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Marshall M. Herman
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April 4, 2017

VDOT, FAMILY TO HONOR FALLEN HIGHWAY WORKER AT WORKERS’ MEMORIAL VIGIL TONIGHT ON AFTON MOUNTAIN

VDOT veteran’s name added to memorial this year

COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va. – Nearly 60 years following a tragic work zone crash in Prince George County, a new name has been engraved on the Virginia Department of Transportation's Workers’ Memorial on Afton Mountain in Albemarle County. On Oct. 23, 1959, Robert James Butler, a Disputanta native, was working as a highway foreman when he was struck and killed by an errant vehicle. After recently learning the details of his death, VDOT staff added Butler’s name among the other 134 etched in the granite memorial.

Robert James Butler, a 25-year VDOT veteran, was killed in a work zone in 1959.

“The VDOT Workers’ Memorial and the addition of Mr. Butler’s name are a sobering reminder that the victims of work zone crashes are not just statistics,” said VDOT Commissioner Charles Kilpatrick. “We continue to make work zone safety our priority every day. We owe it to the names on the Workers’ Memorial and to all of our hardworking contractors and employees.”

“This tragedy, even many years later, emphasizes the dangers VDOT workers face on Virginia’s roads each day,” said Richmond District Engineer Bart Thrasher, P.E. “We are grateful and humbled to honor Mr. Butler’s sacrifice and the legacy he leaves.”

Based on local newspaper accounts shortly following the crash, the driver of a vehicle, trying to pass slower traffic, drove through a wooden barricade and struck Butler, only 66 years old.

Jennie Wells, one of Butler’s granddaughters, remembers her grandfather fondly. His memory lives on through his sacrifice as her parents taught her to drive a car. “My parents would comment about the need to be observant in work zones,” she said. “I am more aware and passed that on to my sons. They know the history and the consequences.”

Lisa Tuohey, another one of Butler’s granddaughters, shares his legacy:

The cousins would spend a week on our grandfather’s farm; it was magical! At the end of a work day, we’d run to the end of the long driveway and greet granddad as he came home from work. He jumped out of the DOT truck and turned to wave goodbye to his crew before greeting us with a hug. All of this came to an abrupt halt when our family received the tragic news of granddad's senseless death. Our world had been shattered and would never be the same. Life changed for all of us after that. The farm was sold, but I think each of us drove back by many times to remember the fond days we had as children with our granddad. He was a remarkable man who left us too soon. We hope in some way this memorial will be a reminder to all that those are not just names. Many lives are touched with each entry.

VDOT will honor those fallen in Virginia work zones at a vigil at the Workers’ Memorial on Tuesday, April 4, at 6:30 p.m. during this year’s National Work Zone Awareness Week, observed April 3-7, 2017.

The Workers’ Memorial sits on a scenic overlook on Afton Mountain off of Interstate 64. For more information, visit http://www.virginiadot.org/about/is-worker-memorial.asp. For more information about the Workers’ Memorial vigil, visit http://www.virginiadot.org/newsroom/statewide/2017/partner_with_vdot_for113099.asp.