turning, more or less smoothly.

One of the current crises in our nation is focused largely on elections and how they will be managed. Will they continue to be open to all qualified voters, with efforts made to simplify the process and encourage voters to participate, or will it increasingly become more difficult for those in the margins of society to take part?

As national anger rises over the process, the determinedly honest approach Ann Edwards exhibited in that job — and importantly, the approach that remains fully in place in our local registrar’s office — is an awfully good example for the nation.


Music touches everyone


Music is a universal language that touches virtually all of us in important ways. It can energize us, calm our spirits, celebrate our culture, enhance our worship experiences and provide memories that last a lifetime.

This community has been fortunate to have music of many genres offered us in many formats and by many people. Two of them recently died and left a legacy of musical excellence that is a tribute to their memories.


Cecil W. Gwaltney Jr.


Cecil Gwaltney was a legendary director of musicals presented by the Smithfield Little Theatre. For the better part of three decades, he used his unique talent to bring some of Broadway’s most notable musicals to the stage of our local community theatre. He delivered each of them with elan.

His credits are classics. They include Once Upon a Mattress, Lil’ Abner, Annie Get Your Gun, Oliver, Sweet Charity, Barnum, They’re Playing Our Song, Brigadoon, South Pacific, Hello Dolly, My Fair Lady and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor DreamCoat.

Longtime friend Jim Abicht delivered the eulogy at Cecil’s funeral and described his directing style as demanding, uncompromising — and totally beloved by the performers he whipped into shape.

As for the rest of us, we encountered only the result of all that hard work, and it was consistently a delight. This community was made richer by this person who cared enough to present us with the best that a group of volunteer actors and actresses could offer.


John Knox 


Johnny Knox loved his automobiles and his Carrollton business, Knox Automotive, was built around that love.

He also loved music — the bluegrass variety — and it was that love for which he will be remembered far beyond Isle of Wight.

He organized the bluegrass band Hard Knox and carried the group to music competitions throughout the region. Hard Knox also performed regularly for our Summer Concert Series.

Most notably, he opened Knox Automotive once a month to free bluegrass concerts/jam sessions. Bluegrass musicians and fans flooded the place every month and it did much to broaden the base of bluegrass lovers in our community.

Two people with diverse talents, and both contributed immensely to the cultural diversity of our community. We’re far richer for what they did.


John Edwards is publisher emeritus of The Smithfield Times. His email address is