Retired Sheriff and community champion honored with bench in Del Ray

The families of retired Sheriff Dana Lawhorne (seated center) and Tommy Knoernschild at their bench in Del Ray (courtesy photo)

Del Ray celebrated two of its favorite sons with a bench dedication on Sunday.

Retired Alexandria Sheriff Dana Lawhorne and Tommy Knoernschild, who died in 2018, were both recognized with the honor for their contributions to the neighborhood.

The plaque on the bench reads: “In honor of retired Sheriff Dana Lawhorne and Tommy Knoernschild for their lifelong service to our community.”

Lawhorne, who retired in Jan. 2022, is a lifelong Del Ray resident and grew up around the corner from the bench, which is also in front of the house Knoernschild grew up in.

“I spent most of my childhood in Tommy’s house,” Lawhorne said. “His parents treated me like I was their sixth child. His mom played key role in my life, as did the whole neighborhood. They cared for me, supported me, and encouraged me to never give up. I vowed to pay it back.”

Knoerschild died of cancer in 2018, and frequently volunteered his time for community events.

“Tommy and I saw how much a neighborhood can change your life, that’s why we stayed and raised our families here,” Lawhorne said. “We both married up, Linda and Lori deserve medals for how they supported not just us, but the community as well. The bench is a reminder to what kindness and generosity looks like.”

City Council Member Alyia Gaskins said that the bench dedication was a “true reflection of community and friendship.”

“Dana’s words reminded all of us that we are at our best as a community when neighbors look out for one another and take the time to ensure that everyone has a safe space where they feel welcomed and valued.”

Friends of Lawhorne and Knoernschild donated the bench to the community.

“Every time I see the bench I’ll be reminded about what community is, and what special people have done to make it like this,” said DRBA organizer Gayle Reuter. “I think it’s just going to be a constant reminder of how blessed we are to have people like Dana and Tommy in our lives, and anytime you can be reminded of how lucky you are, that’s a good feeling.”