By Lynn R. Mitchell
Alton and me at the 2008 Republican Party of Virginia convention. As you can see, we were all stickered up with candidate lapels because every convention requires that you be a walking billboard.
Sad news crisscrossed Virginia on Monday. Alton Foley, son of Stanleytown, and self-described on his Twitter account as, “Once a truck driver, then a contractor, then an electrical engineer; now I’m working at being a full time curmudgeon,” lost his battle with cancer. He was 59.
Virginia’s conservative blogosphere lost a pillar. Virginia conservative bloggers lost a friend and master story teller. Republican politics lost an activist. Virginia lost an adopted native son.
It was not unexpected news. Alton had been battling cancer for a while, and some weeks back he had a massive heart attack. His body was playing out. He picked a magnificent, sunny spring day to meet up with his old friend Tucker Watkins who left us three years ago. Reunited.
The news came in a phone call Monday morning from Richard Crouse who wrote on his Facebook page:
Alton my friend, may you find peace. I can see you with our old friend Tucker as you are sitting on the porch passing the jar and telling stories to the Angels.
I smiled at the thought.
Active from the early days of the Virginia conservative blogosphere, Alton helped co-found the Old Dominion Blog Alliance where I became a member of the gang. In the beginning he blogged as “I’m Not Emeril,” later blogging under his own name. Later he blogged at Bearing Drift and Virginia Politics On Demand (VPOD), writing folksy tales of his talks with down-home friend Clyde. I spent some time over at Alton’s blog re-reading the archives and wandering down the hallways of Virginia blogging.
At Bearing Drift, Shaun put in a call to Clyde (see Alton Foley passes away, Clyde reminisces) who shared his memories of Alton:
“Alton was a good man. A great man. Of course, y’all on social media wouldn’t know much about the man himself… or maybe you did.
“There’s one thing Alton loved sharing, and that was his opinion. More like his thoughts. And he offered them up to just about anyone who wanted to listen. Wasn’t preachy, either. Just stood up and told you what was.”
Alton’s trademark white mustache could be seen at GOP events and blogger gatherings, speaking with his soft Southern lilt as his eyes twinkled and a grin played at the corners of his mouth.
When his friend Tucker Watkins passed away in 2012 from the same wretched disease, Alton wrote about him:
“What’cha know?” That was how Tucker started each phone call, incoming or outgoing.
I first met Tucker Watkins by phone. Introduced by Barnie Day, a former Democrat house of delegates member. We spoke often after that, but didn’t actually meet until an event in Charlottesville brought us together. After that he would often stop by my Stanleytown home, or call me from out of the blue, to discuss the latest in Virginia politics.
I learned a lot from him. He was an exceptional organizer, having learned the art first in the JayCees and later managing a super-sized truck stop. He was also an learned student of Virginia politics. We had our arguments, to be sure. But we respected each other and left our differences behind.
I’ll never see another iPhone without thinking of him. Just like he embraced the Blackberry that paved the way for it, Tucker loved his iPhone. I don’t know why that popped out, just one of those things about Tucker you’ll never forget.
Tucker, I’ll visit you one last time on Tuesday. After that we’ll meet at your hospitality suite in Heaven.
Tucker’s hospitality suite in Heaven … now there are two. Rest in peace, Alton Foley … we will fight on. See you down the trail.