The Del Ray community gathered to honor two native sons with the dedication of a park bench Nov. 12 in Del Ray.
Located at Commonwealth, Braddock and West Glendale Avenues, the bench honors retired Sheriff Dana Lawhorne and his childhood friend Tommy Knoernschild in appreciation for their service to the community. Knoernschild died in 2018 at the age of 58 but the dedication was attended by his widow and other family members.
“Dana and Tommy were lifelong friends growing up in Del Ray and often spent many hours at this corner which was the location of Tommy's childhood home,” said Gayle Reuter, who welcomed the crowd to the dedication. “It really is a special occasion when you get to recognize and thank individuals for all they have done for the community.”
The idea for the bench was proposed as a way to honor Lawhorne when he retired in 2022. A lifelong resident of the Del Ray community, Lawhorne insisted that Knoernschild’s name be included.
“Today is very special to me and my family,” Lawhorne said. “I spent my entire childhood pretty much at Tommy’s house. When I needed that extra boost in life, Tommy’s family and his parents were there for me. They taught me what it meant to support someone and what it meant to be a good neighbor. They taught me to never give up.”
Through tears, Knoernschild’s widow Lori thanked Lawhorne for adding his name on the bench, which bears a plaque that reads: “In honor of retired Sheriff Dana Lawhorne and Tommy Knoernschild for their lifelong service to our community.”
“Dana and Tommy were lifelong friends,” Lori Knoernschild said. “Dana and Tommy spent many hours together and in recent years they volunteered together around Del Ray. Our family is honored to have Tommy’s name on this bench alongside Dana’s name.”
The bench was donated by friends of Lawhorne and Knoernschild.
“This community literally would not be what it has become without people like Dana and Tommy,” Reuter said. “If anyone needed help, Tommy and Dana were there. That’s what is so unique about Del Ray and Alexandria -- you have people like Dana and Tommy who care deep in their hearts. They could sense when there was a need and they filled it.”
Lawhorne praised his wife Linda along with Lori Knoernschild for their support of the community.
“Lori and Linda deserve medals for how they supported not just us but the community as well,” Lawhorne said. “When I think about this bench, I think about the neighborhood and what it has done for me. I am so grateful to this city and to this community -- it made me who I am. I hope this bench will be a reminder to all of us what it means to be good neighbors.”