Memorial Honors Chatham Lamplighter

Article and photographs by Susan Worley, Staff Writer, from The Star-Tribune, Chatham, Virginia, August 10, 2005. Used with permission.

Unveiling of Joe White Memorial

Frances Hurt and Henry Mitchell (Joe White Memorial Committee members), Robert Hanson (Chatham's Director of Public Works), and Sherman Calloway (Town Crew Supervisor) unveiled the Joe White memorial lamp.

A lighted lamp post was dedicated Monday afternoon in memory of long time Chatham town employee Joe White.

The memorial is a likeness of White as he looked when he lit the lanterns along Main Street year after year during Christmas in Colonial Chatham.

“It is an honor for me to be a part of this ceremony,” said Del. Robert Hurt, speaking to about 50 people gathered in front of Chatham Town Hall.

“I grew up on Main Street and remember Joe White with such fondness. He was thoughtful and cheerful and asked nothing in return. He was someone who gave so much and asked so litt.e”

Reba Motley indicated her friendship with Joe, and everybody called him Joe, lasted 48 years.

“There are no words to describe someone as gentle and kind as this man. If you knew him, you know what I mean,” said Mrs. Motley.

He never took a vacation, rested, played or had fun, she explained. It wasn't in his nature. He was the epitome of honesty, took pride in owning his home, and loved his job with the town.

He also took pride in the holiday lamp lighting job. He didn't consider it a chore, but a position of great responsibility. It was as if he was in charge of the town's Christmas spirit. If the lanterns were not lighted, the season did not glow.

“He was generous to a fault and was always willing to help,” added Mrs. Motley.

Chatham First President Gregg Vickrey thanked everyone who donated so generously to the memorial.

Langhorne Jones, president of the Pittsylvania Historical Society, expressed how much the lamp lighting effort of a single person like Joe meant to the annual Christmas celebration in town. No one ever worried that the job would not get done. Joe saw to it.

Chatham Mayor George Haley accepted the memorial on behalf of the town, council and citizens of Chatham.

“Joe is gone, but he is certainly not forgotten,” said Haley.

Frances Hurt and Henry Mitchell with Joe White Memorial

Frances Hallam Hurt and Henry Mitchell admire the Joe White Memorial lamp post which was dedicated Monday afternoon, August 8, 2005.

Frances Hallam Hurt helped Joe in the early days of lighting lanterns.

“My job was to hold the scissors and tape,” said Mrs. Hurt, “and it was a great time to get to know someone.

“He was a generous man, and honest hard worker and dependable. I wish I could be more like Joe. I wish we would all be more like Joe,” she added.

He became ill several months before his death in November 2003 and people showered him with food and well wishes.

“He knew how we felt about him” she continued. “He loved the town and we loved him.”

Sponsors of the memorial were Chatham First, Pittsylvania Historical Society, and many individual contributors.

The Joe White Memorial Committee which developed the idea was Frances Hurt, Reba Motley, and Henry Mitchell, who designed the silhouette.

Lewis Turner and staff at Danville Wrought Iron produced the memorial that is located near the entrance of Town Hall.

This website is sponsored by Mitchells Publications and the Sims-Mitchell House B&B, Chatham, Virginia.