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In de-fence of friends

Courtesy: ODU Athletics
         
Release: September 21, 2007
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Sept. 21, 2007

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Feature from The Clipper highlighting ODU Men's Basketball community efforts. To read the article, please click here.

Neighbors, strangers help officer in Navy before he deploys By Barbara J. Woerner Correspondent

Poet Robert Frost wrote, "Good fences make good neighbors." Last Saturday on Wild Horse Ridge, good neighbors turned out to put up a good fence for Ed Schweighardt. It was their way of thanking the Navy lieutenant commander before he leaves on an 8-month assignment to the Middle East. Schweighardt had planned by himself to replace the rotting fence on two of his three acres in southern Chesapeake. Then he got word that he was having to leave much sooner.

Katherine Mason heard about the dilemma because she boards her horse at Trinity Farms, a small show and lesson horse barn owned by Schweighardt's neighbors Rich and Tina Bodnar. Schweighardt and his wife, Kathleen, allowed horses from the Bodnars' barn to graze on the back half of their property.

Mason approached the Bodnars about organizing a volunteer effort to pay back the Schweighardts' kindness by putting up a new fence last Saturday. "The fence was old and rotted out and the wind would blow sections over," said Rich Bodner, who contributed a tractor and labor to the project.

Mason also was motivated because she received so much help from Schweighardt and others while she was recovering from six months of health problems.

"People were very helpful driving me around and making sure I got where I needed to go," she said. "Ed and his family were always encouraging me and telling me they were praying for me."

Mason said something just clicked as she thought about how that fence needed to be replaced. "I knew I could get on the phone and get some people together," she said. "I knew I could do this." And so they came - friends, neighbors and the Old Dominion University basketball team, who Mason knows through making travel arrangements for the team.

Within several hours of work, holes were drilled, more than six dozen posts set, the old fence torn down and piled up and more. Schweighardt said he was overwhelmed while pausing to survey the scene.

"I got 30 days notice I was being deployed," he said. "This new fence was going to be a longterm project where I was going to do a little every weekend.

"Now I'll be gone for eight months, but this is a big relief to see this getting done." He said it's relaxing to watch the horses graze. Although they have no horses, there is a small barn full of Rhode Island Reds, Bard Rocks and other types of chickens.

The Schweighardts' 8-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, brought out one of the chickens and introduced it to some of the basketball players that towered above her. Marsharee Neely, 19, bent down to pet the chicken.

"I like doing this," he said. "It's a new experience for me. I've never chopped wood before." Teammate Jonathan Adams, 20, agreed.

"We're glad to be here, and we wanted to come and do this," he said. "We're just basketball players, and he's putting his life on the line."

Volunteer Jim Durkin, a friend of Mason's, came to help because others helped build his fence. "I see this as payback and pay forward," he said. Barbara J. Woerner, Bjwz2cool@cox.net

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