Victims of the storm

by Elsa Cooke Verbyla - Posted on Apr 20, 2011 - 04:46 PM

Photo: Richard Ingram, left, is remembered as a mechanical genius. The ambulance was unable to reach Cecil Page, right, after the storm.

Richard Ingram, left, is remembered as a mechanical genius. The ambulance was unable to reach Cecil Page, right, after the storm.

Ingram remembered as mechanical genius

Storm victim Richard Ingram, who grew up on the Peninsula, had lived at Coke for about 20 years, according to his best friend, David Cianelli of Yorktown.

Cianelli became friends with Ingram, 53, in the second grade and they stayed fast friends in the decades that followed. In 2005, Ingram, with his friend’s help, built a home on the Shelly Road property where he had previously resided in a mobile home.

Ingram was a mechanical genius, able to fix anything from a motor to electrical to plumbing installations, Cianelli said, and his insistence on perfection and willingness to help people made him friends wherever he lived or worked.

"He had a natural talent," said Cianelli, and "he fixed things the way he wanted them fixed." Ingram also had several garages and workshops on his property, where he lived alone, fixing his boats and cars and friends’ cars.

Ingram’s friends and family members, hearing Saturday of the tornado that struck Gloucester, immediately began calling him on cell phones and landlines. Getting no response, Cianelli assumed telephone service was down … until he received a call on Richard’s phone from a neighbor named Jacob who was responding to the missed calls.

Jacob said he had bad news—that Richard was dead. Cianelli and Ingram’s brother-in-law Barry Burcher of Poquoson, who had also been trying to reach Ingram, immediately started on the anxious drive to Gloucester to see for themselves.

Because of all the trees across the roads, they had to leave their vehicles and walk to the scene. Cianelli found his friend lying face-down on the middle of the bare concrete slab where a garage had once stood, with no visible injuries except a head wound. The house had been lifted and thrown 60 feet to the site of the garage, and a boat was also under all the destruction, he said.

During the distressing period that followed, Cianelli, Burcher and Dee Burcher, sister of the victim, were repeatedly comforted by emergency and law enforcement personnel who stayed with them on scene.

"The people in Gloucester are amazing," Cianelli said, emphasizing that his message must be printed. "Everyone was professional, and they cared. The deputy, the investigator, they were so nice to the family. I went back on Sunday (and) the state trooper, the deputies, everyone started whatever they had to say with ‘I’m sorry for your loss.’" People were bringing food, trying to help.

He singled out an unknown man in an Air Force uniform searching the neighborhood door to door with a flashlight, and offering clothes from his duffel bag to keep people warm; a gas company employee shutting off the leaking valve of Richard’s gas tank supplied by another company; the employees of Hogg Funeral Home, who removed Ingram’s body at 1:30 a.m. Sunday, arriving dressed in coat and tie: "very professional."

He wants residents to know that a visitor is impressed that "they stick together like glue."

Cianelli lost his wife to cancer several years ago, and now consoles himself with something she said as her health declined: "God is done with me on earth. God wants me in heaven. It is my time to move on." Now, he said his wife, his parents and Richard are in heaven, adding that his friend "will be sadly missed in the community. He would help people at any time."

Ambulance unable to reach Cecil Page after storm

Among those counted as victims, Cecil Wray Page Jr., 90, did not die as a result of storm injuries but rather from a medical emergency, county officials said.

Page’s family was at his home "Shelly" on Shelly Road near Coke and had called for rescue help due to his failing health about the same time the tornado went through, said son-in-law Philip Page. Because hundreds of fallen trees had blocked the roads, the ambulance could not reach him.

"His death was coincident to the storm but we’re uncertain there was any relation to it," said Philip Page, who added that the home was untouched by the tornado that wreaked devastation a quarter-mile away, and a bit farther north at Page Middle School, named for the storm victim’s ancestor, Virginia Governor John Page.

Page was well known in Gloucester County for his work toward preservation of "Rosewell," the family home, and for his keen interest in both the history and the progress of his hometown. A graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, he won Bronze Stars in both World War II and the Korean War, retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 1966 and finishing his working career in private industry in Connecticut.


He and his wife Nina, who died in 2009 after a marriage of 66 years, came home to Shelly in 1984. His funeral will be held today at Abingdon Episcopal Church in White Marsh.