As tears continue for two young Chilhowie friends who died within months of each other, their contributions to their communities and their perpetual smiles have not been forgotten.
Will Walker, 30, a high school agriculture teacher who was killed in a farming accident in September 2018, and Lucas B. Dowell, 28, a Virginia state trooper killed in the line of duty this past February, are remembered as good, kind men with infectious smiles.
The memory of those smiles is going to help others find their smiles.
The families of Will Walker and Lucas Dowell with supporters have planned a joint endeavor to raise money for Operation Smile with hopes to bring healing smiles and joy to others. This is the legacy of the “Men Behind the Smiles.”
“This is a charitable event set up in hopes to bring joy to other families just as Will and Lucas did,” the organizers said. “All proceeds of this event will go to Operation Smile. This organization is Virginia-based and is an international medical charity that has provided hundreds of thousands of free surgeries for children and adults in developing countries who are born with cleft lip, cleft palate or other facial deformities.”
The families and supporters have planned a 5K Run/Walk on Saturday, Sept. 21. By Sept. 1, 434 people had pre-registered to participate.
The race starts at 9 a.m. at Chilhowie High School with registration and packet pick-up at 8 a.m. Cost is $25. The course will take place on the streets of Chilhowie, and along the way participants will pass the Lucas B. Dowell Memorial Park and the Will Walker Farmers Market & Community Pavilion currently under construction.
Medals will be given for the top three finishers male and female in the following age groups: 9-14, 15-19, 20-24, 25-29, 30-34,35-39,40-44,45-49,50-54, 55-59,60-64, 65-69, 70+, Top Overall, Top Masters, Top Grandmasters.
Online registration can be found at: https://runsignup.com/Race/VA/Chilhowie/MenBehindTheSmilesLegacy5K
“We would love for everyone to join us for this charitable event,” said organizers. “If you are unable to attend and would still like to pledge a donation to Operation Smile in memory of Will and Lucas, the direct link is http://support.operationsmile.org/site/TR/SmileFund/SmileFund?px=2759494&pg=personal&fr_id=2576
To print an entry form and mail it in, go to runtricities.org, then to event calendar and find Men Behind the Smiles.
Remembering Will and Lucas
Law enforcement from across the nation journeyed to Chilhowie on Feb. 9 to pay their final respects to fallen Virginia State Trooper Lucas B. Dowell. About 1,500 people attended the service.
Dowell joined the VSP in 2014 and became a member of the Appomattox Division Tactical Team in 2015. On the night of Feb. 4, Dowell was assisting with the execution of a search warrant in Farmville when the occupant of the home opened fire, killing the young trooper.
Dowell was laid to rest at St. James Cemetery in Chilhowie.
Crowds gathered at Chilhowie Christian Church on Sept. 23, 2018, to pay their final respects to Chilhowie farmer, agriculture teacher and coach Will Walker.
He was killed in a Sept. 20 farming accident that sent shockwaves through the community.
The grandson of the late William St. John, who retired from teaching agriculture at CHS nearly three decades ago, Walker spent much of his youth working on his grandfather’s farm. Following his high school graduation, he studied animal science at Virginia Tech and later returned to Chilhowie and Northwood high schools to help educate the next generation as an agriculture teacher.
During his employment at CHS, Walker returned to the football field and the basketball court to coach.
He is survived by his wife, Ashley Spence Walker, and daughter, Emery Kate Walker, who was only a few months old when her father died.