The man who was the catalyst behind what is still referred to as “the new high school” in Colonial Beach was remembered there last Sunday. Dr. Don Warner Sr. passed away on Oct. 8 after a 12-year battle with cancer.
Warner was superintendent of Colonial Beach Schools from 1984 until his retirement in 2001. His family, who live in Woodstock, came back to Colonial Beach to help honor him. Warner’s wife of 53 years, Rachel, sat with their children, Don Jr., Penny and Krista, along with their spouses, his grandchildren and several of his great grandchildren in the cafeteria of the school along with numerous community members, former coworkers, and alumni of CBHS.
Former athletic director, football coach, and physical education teacher, Wayne Kennedy was master of ceremonies over the informal gathering. Town Council member Tim Curtin, brought the idea of having a memorial for Dr. Warner to Kennedy’s attention, and the two, worked together on the ceremony. Bev Horner, who has taught at CBPS for many years, made a wonderful video of Dr. Warner’s life in Colonial Beach that was shared with the gathered crowd.
In a light hearted opening, at approximately 10 minutes past the scheduled time, Kennedy jokingly reminded everyone who there was normal time, and Warner time, in reference to things often running a moment or two behind when Dr. Warner was around. Warner’s daughter, Krista Warner Osborne, who is a CBHS Alum introduced the family that had made the trip, prior to sharing a memory of her father with the gathered crowd.
Osborne quoted from the Bible, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” while describing her father, who throughout the celebration was said to be a man of humility who cared more for others than himself. She shared that Warner’s favorite times of his life were in Colonial Beach and that he always fondly remembered the people he worked with in town.
Krista’s husband, David spoke of Warner’s love of God and family, and that he wished to love his “sweet girl” in the same manner that Warner had loved his wife of 53 years, Rachel.
Donald Warner Jr. spoke fondly of his father as someone they were always very proud of, not only in all he did, but in what he stood for.
Warner’s granddaughter, April remembered coming to Colonial Beach and playing basketball in the gym of the new high school while her grandfather worked. She shared how he would stay late, after they had played, to mop the floors, or pick up the school, as he always wanted the school to look its best.
Many others expressed this memory of Warner, in a suit and tie, cleaning around the school, picking up in the parking lot, or in the summer, in a shirt and tie, with his “Gilligan style” hat sealing the parking lot with a long roller brush.
Justin Gum, Warner’s grandson, remembered him as a great man, the best role model for anything you could ask for. Justin also shared a memory of playing tennis with his Grandad and betting $10 on the game. He said when Warner finally won a game, he gave him an IOU, as he had to wait 30 days to pay him, so he wouldn’t upset Grammy. Gum said the bets went away after he beat him again, but the games didn’t stop.
Stan Mangleburg, chair of the school board when Warner was hired, remembered how he had called Warner’s boss for a recommendation and was told, “Don Warner embarrasses me a little bit, he’s always here before I am, and here after I leave.”
Pat FitzGerald, who taught physical education and driver’s education for 31 years at CBHS, remembered Warner as one of the greatest men she had ever known. FitzGerald also remembered the school board meetings, and town meetings, where Warner was told they wouldn’t be able to build new school. Warner’s response: “Oh yes, we will build a new high school!”
Other former coworkers of Warners at the event included John Sessoms who was CBHS principal when the new high school opened in 1988. Sessoms spoke of how Warner, who gave him the chance to further his career, taught him how to grow a school. He told how Warner taught how to lead the faculty. He also shared an anecdote of going by his office to wish him a Merry Christmas, and asking him if he was going away. Warner’s reply, was “No, someone might need me.”
Larry Roberson, former teacher of U.S. Government and Civics and currently the Colonial Beach representative on the Westmoreland County Board of Supervisors remember Warner fondly.
He told about Warner coming into the old school with the new plans in hand and asking the teachers which classroom they wanted. Roberson asked where the office would be and then pointed to the room which was the furthest away from the main office. That room did end up becoming Roberson’s classroom as long as he taught at CBHS.
Rondy Wright, who taught science at CBPS for 31 years, remembered coaching girls basketball, and Warner’s daughter, Krista.
“Wherever we played there was someone from CB in the stands: Dr. Warner,” Wright said.
Steve Swope, CBHS athletic director, spoke about how Warner taught him life skills, including things such as remembering to “consider the source” at all times. He also reminisced on how Warner taught faculty to keep out of the perception of wrongdoing because in a small town, anything that happens is known by all. Swope said that Warner was what the school needed to turn it around and to make the town develop the now famous Drifter Pride.
Steve’s wife, Ann, told a story of coming home late one night from seeing friends, and watching a car swerve back and forth. Thinking that someone was drinking and driving she went to get the license plate number, before she realized it was Warner, putting fundraising information in each mailbox.
Gary Seeber shared a memory of one time that they were selling raffle tickets for $20. Warner stood on the sidewalk at Hunan Diner, knowing that people had to stop at that corner and he could convince them to buy a ticket while they were trapped there.
Burkett Lyburn, Colonial Beach Councilman, and a long time resident of Colonial Beach, spoke of his mother calling him with reports that she needed extra funds because when Warner was asking for funds for the schools, she couldn’t turn it down. Whenever Lyburn came home to visit, he said his mom made sure to get the money from him so it wouldn’t get spent elsewhere.
Dr. Donald Warner, Sr. was born November 22, 1937 in Woodstock, VA. He was formerly a member of Colonial Beach United Methodist Church and was a member of the Columbia Furnace Church of the Brethren.
Warner graduated from Woodstock High School, Lynchburg College with a Bachelor’s Degree, Emory University with a Master’s of Divinity, University of Georgia with a Master’s Degree and The University of Southern Mississippi with a Doctor of Education degree.
Prior to his tenure at Colonial Beach Public Schools, he taught in Gwinnett County, Georgia. He was principal in Prince William and Frederick Counties. He was then assistant to Frederick County Superintendent, Dr Melton Wright. In 1984 he came to Colonial Beach Public Schools and retired in 2001. He dedicated 38 years to public education.
Warner is survived by his wife, Rachel, son Donald Jr (Jessie,) daughters Penny Ransier, Krista Osborne (David), a dozen grandchildren, ten great-grandchildren, a sister Olive Young (Bob), brothers, Johnny Warner, Elwood Warner (Johanna) and his twin brother, Daniel Warner (Sarah.)
Thanks go out to Tim and Jamie Curtin, Wayne Kennedy, Bev Horner, Tara Seeber Moy, Paul Runyan and staff, Carol and Bill Birminghman, Pat FitzGerald, Dee Seeber, and Diane Pearson on all the work to put on the celebration of Warner’s life.